We do strawberry balsamic on watermelon, or the strawberry balsamic and basil olive oil—which is really nutty—on a cold fusilli pasta salad with cubed ham, browned just slightly to make it nuttier, cubes of fresh mozzarella and a lot of black pepper.
It’s really good mixed with sparkling water, just a nice aged balsamic or the tangerine or strawberry balsamic. It’s soothing and blood-sugar leveling.
A lot of them come from Tunisia, and some from Chili and also some from Italy and Spain. The Chilean oils are really high in anti-oxidants; I think it’s the soil. A lot of people come in and ask, Are the olives grown here? I say, not yet!
They all start with a vinegar mother, like yeast for bread, and in the barrel, which can be changed a few times as they age, they pick up new flavors. They become sweeter and thicker the older they get.
Garlic olive oil with white oregano balsamic smells almost like fresh bread. And the chipotle, the heat’s back on your palate until you mix it with pomegranate or cherry balsamic, and it changes it into a peppery taste.
Vinegar really awakens flavors in soup. An 18-year balsamic is fantastic added at the end to potato soup.
Cooking with them makes everyone into a star.
Fustini’s is at 141 E. Front St., Traverse City, 231-944-1145, fustinis.com.