By Erin Walgamuth
About seven years ago, my girlfriends and I drove to the Napa Valley wine country for a four day holiday. I fell in love. It was late October; the leaves on the almost bare grapevines were beautiful colors of gold, red and orange. The countryside was green. The narrow valleys and lush hillsides were interspersed with vivid Sycamores, Liquidambars and Maples whose bright fall leaves were striking against the deep greens and the black rain clouds. By this time of year I am starved for a good rain storm so, this to me was heaven.
We visited some unforgettable wineries and ate amazing food. One of the highlights of the trip was visiting the Dean and Deluca store. We bought cappuccinos and wandered around the store for two hours. One of the items I brought back with me was a bottle of Fig Balsamic Vinegar made by St. Helena Kitchens. I started using it in vinaigrettes, as a marinade, in sauces and anything else I could think of. Unlike the balsamic vinegars we commonly use, it is made with fig, vanilla, Marsala wine, orange juice and has a sweet taste. I was given another brand of fig balsamic for Christmas and am enjoying it as well.
I don't buy balsamic vinaigrette in the market anymore; why would I when I can make such a tasty one at home?
Here are two web sites where you can purchase Fig Balsamic Vinegar:
This is my vinaigrette recipe using Fig Balsamic Vinegar. You can easily double or triple this recipe.
Makes about ¼ cup of vinaigrette
Covers 4 cups of lettuce nicely
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Fig Balsamic Vinegar
1 teaspoon honey (I use Clover)
1/8 teaspoon Dijon type mustard
2 small pinches of salt
Put all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until combined well. Vinaigrette will be smooth with a creamy texture.
I made a salad with sliced pear, toasted pecans, crumbled gorgonzola cheese and the fig vinaigrette for Easter dinner. It was delicious, but this dressing is great on unadorned greens too.
I sometimes add finely chopped shallots and chopped, dried black Mission Figs to the dressing. Experiment with it and have fun, the sky's the limit!
Erin Walgamuth  has been an assistant Food Stylist for television and print for the past 26 years and writes this column using her own recipes. Check out her other creations in our Hometown Recipe  section.