Monday, April 4, 2011

Monoprix Saveur Vinaigre Balsamique

Chips, too, have the right to be refined

Casting an eye about for another uniquely European delicacy, I dredged up another unlikely candidate from the store shelves, thereby prolonging the terrible war for our loyalties between Franprix (the one that sells ‘LeaderPrice’ goods) and Monoprix (the pricier French version of Walmart.)  Monoprix’s ‘Balsamic Vinaiger Flavor’ provided just the hook- who else’s vinegar chips are made with the veritable Balsamic!

Now, you must understand that in my Franco-Italian family upbringing, thick burgundy brown balsamic vinegar has pretty much subsumed the ordinary red wine vinegar that is the standard in American daily life.  Everything comes out denser, more flavorful, more lusty in balsamic- just try it out in a tomato and mozzarella salad, or mix it in a vinaigrette with Dijon mustard, oil, and salt.  It is certifiably superior to the thin red or white stuff you usually bathe your vegetables in to make them less healthy.  Instead of being made from wine, balsamic vinegar is formed from fresh trebbiano grapes that are boiled down to 30% of their original volume, then stored in a succession of wooden casks for 12 full years, each cask made out of a different type of wood to impart a different flavor.  That's right, this vinegar is so elite it's got more pedigree than your average dog.  (Okay, to be honest, the sort of balsamic vinegar we actually buy in the grocery store hasn't been subjected to the full 12 years.)
People in the middle ages used to
believe that balsamic vinegar had
magical powers-and apparently they
were right.  Granting long life,
unbreakable bones, fast metabolism,
numbing pain, fortifying against
disease, thereby transforming
you into the goddamned Batman.

So, I was hoping for wonderful things as promised by the suggestively dark-brown bag, and its delightfully impertinent sub-title: chips, too, have the right to be refined!  (This is not my prose run a wild, you can read them for your self!)  Came the night at the end of a stressful day where our evening plans had fallen in flames and we were left to discuss religion, sex, and politics with our flat mates and I produced my piece de resistance for a trial by fire.

Unfortunately, if you’re asking yourself, how will balsamic vinegar chips taste different from the regular sort?, I still can’t help you because sadly I could not divine any distinction.  I think it didn’t help that the chips were the standard bright-light-yellow color of vinegar chips in the states (the flavoring powder indistinguishable in color)- I honestly believe that if they had used a burgundy brown coloration- like that of actual balsamic vinegar- I would have reacted very differently to them.  Come on, I’m practically giving free tips away on how to psychologically manipulate me, I hope somebody is listening!  But as they were, they looked and tasted like standard vinegar-flavored chips.

Let's be honest, some chips do have
a somewhat 'recombined' texture to
That’s not a bad thing- sometimes they delivered quite a nice acidic surge, perhaps even suggestive of the fuller-bodied flavor of Balsamic vinegar compared to the watery-thin texture of regular vinegar (no, nobody is paying me for the smack talk.)  In fact, the bag assures us that the chips were flavored with real balsamic vinaigrette, so that is awesome.  However, like too many other chips, the crisps suffered from highly inconsistent distribution of the flavoring; about a third of the chips had a generous powerful kick of vinegar flavoring, and the rest frustrated me with the intimation of an aroma that they could not, ultimately deliver.  To top it off, the crisps themselves were on the low end of average, which is to say basically serviceable, but damp enough with oil and hampered by a particle-board like texture that failed to exhibit much thickness or crunch when eaten.

Every time these conversation happen,
another Star Fleet vessel is sucked
into an improbable wormhole, forcing
it's crew to face their inner demons
and wear unlikely but sexy costumes.
I still feel a little bad knocking these in the review, because they at times delivered an excellent vinegar flavor, they were made with actual Balsamic vinegar, and the contents of the bag lasted about 15 minutes before being devoured (but maybe that’s more of a comment of the French penchant for small quantities).  But in the end, they failed to consistently deliver enough flavor or to taste significantly different from other vinegar flavored chips.  Also, the rate at which they were eaten may reflect that my wife chose that evening to discuss the finer points of Catholicism, Judaism, and Hitler with our two German roommates, prompting us all to consume heedlessly in an attempt to suborn the pain of a conversation that rearticulated Godwin’s law so thoroughly a rift in space and time was opened.

Stars: 1½/4
Spiciness: none

-Made with authentic balsamic vinegar
-Sometimes deliver strong vinegar flavor

-More often, fails to deliver enough flavoring
-Crisps are of less than impressive quality
-Flavor was not really distinct from regular vinegar flavoring

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