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Sour is the New Sweet

Subtract sugar and add flavor with stylish balsamic vinegars.


Courtesy of Amphora Nueva

As sugar has become more and more unpopular among the health conscious, an unusual bitter cousin has surfaced as a substitute for sweet, and local foodies are taking notice.

Balsamic vinegars are showing up now in desserts and even cocktails, as purveyors offer new, creative infusions that join aged vinegars with naturally sweet flavors like fig, lavender, and white honey ginger.

You can taste up to 30 varieties of balsamic vinegar at Amphora Nueva in Berkeley. The owners of Veronica Foods in Oakland opened this specialty shop near the Claremont Hotel earlier this year. One wall is lined with vinegars, the other with almost 50 varieties of olive oil—all on tap so you can taste them and order the bottle size that works for you (200-, 375-, or 750-ml). Wine-like descriptions such as “notes of almond and artichoke” or “smooth mouth feel” help guide your sampling.

“We’ve had people spend two hours in here just exploring,” says Nate Bradley, who manages the store with his sister Claire. Their parents own the shop, and the siblings and their other two sisters constantly come up with new uses for the products in their kitchens at home. Below are a few of their sweet-and-savory suggestions. 

Amphora Nueva, 2928 Domingo Ave., Berkeley, (510) 704-9300

How-to Balsamic

• Mix blood orange olive oil and cranberry-pear balsamic vinegar.
• Mix Persian lime olive oil and white honey ginger balsamic vinegar.

• Drizzle chocolate balsamic vinegar over ice cream.
• Sprinkle cinnamon-pear balsamic over chopped angel food cake and strawberries.
• Swirl lavender balsamic with yogurt and granola for a healthy des-
sert or breakfast.

• Mix a few drops of pomegranate balsamic with gin and vermouth for a special martini.
• Add cranberry-pear balsamic to vodka and soda for a unique aperitif. 

For five recipes that include balsamic vinegar, see below.


Five Recipes

Amphora Summer Splash

1 Glass of Carbonated Water
1 tbsp. Lime
4 cubes of Ice
2 tbsp. of Amphora's Cranberry Pear White Balsamic Vinegar

- Throw a few ice cubes into a glass. Fill the tall glass with any carbonated water. Squeeze roughly 1 table spoon of lime juice into the water. Add 2 tablespoons of Cranberry Pear white balsamic. Stir and enjoy.

*** For a hardened twist, add a splash of your favorite vodka or gin!

Amphora's Aged Pomegranate Balsamic Martini

2 oz high quality vodka
1 tbsp grenadine or other simple syrup
1 tbsp of lime juice
1 tbsp of Amphora's Ppomegranate Balsamic

- Add ingredients along with ice to a martini shaker. Shake well and serve. Add or subtract balsamic and syrup until desired flavor is achieved.

Nate's Cinnamon Food Cake

1 purchased or homemade standard sized angel food cake
1 small carton of strawberries
6.8 oz or 200ml. of Amphora's Cinnamon Pear Balsamic Vinegar

- Break the angle food cake down into cubes and spread out in a large serving bowl. Thinly slice the strawberries and evenly distribute them over the top of the food cake. Drizzle the Cinnamon Pear Balsamic Vinegar over the top of the strawberries and angel food cake. Let chill for 15 min and serve.

Rachel's Famous Tuscan White Bean Spread

1lb. of Dried Rinsed Great Northern White Beans
2" sprig of fresh rosemary
4 cups low chicken or vegetable stock and water to cover beans
1 medium onion, diced
2 whole garlic cloves, smashed
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 large celery rib, diced
12 oz. can of diced tomatoes in juice
2 teaspoon of sea salt
dash of pepper to taste
Finish it with approximately 1/3 cup of Amphora's fresh California Mission Extra Virgin Olive Oil. (Drizzle over Top)
In a 6 quart or larger stock pot, add all of the ingredients except for the olive oil. Bring to a simmer over medium heat /low heat, partially covered for 4 hours or until the beans are tender and fully cooked through. Add more water if necessary. All beans to cool completely.

In the bowl of a food processor ladle 2 cubs of the beans and the liquid they were cooked in. Add 1/4 cup of Mission Extra Virgin Olive Oil and process until smooth. Drizzle 2 to 3 tbs of the remaining Extra Virgin Olive Oil over the top. Serve with bread crackers, pita or even rice! Enjoy!

Amphora's Decadent Mashed Potatoes


2 lb. russet potatoes (6 or 7)peeled, quartered
1 tbsp of Amphora's White Truffle Oil or Tuscan Herb Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
1/2 cup of milk or half and half
1 Tbsp. butter or margarine
1 tbsp. of sour cream
1 tsp. salt

-Cook potatoes and garlic in boiling water in large saucepan for approximately 20 min. or until potatoes are tender; drain. Mash potatoes until smooth and add butter, milk and sour cream. Make sure the ingredients are adequately mixed and then add the truffle oil.


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