Ok, so maybe you have gone wine tasting at least once in your life, but have you gone olive oil tasting? If you have, then have you ever gone balsamic vinegar tasting?

I thought I was pretty well versed in tasting wines and olive oils until I walked into Olive Oil and Beyond on Balboa Island. It’s one thing to taste a few samples laid out by a specialty purveyor with some bread, but it is quite another to have an array of about a dozen from various regions, acidities and flavors in gleaming metal vats with spigots lining a wall for your degustation. The very knowledgeable and helpful shop steward combined an olive oil with a fig balsamic in a tiny tasting cup and told me to sip it like wine. It was wonderfully complex, with a slightly tart composition.

I immediately turned to ask her, “What kind of balsamic is this?” and as I turned and saw the opposite wall was lined with another dozen or so metal vats of balsamic vinegars with the same spigots for tasting. The answer she gave to my question was fig, and after I tasted the pomegranate (sweet) and red apple balsamic (both sweet and tart), I still preferred the slightly tart but flavorful fig balsamic. Prices run about $20 per bottle for nearly all the flavors of oils and vinegars, so you can afford to indulge your taste buds with something wonderful as a treat or a staple depending on your wallet.

Go for an olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting and come home with an educated palate along with an unusual addition to your pantry.