Saturday, January 26, 2013

How good is it? Slap yo' mama good.

When I woke up this morning, I couldn't have imagined I would be dragging my vanilla ice cream through vinegar. But drag it I did and it was oh, so good.

After a wonderful dinner downtown, my friends Jim and Kim and I meandered around Market Square and found our way to the Tree and Vine, an olive oil and balsamic tasting shop. It looked so appealing from the outside so we went in to investigate.

The tasting bar
We found large silver jugs lining the walls and bottles of olive oils and balsamic vinegars set in one long row on the counter. The proprietor Paul was in the middle of walking a customer through a tasting when I heard, "Try this one. It's slap yo' mama good!" My ears perked up and I had to see for myself.

I really only wanted to taste the basil-infused olive oil and traditional balsamic vinegar combo that had solicited that comment. Pretty soon, I was working my way down the counter dipping bread into one oil/balsamic combo after another and sipping infused aged balsamic vinegars from tiny white cups.

And then Paul said the magic word: chocolate. What?!
He led me over to the chocolate-infused balsamic vinegar and gave me a taste. It would be good drizzled on desserts like ice cream, he said. (And I'm thinking, "yeah, like I would ever do that.")

"Wait one second," Paul said. He went to the back and brought out a small cup of vanilla ice cream for me. Oh, yes he did. "Drag a spoon of the ice cream through the chocolate vinegar."
Then there was blueberry balsamic vinegar. And then mandarin orange balsamic vinegar. Wow. Talk about a taste explosion. I was hooked.

Paul the proprietor (and a former naval aviator)
As Jim, Kim and I made our purchases, the conversation turned to airplanes. Paul is a former naval aviator (think "Top Gun") and Jim is a recreational pilot (small planes). We also talked food and travel. Paul and his wife Terri lead culinary tours to Italy several times a year. They opened the Knoxville Tree and Vine about three months ago. They have another, their first, in Asheville, N.C.

As we left the store, Jim, Kim and I excitedly discussed what tasty creations we would make with our oils and vinegars. (Ribs brushed with chipotle olive oil, anyone?)

Who knew that a spontaneous stop would turn into such an exciting evening?
What an unexpected and unusual food adventure, and what a treat.


  1. Really nice piece of reporting, Lola! Sounds like you found a good way to spend a sunny but cold Saturday. (I spent most of my day standing up on a hill in South Knoxville trying to photograph bald eagles, then went for my first time to an old South Knox BBQ establishment.)

    1. Thanks, Kathy! Sounds like you had quite the adventure yourself. Did you spot any bald eagles? Didn't even know we had them in Knoxville. I learned something new! You'll have to tell me how your time at the South Knox BBQ joint went. South Knox has some nice, hidden jewels.