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Archive for the ‘Vanilla’ Category

I combed over “The Story of Vanilla,” a little booklet that Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, Inc. put out at the Fancy Food Show. I was looking for the vanilla authority to tell me which type of vanilla is the best: Madagascar, Mexican, Tahitian? Ugandan, Costa Rican, Indian? Papua New Guinean (Guinese?)? Head to explode in 5, 4, 3…

I once had a vanilla ice cream at the soft opening of the erstwhile restaurant Archipelago (thanks, S.!), and insofar as vanilla can blow one’s mind, it detonated mine. It tasted nothing like vanilla. What the heck does vanilla taste like, anyway? No one word describes it, and after tasting this Tahitian vanilla ice cream (we later found out), I was convinced Tahitian vanilla is simply ze best. Plus, where I shop for vanilla, you can get two Madagascar pods for $0.80, but two Tahitian pods for $6 and change. So in my head, the more expensive it is, the seemingly better, right?

The booklet highlights the beans Madagascar and Mexico. The final product depends a lot on the curing process and these two places have “the finest curers in the world,” especially Mexico’s Totonaco Indians, according to the author. Also, avoid Indonesian vanillas; the terroir is not as ideal as the soil in other countries, and their curing practices are not quite up to par.

What happened to Tahitian beans? Those, I should’ve known, are a different species—Vanilla Tahitensis, not Vanilla Planifolia. The booklet mentions it only after a lengthy discussion about the beans from Mexico and Madagascar. Vanilla Tahitensis “has a fruity, flowery flavor with hints of heliotrope,” it says. It doesn’t mention whether it’s better or worse than the Vanilla Planifolia—it’s just different—or explain if their curing is any good, so I’ll take that to mean that it’s just as awesome as the best of them. And according to this website, it’s expensive because it’s rare.

So if you’re ever given too many choices in the vanilla aisle, go with Mexico, Madagascar, or Tahiti.

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