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What the hell am I doing with a $120 bottle of vinegar??

I often do foolish things, but this time, I've really outdone myself. It seems that I'm the proud owner of a tiny bottle of 25-year-old Modena balsamic vinegar that cost me about $120. And I'm not even much of a cook.

By the way, I'm talking about a very, very small amount of balsamic here -- a 100 ml bottle, the convenient, travel size. At the current conversion from 75 euros, I figure an eyedropper full of this vinegar is worth $10. Which is about half of what I normally pay for a good-sized bottle of decent, aged DOP Modena balsamic.(DOP, or Denominazione di Origine Protetta, is Italy's protected designation of origin -- a good way to assess quality.)

How in the H do these things happen to me? It's all a horrible mistake that's leaving an acidic taste in my mouth....

I definitely did NOT set out to buy a rather expensive condiment when I was shopping in Rome a couple of months ago. Really, it was all a big mistake!!!

The trouble began as I was doing some shopping near the end of a visit to Rome in January, and decided to pop into Roscioli's gourmet food shop to buy some gifts and gourmet items to take home. Everything was a bit pricey, but I thought some small bottles of new olive oil, at about 4 euros each, would make nice gifts. I saw a small bottle of what looked like a nice little balsamic vinegar, DOP, for 5 euros. I was also dying to try some pistachio pesto (which was great!) so I coughed up 10 euro for that jar.

The place was crowded, I was rushing a bit because I was meeting my landlady for lunch, and as I stood at the cramped checkout juggling about 12 small bottles and jars of various items, my cellphone rang. Now, I know that I shouldn't have answered it and instead, just returned the call later. But I figured it was my lunch date, so I answered while the cranky lady seated at the till rang up my items.

Amidst all the hubbub, including the phone call, I scarcely noticed that the total bill for all my bottles and jars came to about 135 euros. THAT seemed like a lot, but I was very distracted and thought to myself that it was shocking how small things can quickly add up. I paid more attention to making sure I got my Visa card back than thinking through the total expense.

I had just enough time to dash back to my apartment, drop the heavy bag of goodies with a pile of other shopping from previous days, and head out for my lunch date.

I didn't think about the Roscioli purchases again until a few days later, when I was beginning to organize myself for the trip home. I was pulling together all of my receipts, figuring out what to carry on the plane with me, and how to safely pack all those little bottles.....at that point, I finally took a closer look at the bill and realized that I had been seriously overcharged. What on earth had I bought that was worth 75 euros????

I pawed through the sack, checking prices on bottles against the sales receipt. There it was -- balsamic at 75 euros. I could see the little bottle had a 5 euro price tag, but there was a very, very faint impression of a 7 in front of the 5. As I sat there, I thought that the 7 had likely been put there by mistake and the much darker 5 euro price tag was the correct number.

I was furious at what I thought had been a serious, and expensive error. The crabby older lady at the till must have eyes like a hawk to see "75" euro where it should have been simply "5" euro, I thought. I was clearly overcharged a significant amount. I fumed.

I was so frustrated, and mostly with myself. Had I been paying attention, I would certainly have noticed a 75 euro item being rung up. But since my discovery came days after the purchase -- I said to myself -- there was no point in going back. There was no way Roscioli's would take my word, without any proof that I hadn't purchased anything worth 75 euros.

So, I threw the damned bottle in my luggage, wrapped in an old sock so it wouldn't break and wreck some clothing. At home, I was feeling bitter and stuck the balsamic in a cupboard to try and forget.

But the feeling I had been ripped has bothered me all these weeks, since I've come home from Rome. I vowed to myself I'd never return to Roscioli's.

Finally, I decided that I'd blog about my experience, just to try to get rid of my bad feeling. Then, as I took another look at the bottle, it dawned on me that sometimes balsamics can be pricey. I decided before I denounced Roscioli's, I'd check the brand name on the Internet to see if there was any chance it was a better brand than I realized.I did a quick Google search of the name, Malpighi Extra Vecchio Aceto Balsamico, to see how badly I had been ripped off.

I couldn't believe it, when I saw prices flash up -- such as $430 for an 80-year-old, 100 ml bottle. Crazy!!!! And there was a picture of my tiny bottle, a 25-year-old, price anywhere from 65 euros to 100 euros. Here's a description: "Acetaia Malpighi has been handing down its traditions for all of 5 generations, offering a traditional balsamic vinegar with unique taste and aroma, the most gratification that time can reserve for us. Malpighi, for aging and refinement, uses cherry wood, rich in "carotenoids" and "polyphenols" that helps block processes activated by free radicals. This has the great capacity of making Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena extremely sweet, creamy and very "well-rounded", with almost imperceptible acidity.

So I guess I got what I paid for -- and a lot more than I bargained for. Instead of the store ripping me off, I seem to have done it all by myself.

I probably should have carried the little bottle in my carry-on luggage since I now realize it's a little more valuable than I first thought.

And now what am I going to do with this stuff????

Comments (16)

But have you tasted it? I have only tasted a really good balsamic vinegar once and WOW it is definitely a different type of flavor than the regular balsamic vinegar.

I know how you feel though and have been upset like that over something I didn't pay attention many times.

Eden:

Hi Sandra,

EBAY called for some 80 year old or aged balsamic vinegar. :)

Geez, and I thought I was the only foolish one who make purchases like that. I once bought a dozen mini macarons at LaDuree and shared the 35E worth of tiny treats with 6 friends as we strolled up on Champs Elysee.(sp?) I have a pretty green box for a souvenir though. LOL

Jill:

Maybe you could sell it on Ebay for a profit? :-D

Vicky:

I understand your feelings about Roscioli--while I wasn't "ripped off" as you initially felt, I was treated to some terrific snobbishness by the men behind the salumeria counter. I never went back to that one, just to Roscioli bakery down the street, where they were extremely pleasant and charming! As for what to do with that vinegar...I'm sure another dinner party is in order!

Maureen Shaw:

What you have is so precious and delicious I hope you enjoy every drop! Have you opened it yet? Sprinkle it on roast potatoes (we had them served that way in Modena), or strawberries, or some cut up fennel with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. I'm sure other people have more suggestions. It's a delicacy, especially the extravechhio.

What a story!

Well, I've read that those super expensive balsamics are awesome when you put a few drops on vanilla ice cream. I'd love to try that some time.

I'm on my way for dinner!

Sandra:

Vicky, it certainly wasn't a fun shopping experience! The place was so crowded, because of people standing at the bar and eating, as well as shoppers milling around. I agree, the people in the bakery are so much more pleasant.

Girasoli, you're right -- I should taste it. It's hard to tell. looking at the bottle, how it will be. Intense, I think. Probably a drop or two will be all I need for any recipe!

As Maureen says, it really is quite precious, which is why I'm now scared to crack the seal! I have a lovely bottle of 12-year-old Modena balsamic, I think I paid about $12 for 200 ml, and while that isn't especially exotic, even it was a revelation. Before I bought that, I had no idea how good balsamic could be. So, I guess I'm in for a treat!

(Unless I take Jill's advice and sell it on EBay!)

A few times, for dinner parties, I've marinated sliced strawberries in the 12-year-old balsamic with a bit of berry sugar, and served them either alone or on top of panna cotta. People rave -- I couldn't believe the taste the first time I tried it. Vinegar on strawberries? But it's fantastic.

So Annie, it might be perfect on ice cream. I just have to stop being intimidated. By my vinegar.

And Eden, I'm sure that the 35 euro you paid for such a great memory was worth every penny!

Zerlina:

A drop or two on some really good, aged DOP Parmigiano-Reggiano is also very nice.

A word of caution: If the bottle has a cork (I can't tell from Web images whether it does or not), the cork will quite quickly stick irremovably to the bottle. Give the cork a twist every so often so it stays movable and you can continue to get to the balsamic vinegar.

Two options: Put it on ice cream or strawberries - or sell it on Ebay, like Jill said!

Kim:

Like Zerlina, we love ours drizzled over parmegiano reggiano. I've also put drops on strawberries - yum! If you don't want it still, I'd be happy to take it off your hands.

Sandra:

Zerlina, thanks so much for the tip about the cork. And I like the suggestion of drizzling it on a good Parmigiano -- and on ice cream and/or strawberries.

Kim, I've gotten too much good advice on using this balsamic now, to give it up!

Kim:

Good, you should enjoy it!

Im on my way to dinner with Jerry. I'll bring champagne, to go with the most delicious dessert: cut fresh strawberries, sour cream and adrop of that BV.

My mouth is watering!

Angie

John:

About 4 years ago, my girlfriend brought me a bottle of Malpighi balsamic from a tip to Italy. Tonight, finally, we got around to trying it - just a drop on half a fresh, ripe, strawberry. What a taste sensation! Now I know what all the fuss is about. Even a drop straight from a spoon tastes wonderful. Very rich, caramely, intense and complex flavor. The difference between this and supermarket "balsamic" is like the difference between a prime, dry-aged strip sirloin and a piece of Wal-Mart beef jerky.

sandrac:

Wow, John, sounds like it was worth the wait!

I haven't yet opened my balsamic, but perhaps it's time for a taste test!

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