Food Profiling: House of Balsamic in Irvine
To taste authentic balsamic vinegar is something of an experience. Possessing a history of healing properties, this import from Modena, Italy, is created under a strict process regulated by the Italian government before it can be deemed a traditional artisan product. House of Balsamic president Manrico Mincuzzi brought the brand overseas because he feels that Americans "need a balanced feeling during these trying times."
The Malpighi family has produced balsamic vinegar since 1850 with a passion, a passion House of Balsamic extends into cooking, travel and art. Stepping into its "academy" in an Irvine office park, it's much more than just office space. Paintings by Laguna Beach artists welcome you. An exhibition kitchen overlooks its occasional dining room. A complete inventory on display culminates around an intimate tasting table.
Visuals of travel destinations, including one of Navajo tribes in Arizona, line a hallway. Meandering visitors will discover an installation by artist Bill Matisse, performance space and a staircase leading into an additional gallery.
Solera is the process by which must is decanted from one cask to another, blending with older aged batches and creating a family's signature flavor. It's important to note that no other substances are added during the maturation process of traditional balsamic vinegar, making it a unique condiment. Aging can be as few as 12 years, or as many as 100. A government consortium intervenes during the bottling process to determine if a batch meets a specific set of criteria worthy of designation. These attributes include vineyard and production location, solera procedure, chemical attributes and presentation. If the product meets all the criteria, approval is marked by a seal placed on the bottle bearing DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) designation. The vinegar is then numbered and registered.
Traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena was once used by alchemists for its curing properties. Considered "a finishing product, not an add-in," per Maria, their balsamic now comes in many forms, but is best known in its purest state. A young balsamic aged for 12 years is still sophisticated, complementing a variety of dishes including eggs and red meat. However, an 80-year bottle possesses a richness, a complexity only obtained over time. They are priced accordingly, at $89 and $430, respectively, for 3.38-ounce bottles. House of Balsamic is, indeed, a luxury brand.
|That's the shape of the bottle--no photo trickery on our part!|
Although Manrico will not admit to a favorite product; because he enjoys all of them, he does admit to how they chose Orange County as the location for their academy. Viewing Southern California as a constantly evolving area, he believes House of Balsamic "can make a difference contributing culturally." His company's passion for showcasing only the finest products and experiences is embodied in that first taste.
The House of Balsamic is located at 5 Mason, Ste., 200, (949) 455-0006; www.houseofbalsamic.com. House of Balsamic is open for retail and travel inquiries Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Select products are also available at Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table.