Reduce the Balsamic

Oct 5, 2012 by

Let me warn you this is a rant.

And a plea.

To every chef who thinks it’s acceptable to decorate a plate with squiggles, lines, blobs of the viscous stuff – you know the one that comes in a squidgy bottle?

I have vague recollections of when balsamic vinegar first made an appearance in my life.  My mother very proudly pronounced it – “good for you”.  She used to read those free health magazines distributed by the health food shop she haunted.  When I heard the words “good for you,” it immediately put my hackles up. 

We were subjected to lots of food items that were supposedly “good for you”. Actually some were reasonably okay but as a teenager I was determined to hate them.  I remember thinking this balsamic vinegar that replaced normal vinegar in our salad dressing was something I could take or leave.  Then I decided I would leave it altogether.

Years later my brother, (a confirmed Italophile) true to form arrived back with the Rolls Royce of balsamic and convinced me to taste it.  It was passable served on strawberries but at the price €16 for about 2ml it would probably want to be.

Anyway, to cut to the chase.  I returned recently from a short break in France.  My overwhelming memory will be balsamic vinegar.  Why? Because every middle of the road brasserie decorated their plates with it.

The above crêpe had in a really good little crêperie was spoiled completely, by not only having the stuff liberally dressing the salad leaves, but even dribbled over the egg for heaven’s sake.  Served with Normandy cider it clashed like Bay City Roller tartan with pink ribbons dangling from it.

A duck breast cooked to perfection (very pink) and tasty had a vile balsamic reduction jus fighting nine rounds with it.  The balsamic won.

A starter of deep fried goat’s cheese (yes this was the starter common to almost every restaurant) had not only balsamic decor but orange segments to boot.  And they say France is the culinary capital of the world.

So if you are a chef dump the balsamic in the same place as white pepper, salad creme, hundreds and thousands and every other naff 70’s type food condiment.  Because let’s face it to use the stuff that costs more per litre than Chateau Petrus is unlikely to happen and the rest of it is a vast EU pile of acidic mediocrity .

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