HouseParty: Bertolli® Imported Cask Aged Balsamic Vinegar Paired with Caramelized Onion #Review #BertolliSauceParty

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I usually make our sauces from scratch and especially when the heirloom tomatoes start hitting the markets, with the quality and season being at it’s peak. I enjoy incorporating everything from a bell pepper medley to a combination of different onions. I make several jars worth and then have the freedom to create different meals and additions like ground lamb to pork. Then time gets in the way and especially during the “bottom months” where holidays start coming and I’m trying to make every comfort food we have been waiting to enjoy and sometimes you get that simple request of spaghetti and meatballs. I open the fridge and then memory strikes…..I used our last jar I made last time and now have none! So, I always purchase emergency back-ups and this means a jar or two of previously made sauces. I already feel bad when I let time get the best of me, but I don’t want to add by feeling bad about what I am serving at dinner time. So, I pick wisely and have found a few brands that I can depend on.

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Bertolli makes everything from sauces, olive oils, vinegars to frozen meals. They are a company that has been around family tables for over 150 years. Their sauces range from organic, white bases to their newer variety called Riserva. The Riserva brand is a rename of the Imported line “Gold Label”, you previously saw with the colored “old-style” font. Even the flavors are identical, so thankfully Bertolli did not discontinue the “Gold Label” line. I was able to pick-up a glass jar of the bottles, with the older version label, at my local Von’s.

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What I look for when purchasing a jarred sauce is simple ingredients like I would use when making it from scratch and also variety. I want something away from the norm, so I look for blends with wines or vegetables that we don’t commonly consume. I want also a sauce that does not need to be “fixed” to be enjoyed. I’m not going to dedicate 20 minutes to get a sauce to taste right when I could allot the same time to one made from scratch. So, the first thing I do is take a label apart when it comes to ingredients and thankfully the sauces by Bertolli contain what the label in the front states. The Balsamic vinegar is there as is the caramelized onions. Tomatoes in all forms from puree, diced and even in juice form are listed. To intensify the tangy notes, grape must was added and mostly you have real ingredients in this sauce. My only pause was to caramel coloring even though I know manufactures add it to enhance the look of the sauce since it may not look too pleasing in the jar without it, but I could have done with out it. I hope when Bertolli changed the label, they dropped the coloring off the list too.

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Verdict:
The Balsamic Vinegar and Caramelized onions by Bertolli advertises a nice balance in flavor where the sweetness from the caramelized onions goes very well with the tang you get from the vinegar. No bitter notes or after taste, and the sauce has a rich texture and taste. Very enjoyable and not a jar that needs additions to correct it, but you can always add a protein from chicken and beef to enhance it. Upon opening the jar, I expected to smell a wine like scent  from the vinegar, as I do when I add Balsamic to my marinara sauces. I unfortunately did not. I taste the sauce and it’s ultra sweet, like way too much sugar. It’s not the sugars I’m use to even when I have used sweet onion varieties like Cipollini onions. Even Shallots when caramelized never give off this much sugar and then I notice actual sugar noted in the list of ingredients BEFORE garlic and spice. Okay, so I start thinking what can I make with this and it hit’s me……a dip. This way the sauce stays unaltered and I make Mozzarella sticks from scratch. Everyone can then enjoy the sauce as it is and I can curb the sweet factor by the spices I add to the breaded cheese. Simple to make and also quick, plus batches can be kept warm in the oven while I make more.  This is unfortunately not a sauce I would buy again.  I will try this version again under the Riserva label if the ingredients differ.  So, far the only change I can tell is that the new label does not state “Imported” on it.  Unfortunately, Bertolli does not list the ingredients of their sauces on the site, just the nutritional facts, so I wan unable to compare beforehand.  My Mozz sticks are always a hit but I did ask for feedback on the sauce and thankfully received some honest remarks.  It’s sweet was the chief complaint and maybe this was a batch where the sugar over-spilled, but I was left with dip and this is uncommon at my house where I witness guests usually use even bread to clean a plate.  I feel that without the overpowering sweetness, this sauce could actually be good and enjoyed.  The warming of the sauce intensifies the sugar and when tasted cold, the sugars mellow out a bit.  Maybe adding a little to a pasta salad would help.

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I received the above product(s) free of charge from Bertolli and HouseParty.  I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion.  My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

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Gourmet Living: Balsamic Vinegar of Modena Review #IGPInitialPromo #GourmetLivingBalsamic

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Some things are beautiful and I always admire a gorgeous looking bottle. Presentation matters and especially when purchasing a product that retails higher than it’s counterparts but that is if you look at vinegar as plainly an acid, disregarding origin, grape used in production, to aging. This can get blurred and sometimes on purpose by the manufacture. We all want what we pay for and that is something I was critical of when I had the opportunity to review Gourmet Living’s Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. I love Balsamic and use it almost on a daily basis in it’s “raw form” or to enhance the taste of sauces to meats. Nothing tastes like it and it may look like wine but a good tasting Balsamic will make you forget about wine all together.

When I received the parcel from Gourmet Living, the box was beautiful with gold colored foil highlights and it almost felt like suede when touched. I open it and I see a beautiful red wax seal on top, and the bottle is as noteworthy as the rest. Every detail has been thought of but in the end I seek what is inside the bottle. Does the vinegar have a pleasant taste and will it play well with the others, meaning I don’t want an acidic pungent base that overpowers all the other flavor notes and even the smallest drop makes me just taste vinegar.

I figured the best test was trying it as-is and making a simple at home Vinaigrette. I never buy dressings and just make my own because as much as I want the dressing in the bottle to last, everything a manufacture adds to make it long living also makes it poor tasting. I save money and fridge space, plus I can adjust my dressings by the meals I am serving that day. A Vinaigrette made at home will always be friendly to a waist-line too.

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Retail Price Point: $36.95 for a 8.5 fluid ounce bottle via Amazon

You will look and notice years and size of bottles fluctuate drastically when it comes to Balsamic. I thought the more the ounces combined with greater years, makes the price tag higher, but that did not remain factual. Some expensive brands had poor ratings along with the low quantity of ounces they gave. I get it that aging takes storing, time and care. This is not even what it takes to make the initial fluid in the first place. Boiling a product down reduces the quantity and intensifies the flavor but it depends on the cook and the “starter product”, if even the final product will be worthy. Balsamic may look thick and smell sometimes strong but it delivers sweet notes when done well. As it ages the flavor matures and the wood that is used for storage will also affect the vinegar. The Balsamic from Gourmet Living also has an IGP certification that has certain criteria that must be met for a bottle to pass and reach the seal. Think of it like a diamond and how certain outside agencies will only certify if certain standards are met, down to origin of the stone. The vinegar from Gourmet Living is from Modena and had the proper labeling I have seen with products of this kind, so they passed the visual test and now to how it tastes.

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Taste Test:
I made my dressing and I always taste before adding salt. The Balsamic had a pleasant sweet taste without bitter after notes. You could pick up what the wood had added a distinct flavor to the vinegar, and it just intensifies that aroma you get when using the product and tasting it. I actually found this vinegar very pleasant and for the price, it was a fair price point. I have only been able to get a better price point at Whole Foods on 2 bottles that were being cleared out and that was a once in a lifetime opportunity. A bottle of Balsamic lasts because you use a small amount. Think of when you use demi glace and how a little goes a long way. The same applies here and that makes it a worthy purchase in my book!

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I received the above product(s) free of charge from Gourmet Living.  I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion.  My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

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