While visiting Madison last weekend, I managed to stumble into Vom Fass, the German oil, vinegar, grappa, rum and Scotch store where everything is available in sample form. More US franchises are on the way, and if God truly loves us, He'll park one of those puppies in Minneapolis or St. Paul.
The most vivid sample turned out to be a mango balsamic vinegar that screamed its mango force onto my palette with the intensity of an enraged Bobby Knight.
Clearly, this stuff was going to be clutch in the kitchen. Marinades, salads... mango to the nth power was in the offing.
As it turns out, splashing flavored balsamic vinegar on vanilla ice cream may be the best move of all. The acidic spike of the vinegar and the assertive presence of the allied flavor work wonders when pitted against the laid-back sweetness of the ice cream. The ice cream is a canvas; the flavored balsamic is neon-bright paint. A little scoop (using a hemispherical measuring spoon) and a splash team up to make a great post-dinner refresher.
It's hard to go wrong in terms of the balsamic you use; although I'm partial to fruit flavored vinegars, even wine-style balsamics can be used to assemble a wicked simple and elegant summer dessert.