Vanilla has gotten an bad wrap. It has unjustly come to mean plain and uncreative. But done right, vanilla can be dark, and rich, with deep and sophisticated flavors. In the past it was not only thought of as an aphrodisiac, but because it was so rare and precious, was reserved only for royalty.

Vanilla is the outstanding contribution of the Western Hemisphere to the spices of the world.
Frederic Rosengarten, Jr., The Book of Spices

Vanilla itself has lots of different flavors, depending on where it’s grown. Madagascar vanilla is very rich with a full-bodied woody flavor. Tahitian vanilla is much more delicate. Instead of the sweet and strong flavors of the Madagascar vanilla, Tahitian vanilla beans have lighter floral overtones.

Vanilla doesn’t have to mean plain. Treat yourself like royalty by adding vanilla into sweet or even some savory dishes.

In the Shanghai area? You can buy Sweet Beginning Vanilla Extract, from either Madagascar or Tahiti by sending an email to  k dot gaines at gmail dot com, replacing the dots and at with appropriate symbols. Every Saturday, you can also find Sweet Beginning Vanilla Extract at the market outside of El Willy’s on Donghu Rd.

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