This section is from Charlotte:
Andrew is a grill master and, when you love to eat grilled meats, you have to learn to make a good potato salad. I have ‘arrived’ – when I make this potato salad, I am always asked for the recipe. There are two very important tricks, one that I learned from Cook’s Illustrated (always a great place to start), and one that I stumbled on to thanks to Goods. From Cook’s Illustrated I learned that you should add your vinegar to the potatoes first while they’re still hot so they can absorb the flavor. CI also suggests that the red potatoes are the best for both flavor and texture, but I love the red and purple combination, especially for Fourth of July, and I like some of the potatoes getting a little soft. From Goods I learned about Edward Fallot Gherkins. Now I know you’re thinking what difference could a pickle make, but it’s literally the difference between being asked for the recipe or not. The Fallot gherkins are sweetened with tarragon and not sugar. The result is a pickle somewhere in between the grocery store sweet and dill pickles, but oh-so-much better. Again for the Fourth, to me there is something appropriate about using a little culinary help from the French just as our ancestors used a little help from the French in fighting the Revolutionary War. So maybe this should be called Freedom Potato Salad.
Andrew’s Vinegar Discussion:
At Goods Gourmet we carry a wide range of vinegars from Melfor, a very mild Alsatian condiment (French law says you can’t use ‘vinegar’ for anything under 6% acidity) to the A’Olivier fruited vinegars that hover around 8% acid.
We were making potato salad for a Memorial weekend party anyway so we decide to split a batch between three different vinegars. The base recipe calls for red wine vinegar. For the option closest to that we chose a Banyuls vinegar made in far southern France near the Spanish border. The wines of Banyuls are usually sweet, red dessert wines though they make some fine dry wines as well. This vinegar, while technically a red wine vinegar, pushes more towards the sherry vinegar profile of nut and citrus flavors. It’s big, but not brawny.
The second vinegar was the Cattani Organic White Balsamic. This is nothing like the very expensive, syrupy aged traditional balsamics nor is it akin to the mass produced grocery balsamics. Whatever the production, this is a highly perfumed, slightly sweet vinegar with some acid kick. It’s very tasty right off a spoon, but we had not cooked with it before.
The most unusual of the group was the Roman Vinegre from Alan Coxon, a British chef and food historian. Alan has spent huge chunk of his own money developing and marketing vinegars modelled after what would have been used in ancient Greece, ancient Rome and medieval England. The Roman vineger, very bright with a noticeable floral note that traces back to chamomile, is a very well made vinegar that Alan suggests be used where rice wine vinegar is called for.
Tasted straight up, the Banyuls is the strongest, the White Balsamic the sweetest, and the Roman the most herbal. Concensus was that the Banyuls was the best overall, but opinion was split on the other two. No one disliked the sald made with Roman vinegar, but we agreed that it needed the right setting an smoked ribs was not its best match. On its own or as a side with shellfish it would be great, but red meats or smoked versions of the ‘other white meat’ were not well suited. The salad made with the White Balsamic was very appealing but needed to be served in small portions due to the sweetness. Not cloying, but noticeable.
This little head-to-head was a lot of fun and very inspiring. The short story is that there is a world of great flavors out there to explore and ya’ll should take every opportunity to stray from the familiar path inot the exciting unknown.