I have a confession that I may as well make sooner rather than later: I like ‘weird’ combinations of food. I say ‘weird’ in quotation marks because they’re not really that weird to me, though some people might think I have the palate of a bottom-feeder when they hear what sorts of things I find interesting.
I go crazy for combinations of sweet and savoury. Breaking the categories of ‘appetizer’ and ‘dessert’ excites me. One of my favourites lately has been a sweet and nutty version of brussel sprouts that tastes just like candy – recipe to come soon. A couple weeks ago I had a beetroot chocolate cake that was really intriguing, with the sweetness of the beetroot enhanced by the bitterness of the dark chocolate, and the earthiness of the root pulling it all together – not to mention the incredible colour. And one of my favourite additions to salads lately has been the dried lavender I harvested last summer (the same I used to make the Vegan Chocolate Truffles), to add a sweet floral aroma. When it comes to food, I like to be surprised! Check out the world’s best restaurant of 2010, something I swoon over, to see what I mean (espcially the desserts!)
The other night, my friend and fellow Alley Cat Anthony and I were hanging out at Oki’s house in Vail, and we stumbled across some Häagen Dazs Vanilla Ice Cream in the freezer. There were a few packages that were full, and one that had only a bit in the bottom. We felt it was the responsible thing to finish the rest so as to make more room in the freezer and clean up the kitchen.
When I had my perfect little scoop sitting in my bowl, I thought, “what do I want to top this with?” Usually I’m pretty purist about my ice cream – I like the ice cream itself, without interfering flavours and textures. Not that big a fan of sauces and such. But I was feeling in need of a little something, so I started looking around the cupboards for the perfect thing. And I came across a beautiful bottle of aged balsamic vinegar from Modena. I knew it right then that that’s what I wanted. And the bottle was already opened so I could use it (it always stresses me out when I have to open a new bottle or jar of something in someone else’s kitchen – does anyone know what I mean?).
I poured a little of the espresso-coloured liquid over my scoop of ice cream. The aroma from the bottle was overwhelming – I could smell the acid, but more prominent was the rich, musty flavour I could taste on my tongue even before bringing it to my mouth. The first bite I took was revelatory – the sweet smoothness of the ice cream was the perfect contrasting base for the sharp, full-bodied balsamic. The other remarkable thing that made the combination so wonderful was that as the ice cream melted, it incorporated with the vinegar into a thick, toffee-coloured syrup that was the perfect marriage of both parts. I love a dish whose character changes as I eat it, and this was definitely one such pairing.
Sadly, I have no pictures, because my camera was far away I was too absorbed in the experience to be meticulous in my recording. But it was a killer combo that I will definitely do again, perhaps working it into a recipe somehow. Until then, I highly suggest you try it! If you’re a little skeptical, just try it with a few drops first, to get used to the taste. And get the best quality balsamic vinegar you can – this is not the time for the crappy molassesy stuff.
Try it and let me know if you like it! I think sherry vinegar could also work well too.
In other news, I’m heading back to Yale tomorrow from an awesome winter tour with the Alley Cats, so hopefully I’ll have some time to post some new content! I have a few recipes lined up that I want to share.