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Content sponsored by #DeNigris1889; all opinions are my own.

I was talking to an Italian friend recently while on our way to view the private art collection at the Tyson Foods Headquarters in Springdale and she told me she uses balsamic vinegar every day, usually in salad dressings. However, if she finds a particularly high quality one, she puts a single drop on a piece of parmesan and savors the exquisite taste. Growing up in New Zealand, I was very familiar with the simple distilled white vinegar, and malt vinegar, which I sprinkled liberally on my fish and chips, and ate straight from the newspaper package. However, I didn’t really discover balsamic vinegar until I moved to the United States about 17 years ago, and tasted balsamic vinaigrettes for the first time in restaurants.

Although balsamic vinegars have been enjoyed and appreciated in Italy for centuries, they weren’t introduced to the United States for commercial sale until the late 1970’s. There is a wide range of varying qualities and entire stores devoted to vinegars and olive oils that offer tastings. They are always fun and interesting to visit, so I decided to host my own tasting party to introduce the exceptional De Nigris (http://en.acetobalsamico.it/) vinegars to my friends; mixing the old world with the new, the weight and solemnity of tradition with the delight and lightheartedness of a gathering.

vinegars

– De Nigris vinegars

We tasted 6 different vinegars, accompanied by warm crusty bread, a variety of cheeses, Italian wines that were a wonderful complement, and Italian inspired appetizers. Splashing, drizzling and pouring into tiny tasting cups and onto plates to try with the food. Talking, laughing and comparing the samples. We were all surprised by the difference in taste between these of exceptional quality, and the generic balsamic vinegars we had been consuming from the local supermarkets. I was amazed how diverse the balsamic vinegars were, each with their own distinct flavor profiles, and although most of my friends found one or two they preferred over the others, with the platinum being the most outstanding, it was impossible for me to choose a favorite – I just love that they each are developed for a specific use, and appreciate those diverse qualities.

vinegar tasting

–  vinegar tasting

These two appetizers were a favorite of the party and so quick and easy to create.

CAPRESE APPETIZERS

caprese appetizer

– caprese appetizers

caprese appetizer with balsamic

– caprese appetizer drizzled with balsamic vinegar

Thread one ciliegine (small balls of fresh mozzarella), one cherry tomato and one basil leaf onto a toothpick. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar of your choice.

Enjoy!

PROSCUITTO WRAPPED ARTICHOKE HEARTS

proscuitto wrapped artichokes

– proscuitto wrapped artichoke hearts

Cut artichoke hearts in quarters, cut proscuitto slices into thirds. Wrap each artichoke piece in proscuitto, bake in a 375F oven until crisp. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and serve with balsamic vinegar of your choice.

Enjoy!

It was wonderful to have the opportunity to try vinegars side by side, and to note the differences in taste and viscosity and color. The evening was made easy and fun with the De Nigris tasting map (http://www.denigrisusa.com/communication/print/post/de-nigris-balsamic-tasting-map) – outlining the amount of grape must in each vinegar, the density of each and whether they pair best with cold dishes, hot dishes, or gourmet dishes. The experience and passion of these 3rd generation balsamic vinegar producers was evident, and their dedication to quality, obvious.

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