While relaxing my palate after some wine tasting at the Boston Wine Expo, I stopped at the Bistro Blends table which had a couple dozen gourmet oils, vinegars, marinades and grill sauces available for sampling.
Bistro Blends was started by John Spenger, who once worked as a waiter at Scala's Bistro in San Francisco. He created a recipe for a zesty bread-dipper and it became very popular, customers even seeking to buy it though it was not for sale. Almost ten years later, Spenger decided to start selling it. He made the product by hand and sold them at local farmer's markets and gourmet food shows. His business boomed from there and Spenger no longer has to make it by hand or sell it himself. In fact, there is a network of distributors across the country selling all of the Bistro Blend products.
Most of the recipes were created by Spenger, with some input from his customers. The oil they use is cold-pressed, 100% extra virgin olive oil made from Arbequina olives and imported from Lerida, Spain. The vinegar is imported from Modena, Italy, from a small company comprised of three brothers and a sister.
They carry a full line of products, of numerous flavors, and which appear very versatile. I tried over a dozen of their products, including some oils, vinegars and marinades. Overall, I really enjoyed them, especially due to their rich flavors. Each product tasted like it was supposed to, with the flavors listed on the labels. In a blind taste test, you would likely be able to detect the flavors in most of the products due to their distinctiveness.
One of my favorites was their Basil Garlic Parmesan Oil ($22/375ml, $12/6oz), which was light and flavorful. It would be perfect for dipping bread, or atop a salad, or even over some pasta. The Hot Bistro Oil ($22/375ml, $12/6oz) served up on its name, with its initial spiciness leading to real heat on the finish, which remained with you for some time. I like heat so this oil appealed to me, and it is as versatile as the first oil. The Thai-Sesame Ginger Oil ($22/375ml, $12/6oz) is also compelling, with an Asian flair which would make it great for stir-fry or noodle dishes.
The Barrel-Aged Black Mission Fig Balsamic Vinegar ($22/375ml, $12/6oz) was rich, sweet, and had a strong fig taste. Another nice choice for salad dressing though would also be nice drizzled over a duck breast. The Rosemary Roasted Garlic Cabernet Marinade ($15/375ml, $8/6oz) was very garlicky, which I love, and the rosemary was very prominent too. This would certainly make for an excellent marinade for either chicken or beef. The Kentucky Bourbon BBQ & Grill Sauce ($11 12oz) was tasty, with strong flavors that would benefit a steak or even a burger.
These products are not cheap, but they are made with high end ingredients such as the balsamic vinegar. They are very flavorful, delicious and versatile. I do think you will enjoy them if you try them.
Throughout New England, Bistro Blends is distributed by:
Ginger and Mark Sargent