Here it is. My new obsession.
Photo courtesy of NapaStyle.com
Translation? Vinegar "caviar" pearls.
Before you get grossed out (like I do when I even think about certain types of caviar), give me a minute to explain. These vinegar pearls are a truly intriguing and delicious take on oil & vinegar; one by which you'll be sure to impress your friends and family. Just trust me here.
Several years ago I was working on a strategic planning project for a big-time food & beverage client. This client flew 10 hand-picked team members – myself included – all over the country for almost two weeks. Our job? Researching the true meaning behind "gourmet food." What does it look like? Taste like? How is it marketed?
I'll tell you; it was really hard work indulging in some of the country's best cuisine at a variety of cutting-edge restaurants, farmers markets and mom & pop shops. Oh wait, it wasn't hard at all. It was like my personal and professional culinary dreams came true for two weeks.
Even though it was almost four years ago, one specific meal stands out. After a long night of traveling, we had a breakfast meeting at a San Francisco-based food science company. Ten of us were sitting around a conference table inside a fully-equipped kitchen. To our right sat a breakfast spread from of our wildest dreams...waffles, pancakes, omelets, fresh fruit, potatoes, biscuits, gravy, etc. While we were jet-lagged, exhausted and literally ready to attack, we were doing the polite thing and waiting for our hosts to come and unleash us on the food. However, before we could do just that, a few food scientists whisked through the kitchen doors, announcing they had a special pre-breakfast treat: CAVIAR. Sure enough, here came platters filled with what appeared to be blinis topped with caviar and creme fraiche. Ugh.
I almost died. Our group turned green at the thought of fish eggs – I don't care how expensive they were – at 8 o'clock in the morning. But the "chef" soon explained that this was no fish caviar; it was made from coffee. Peet's Coffee, to be exact, separated by a proprietary process and turned into tiny, gelatinous coffee "caviar."
Coffee Caviar Separation Process
A multi-nozzle syringe drops the coffee mixture into a bath of calcium chloride to harden.
Photos courtesy from Wired.com
After the caviar gels, the calcium chloride solution is poured off.
The finished caviar is washed and drained.
Placing the finished caviar in a tin to mimic the real thing.
Coffee beans turned into coffee caviar.
I'd never seen anything like it. Ever. And it turned out to be absolutely incredible. Presented on mini blinis and topped with fresh coffee-infused whipped cream, the "caviar" was absolutely delicious. The coffee flavor literally popped in my mouth, complimenting the sweetness of the blini and richness of the whipped cream. A little bite of heaven. Oh, and then we got to hit up the buffet.
So back to the Olio Aceto "Pearls." When I saw these in Napa Style's catalog, I got really excited. The pearls are made from vinegar, separated by a special separation process at Michael Chiarello's Napa Valley restaurant, Bottega, essentually creating vinegar “caviar.” These are little pearls of perfect flavor that, when mixed with the signature flavored olive oils, makes the best bread-dipping oil ever! You can also spoon it on steak, roasted chicken or flaky fish; drizzle on simple salads; or add to pasta. Whatever you do with it, your guests are in for a dinner that’ll blow their minds.