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World’s Best Balsamic. Really.

 

Confession: I now regularly spend upwards of $40 on balsamic vinegar, but don’t judge me. Dammit, it’s worth every penny.

About 10 years ago, a friend presented me with a bottle of Villa Manodori Balsamic Vinegar as a hostess gift. I must have had a what-no-candle? look on my face, because she proceeded to take out the cork (yes, cork), and drizzle some of this intense, gloriously molasses-like stuff onto my salad.

She told me it was made by Italian monks and is basically nectar to the Gods of Cooking. Or more specifically, a very dark, concentrated, and strongly flavored vinegar made from “grape must”—freshly pressed, whole grapes, including skin, seeds, stems (and nothing like the watery stuff you get for $10 next to the Heinz distilled variety). I have never looked back.

I did, however, look askance, when I ran out and discovered the cost of an 8.5-ounce bottle of Villa (it’s almost $40 on Amazon). But seeing as it elevates almost anything I cook, I went ahead and plunked down my credit card. This precious syrup (which ages at least a decade before you buy it) became the only condiment that actually made food edible when my doctor put me on a low-salt diet….and the night I wanted to impress the hell out of guests, I whipped up Mario Batali’s Balsamic Zabaglione for dessert. (Don’t ask; just Google the recipe and make it now.)

Pricey? Yes. But a little goes a long way.

 –Hillary Quinn

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