When it comes to creating your own palette of flavor in the kitchen, we often head to our carefully curated spice rack as the source of inspiration (or, in my case, a dusty cabinet full of disorganized spice bottles and random plastic baggies full of who-knows-what). But too often I overlook my oil and vinegar selections’ ability to impact a dish. Is there anything so simple and delicious as a few healthy splashes of extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt and fresh ground peppercorn on a bright green salad?
If the hints of spring coming around the corner have you hankering for fresh flavors, you’ll want to check out our tasty array of flavored oils and vinegars in Bulk Foods. They’re on sale this month, and because you pour your own, you can buy as much or as little as you want. You can even mix an oil and a vinegar to make your own custom dressing or marinade.
Be sure to try all our flavors, starting with the balsamic selection.
Balsamic vinegar is a dark, intensely flavored vinegar originating in Italy, made with grape “must,” which is freshly crushed grape juice with the skins, seeds and stems. Making must is the first step in making wine. And now amazing things are happening with balsamic.
Bourbon, for instance. Bourbon Balsamic Vinegar makes for a bold and interesting twist in a glaze for grilling red meat. It has the subtle flavors of well-aged bourbon — think notes of vanilla, fruity spiciness and a subtle hint of charred aging barrels — without the boozy overtones of a full bottle of whiskey.
The Glazed Onion Balsamic Vinegar is another savory selection, with an intoxicating mix of sweet, caramelized onion and aged balsamic. This is a rich variety that complements braised meats as you’d expect, but the sweet-onion flavor works beautifully with pasta dishes, too. Also try it as a marinade for an amazing (dare I say life-changing?) take on grilled burgers.
And for a bright, sweeter experience, the Blackberry Balsamic Vinegar is perfect for salads, veggies, fish and poultry. Made in Modena, Italy, this vinegar is blended with real fruit juice. Add a healthy drizzle to some premium vanilla ice cream for a dinner party finalé that your friends will be asking you about for months! Great as the key ingredient in a vinaigrette over room-temp asparagus.
And what’s happening in the olive oil world? If you’re looking for a high-quality, extra-virgin olive oil for your everyday drizzling needs, our organic Arbequina is the answer. The nutty flavor bears hints of ripe apple, cinnamon and hay (it’s not just for horses anymore!). The Arbequina also is certified organic, kosher-friendly and milled from 100% California olives.
When you stop in Bulk Foods, feel free to bring your own favorite bottle, too! Or you can fill a smaller container and explore all of our different varieties without the big commitment of a whole bottle. Just make sure to ask someone from Bulk Foods or the check stand to weigh it first — AKA the “tare” weight — so you don’t pay for your own container. And don’t worry if you didn’t bring a bottle; we’ve got affordable bottles available for purchase.
Our very own cheese whiz, Shauna Howell, offers up a cheese worth discovering.
Ferndale Farmstead Smoked Provolone: A true farm-to-table cheese. They like to say seed-to-cheese because they grow the crops that feed the cows that make the milk that is the base for this truly hand-crafted, Italian-style cheese. Family owned right here in the Pacific Northwest, this mild, naturally smoked provolone is ideal for sandwich making, cubing for pasta salads or melting into casseroles. You can’t get a more local, more authentic provolone and the natural smoke is a bonus for those smoky cheese lovers out there.
Chris Allen is a copywriter and assistant marketer with Town & Country Markets. He’s a former contributing editor, radio anchor and producer, and an Air Force veteran. He’s also mastered the art of chopping red onions with one hand while sipping a dry Tempranillo in the other.