Vanilla is intoxicating. It has a warm, relaxing bouquet that is heady and lush. A pantry staple it is traditionally combined with chocolate but it also rounds out citrus flavors and even provides a counterpoint to seafood. Like saffron, vanilla is so labor-intensive to harvest that there is no way to get it cheaply, if you want the good stuff. Vanilla orchid blossoms bloom only one day a year and have to be hand-pollinated then they take around nine months to mature. After being picked, by hand of course, they are bathed, wrapped in blankets, dried in the sun, sweated and fermented. Whew!
Vanilla comes from the exotic locations of Madagascar, Mexico and Tahiti. Madagascar Bourbon vanilla is rich and sweet, the beans thin. Mexican vanilla is smooth and rich, but very rare these days. Tahitian vanilla beans are thick, dark and more aromatic, but less flavorful.
So which one should you buy? Easy. Sonoma Syrup's Pure Vanilla Bean Extract "Crush" of Madagascar Bourbon and Tahitian vanilla with vanilla bean seeds. That way you pretty much get it all. The flavor, the scent, and the texture. An all natural product with no added sugar, it's so good it just won the Sante magazine Gold Star Award (in the March/April 2006 edition).
How come no one thought of combining Madagascar and Tahitian vanilla before? I can't say. While I sometimes hesitate to share products with less than wide distribution, now through the end of the month you can purchase this fabulous vanilla online for only $11.50 for 8 ounces. That's half off the regular price and a steal if you ask me. A bottle that size will last you a very long time. Go. Get some.
FOOD + VANILLA