Warning: The following post may contain content that is incredibly boring to those not interested in the culinary world. If you’d rather read about my running adventures, please read no further and check out Monday’s post. But if you, like myself, can find a freakish enjoyment in such simple things as a fresh, sun-ripened tomato, a thick piece of freshly baked bread, or in this case some really really good vinegar, then I beg of you to read on. You’ve been warned.
It all began two weeks ago, when an ice storm and a busted rib hindered me from doing anything of worth. J, ever the opportunist, took advantage of the fact that I wasn’t running and escorted me downtown in search of a beer. Rumor had it that Suttree’s – a newish high gravity bar downtown – had the holy grail of Sassy Swan beers on tap: Southern Tier Brewing Company’s Creme Brulee Imperial Milk Stout. Although the rumor was in fact true, they had since sold out (curses!) and I became inconsolable. Well, not really. But I was pretty bummed. So I had a flight of beer to settle my nerves.
I informed J they sold specialty olive oil & vinegars and he, being the dude-man that he is, raised his eyebrow in “why would we need to go in there” hesitation. And, I mean, he was kind of right. I had perfectly good, organic even, olive oil sitting at home along with some balsamic that I had ensured came from Medina upon purchase. But ever the explorer, I grabbed my extraordinary patient fiance and led him in.
I moseyed right on over to the counter and got down to business. “Okay.” I said to the lovely girl in front of me. “What makes your stuff so special?”(my eloquence surprises even me at times). And then she schooled me.
We headed over to a display of 15 or so vinegars, each with their own flavors, and she busts out the EXACT bottle of crappy balsamic I have sitting at home. “This is what one typically purchases at the grocery store.” “Yes” I thought, nodding at this mind-reader in front of me. She pours a small amount into a paper cup. “And this, is what we sell here.” and does the same with the obviously better vinegar. So my version looks kind of like oily water. Dark, smells like balsamic, and seems to taste about right. But her version. Oh god, it was syrupy – so obviously thicker then my crack-head vinegar – and sweet, and tangy and…and perfect.
Well, hell. I was sold on the spot. Simply based on the ole’ finger dunking taste test, I was ready to buy the lot. But we weren’t done yet. She asks if we’ve ever balsamic vinegar on ice cream. “Um, nope. Sure haven’t” as I glanced over at J who has brought back his raised eyebrow. Something we have to try she says and she scampers to the back room where she returns with two small cups of plain vanilla ice cream.
Trust me. This is one of those things were you cannot knock it until you try it. But you must try it with really good balsamic because – holy shit – it is weirdly amazing. Like, I-can’t-believe-this-is-so-good-and-it-still-kind-of-freaks-me-out amazing. If you live in the Knoxville area, get yourself to The Tree and Vine before you even unscrew the top to your mediocre balsamic. You’ll never go back. They sell all kind of fun kitchen gizmos and condiments, including the kick ass olives and olive juice (not to be confused with olive brine) that makes a mean dirty martini. I will be back for the olive oils, I promise but today was all about the magical ice cream & balsamic mixture that still makes my mouth water.
And If you don’t, lucky you, they’ve got a website – www.TheTreeandVine.com.