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Looking to buy Aged Balsamic - Suggestions?

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tomgrrrl Nov 16, 2007 11:20 AM

Hello,

I'm looking to buy a nice and approachable aged balsamic vinegar. I'm never had it before, so don't know where to start. Any suggestions on what to buy and where?

Thanks!

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  1. vorpal RE: tomgrrrl Nov 16, 2007 11:36 AM

    I'm interested in this as well. I can tell you where not to go: Sun Valley Fine Foods on Danforth. It was highly recommended to me so I decided to give it a try. The selection was small and even the most expensive bottle (around $50) only offered a surprisingly thin balsamic. I bought it anyways, figuring that I'd give it a try, and I've been quite disappointed with it and have no compulsion to really finish it. The taste is, frankly, abrasive and very simple.

    I don't know if the place is still around or if this is less than you wanted to spend, but I found a lovely $50 bottle of thick, complex balsamic at Magnolia Fine Foods on College near Bathurst a couple years back that was so good that I'd sneak out of my bedroom in the middle of the night to steal sips from the bottle.

    1 Reply
    1. re: vorpal
      cynalan RE: vorpal Nov 16, 2007 01:14 PM

      Maybe out of your geography but Berardino's on Plains Road East in Burlington has an excellent selection.

    2. pinstripeprincess RE: tomgrrrl Nov 16, 2007 03:22 PM

      if you've never had it before then i suggest you first go to a place that will offer you samples so that you can better understand what it is that makes an aged balsamic so great. i'd dare say that any good one should always be approachable.

      one place that would help inform you of what you should be looking for and will give you a few samples is the olive pit on queen west. i wouldn't necessrily suggest that you purchase any from here as i find it quite expensive, but they can certainly help you figure things out. i've got a 10yr from pasquale bros in etobicoke ($15 special) that's not thick and syrupy but certainly has a nice viscousity and depth of flavour and developing sweetness. it's a delight to have on its own.

      2 Replies
      1. re: pinstripeprincess
        Food Tourist RE: pinstripeprincess Nov 16, 2007 08:01 PM

        that's funny...I was just about to recommend that $15 bottle of 10 yr balsamic from Pasquale Bros. which is in my cupboard as well.

        1. re: Food Tourist
          h
          hungryhungryanne RE: Food Tourist Nov 20, 2007 12:15 PM

          Me three!

      2. monkeyinthemiddle RE: tomgrrrl Nov 16, 2007 03:58 PM

        i've seen some thick aged balsamic at winner's
        (dufferin mall)

        1 Reply
        1. re: monkeyinthemiddle
          h
          hungryhungryanne RE: monkeyinthemiddle Nov 20, 2007 12:02 PM

          But is it a winner?

        2. f
          food_whiz RE: tomgrrrl Nov 17, 2007 02:04 AM

          Alex's farm on the danforth has a wonderful 14 year aged balsamic it is thick and naturally sweet and under $20.

          1. JamieK RE: tomgrrrl Nov 17, 2007 04:24 AM

            I'm interested as well (and don't know much). My question is -- if you were going to give a foodie friend a bottle of aged balsamic as a gift, what kind would you buy? This would be a stand-alone bottle, not part of a gift basket. How old? How much would you spend? And does a bottle by itself sound stupid, or better to pair with an olive oil or other item.

            And suggestions of where to go in Toronto would be great.

            8 Replies
            1. re: JamieK
              vorpal RE: JamieK Nov 17, 2007 05:41 AM

              Just a note: if someone gave me a good quality balsamic paired with a high end olive oil as a gift, they would be my favourite person for a long time.

              I can't tell you how much to spend as looking above, it looks like I overspent on what wasn't very good quality! I'm going to go check out some of those recommendations.

              1. re: vorpal
                Food Tourist RE: vorpal Nov 17, 2007 06:40 AM

                Agreed! I think most of us have at one time or another been duped into buying "trendy" food products from foodie shops. Really, we should be looking in hidden/ugly places for better value and taste instead of falling for lovely packaging and cute marketing. Either make sure you can taste before you buy or go to a place (like Pasquale Bros) where the staff want you to be happy and give honest opinions.

              2. re: JamieK
                j
                julesrules RE: JamieK Nov 22, 2007 09:42 AM

                I think if you put it in a nice wine gift bag, no other item would be necessary. If a $10 bottle of wine can be a gift, then certainly the right bottle of balsamic or Minus 8 vinegar can be too!

                1. re: julesrules
                  JamieK RE: julesrules Nov 22, 2007 11:25 AM

                  Thanks. I've been thinking a some more about this. Okay, I'm starting to panic as I haven't even starting shopping so I've been thinking a LOT about it. I have two very long-time foodie friends (I'm talking 30+ years) who I want to spend more than $10 on BUT $36 on 100ml of Minus 8 is way too much for my budget if I paired it with something else, yet (bearing in mind that both these friends are each halves of a foodie couple) one tiny slim bottle of expensive ice wine vinegar by itself doesn' tseem substantial enough no matter how special it is.

                  So, what I'm going to do is check out the Fondo Montebello recommended below (or other balsamic), and find a good olive oil to pair with. Maybe.

                  And you're right, presentation is everything. So a nice wrapping or wine gift bag for sure.

                  1. re: JamieK
                    pinstripeprincess RE: JamieK Nov 22, 2007 11:52 AM

                    this is meandering a bit and not exactly a pair for balsamic.. but perhaps you might want to try getting some truffle honey? it's very unique and quite tasty. my good balsamic and the truffle honey do sometimes end up on the cheese plate together so it's not completely odd.

                    a nice box (potentially even lined with some cushy cloth) will make anything look like it's worth a million bucks. i just don't find bags do anything justice.

                    1. re: JamieK
                      j
                      julesrules RE: JamieK Nov 22, 2007 11:54 AM

                      It would be substantial enough for me! One perfectly chosen item is the ideal gift. But I understand your feeling.

                      And who starts xmas shopping before December 20 anyway?

                      1. re: julesrules
                        JamieK RE: julesrules Nov 22, 2007 12:03 PM

                        lol, one of those foodie friends I mentioned -- she's just about done shopping, curse her!

                        1. re: julesrules
                          JamieK RE: julesrules Nov 29, 2007 01:28 PM

                          Okay, so I did it. I got three bottles of the Minus 8 for gifts. Thanks cheesymamma for the tip. And jules, you're right, one well-chosen item is perfect. The bottle itself looks pretty nifty, bigger than what I expected. And, as production is limited, each comes with a little numbered tag and suggestions for use. Minus 8 was also on Toronto Life's 100 things you have to taste before you die. So, I'll include that with the gift and maybe a recipe.

                          At All The Best, the Minus 8 100mL bottle is $35.95.

                          But get this, Summerhill Market is also selling Minus 8 at $48.99. Same 100mL bottle. Holy Moly! Do we have a candidate for the "sixth thief"?

                          Ha! If I had bought three bottles at SM, it would have cost me about $147. By buying at ATB, I saved about $37, enough to buy another bottle to mysteriously appear under my tree.

                  2. orangewasabi RE: tomgrrrl Nov 17, 2007 05:28 PM

                    the Toronto Food & Wine Show (this weekend) often has vendors from whom you can buy a sample of aged Balsamics, so you can taste the good stuff. you know it's going to be good if they get you to put out your hand and pour it on the (back) base of your thumb . . . you're supposed to lick it off.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: orangewasabi
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                      brendastarlet RE: orangewasabi Nov 17, 2007 05:44 PM

                      I took a balsamic vinegar tasting class at Zingerman's a year or so ago. Here's what we learned:
                      1) 6 year old balsamic is just fine for every day
                      2) 10 year old balsamic has a great flavor, and is the all around choice for when you want to make a balsamic statement. This is great for strawberries in balsamic, for example.
                      3) 20 year old is to be drizzled
                      4) 30 year old is the brandy of balsamic, and it's going to cost an arm and a leg, but it has an amazing flavor (use an eyedropper here)

                      This is their vinegar page, and it's well-worth reading.
                      http://www.zingermans.com/Category.as...

                    2. g
                      Grant van gameren RE: tomgrrrl Nov 18, 2007 11:48 AM

                      go to " The olive pit" on queen west
                      there you can sample all types of vinegars and oils.... a very intimate buying experience.

                      1. Kagemusha RE: tomgrrrl Nov 18, 2007 03:01 PM

                        Unless you need a hit of pretense, try Boncheff's on Olivewood just east of Kipling, Nice selection of quality vinegars and oils at discount prices--all are, I believe, 25% off regular prices. Worth a visit.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Kagemusha
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                          embee RE: Kagemusha Nov 19, 2007 09:56 AM

                          I forgot about them. A fabulous place if you're in that area.

                          1. re: embee
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                            millygirl RE: embee Nov 20, 2007 01:42 PM

                            Another good spot to check would be La Saulumeria at Yonge and Davisville. It's a fabulous hole in the wall family owned deli. They have amazing cold cuts, cheeses, great selection of pastas and other gourmet items. Great selection of olive oils and vinegars without the Pusateri prices.

                            1. re: millygirl
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                              lamaranthe RE: millygirl Nov 29, 2007 02:28 PM

                              Yes : La Salumeria 2021 Yonge Street (416) 486-8327 but I have no idea of the price.

                        2. j
                          j.osutherland RE: tomgrrrl Nov 22, 2007 07:22 AM

                          I have a suggestion I can offer. While I was dining in an amazing restaurant in Italy, I asked to know the name of the balsamic vinegar they used in a dish I had so that I could purchase it to take it back home with me. I ended up contacting the company and I found out that it is brought into Toronto. Its called FONDO MONTEBELLO and it has a yellow label and it's in a yellow box. It's thick and sweet and has an amazing flavour. The one I purchased is the oldest aged one they produce... but if you want one that isn't quite as sweet and thick (and is more versatile for everyday), they also make other aged balsamics in their collection. I picked mine up at All the Best Fine Foods.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: j.osutherland
                            m
                            millygirl RE: j.osutherland Nov 22, 2007 09:56 AM

                            sounds very nice....can I ask how much you paid for it?

                            1. re: millygirl
                              j
                              j.osutherland RE: millygirl Nov 22, 2007 10:32 AM

                              I'm quite sure I remember the price being somewhere in the high $40 range (close to $50).

                          2. Googs RE: tomgrrrl Nov 22, 2007 09:56 AM

                            I just placed an order with this company:
                            http://www.venturischulze.com/

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Googs
                              vorpal RE: Googs Nov 22, 2007 11:51 AM

                              If it's not too much trouble, would you be willing to do us a favour and let us know how it is? It sounds wonderful from their descriptions, and if it's worth the money, I wouldn't mind placing an order myself.

                              1. re: vorpal
                                m
                                millygirl RE: vorpal Nov 22, 2007 12:01 PM

                                Hey vorpal, I think Googs and josutherland are talking about 2 different brands. At least I did not see the montebello listed on Googs link. From what josutherland said, montebello can be purchased at All the Best Fine Foods.
                                Hi Jamie, I myself love to receive a good bottle of vinegar. Even though the bottle may be tiny, I would think a true foodie would recognize it was something special. Like they say, good things come in small packages. IMO it's not necessary to add anything else to it but if you feel you want too, even just a nice wedge of parmesan is nice. I've also given it as gifts and some brands come in boxes which I just wrap up. If not, sometimes I put it in one of those christmas wine bags from the LCBO - some are quite nice with lots of bling on them. BTW, I've been told to make sure that the balsamic comes from Modena, as they are the best producers.

                                1. re: vorpal
                                  Googs RE: vorpal Nov 28, 2007 09:04 AM

                                  Vorpal, I haven't picked up my order from the post office yet. Long story. I'll definitely let you know once I've done the spoon test. Yes, the description was too intriguing to ignore. Here's more:
                                  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servle...

                                  1. re: vorpal
                                    Googs RE: vorpal Dec 3, 2007 11:06 AM

                                    Pardon the pun, Vorpal, but it's absolutely fabulous. Clean, complex, sweet, and light. It isn't as thick as some, but the flavours certainly inspire me to sip it like port. I can't wait to see how it changes over time. Should be great. I didn't bother with the hand-painted bottle. Given it was a shot in the dark I didn't want to spend any more than necessary. The regular bottle looks just fine in my kitchen. No need to hide it.

                                    1. re: Googs
                                      vorpal RE: Googs Dec 3, 2007 03:23 PM

                                      Thanks for letting me know - I'm excited to give it a go and to support a Canadian manufacturer! I need a new balsamic after my disappointment with my Sun Valley purchase. I've been a reasonably good boy this year, so hopefully Santa will bring me a bottle or two to enjoy!

                                2. l
                                  lamaranthe RE: tomgrrrl Nov 22, 2007 12:05 PM

                                  Pusateri's (1539 Avenue Road Toronto, ON 416 785-9100) has an excellent selection. On w-e they let you sample some of them. If you want good stuff, be ready to pay the right price.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: lamaranthe
                                    Kagemusha RE: lamaranthe Nov 28, 2007 05:40 PM

                                    Pusateri's trades on this sort of circular reasoning, i.e., "our stuff is pricier, thus better." Seriously, try Boncheff if having a few extra $ in your jeans is a pleasant sensation.

                                  2. t
                                    tasoid RE: tomgrrrl Nov 28, 2007 12:10 PM

                                    If you really want to go high end Costco has 30, 50 and 100!!! year old Leonardi il patriarca balsamic at $150 to $1000 a 2.3 oz bottle !!!

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: tasoid
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                                      hazzelnuts RE: tasoid Nov 29, 2007 03:31 AM

                                      don't forget St Lawrence at the back for a great selection I think a little pricey .. better yet the spice hut in Kensington has better prices and they have great suggestions .. wouldn't be surprised if they would allow you to try .

                                      1. re: hazzelnuts
                                        dinin and dishin RE: hazzelnuts Nov 29, 2007 01:22 PM

                                        at the back of SLM is Alex Farms (as mentioned below) - they have a few locations.

                                    2. dinin and dishin RE: tomgrrrl Nov 28, 2007 08:05 PM

                                      Alex Farms on the Danforth has several good balsamics and some nice olive oils to go with. They have a few other locations also. Sometimes they have some out for tasting also. I particularly love their own olive oil they bring in from Crete. Mmmmm.

                                      -----
                                      Alex Farm
                                      377 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4K, CA

                                      1. l
                                        lamaranthe RE: tomgrrrl Nov 29, 2007 08:33 AM

                                        Pusateri's has a good selection, expensive though. Lady York (Dufferin & Glencairn) has a few good ones, more reasonable prices. But why not get the Turkish Nar Eksisi (made from pomegrenate)? You'll be surprise how a few drops (I say a few) do wonders for a fresh veggie salad.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: lamaranthe
                                          w
                                          wordsworth RE: lamaranthe Nov 30, 2007 03:11 AM

                                          Every Pusateri specialty food I've seen elsewhere in Toronto was 50-75% of Pusateri's price. They are the biggest gougers in Toronto. Never, never shop there

                                          1. re: wordsworth
                                            l
                                            lamaranthe RE: wordsworth Dec 1, 2007 03:48 PM

                                            Pusateri's happens to be the only specialty store that caters to people from Forest Hill, etc. Location, location... Bruno is good too, and the prices are similar, though the selection is not as large and the staff is not very friendly.

                                        2. Charles Yu RE: tomgrrrl Dec 1, 2007 04:36 PM

                                          Just bought a bottle of 8 years old 'Acetaia DODI - il Capriccio di Valeria' 200mle at $24 and a 10 years old 200mle at $34 from COSCO yesterday. Very thick, sweet and yummy!!! Actually I prefer the 8 years old one since it still has a hint of acidic after taste. The 10 years old one is already too sweet and 'caramelly'..My wife love it though. Guess it will be taste great with strawberries?!

                                          1. d
                                            dr_t RE: tomgrrrl Dec 3, 2007 10:15 PM

                                            like another suggested, olive pit is a good place to try out vinegars but don't be buying them there. the lady is absolutely wonderful. i did feel ripped off though when i found out my balsamic vinegar i bought for $25 in a small round bottle was sweetened with caramel. not cool! she has a nice one that's like $40. i dunno if it's sweetened or not but it's good. i dunno if it's worth the money though, to me it isn't.

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