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FAQ

Customer Service and Fulfillment Questions

Q - When can I expect to receive my order?
A
-  New orders are generally processed with 48 hours.  Expect delivery with 7 to 10 business days - often much earlier.

Q - Is my credit card information secure?
A
- Gourmet Living retains no credit card records.  

Q - What is the best way to contact customer service?
A
- If you have questions regarding your order, please email customer support.  

Balsamic Vinegar 

Q - What are the health benefits of balsamic vinegar?
A  Many people argue that balsamic vinegar cures everything respiratory problems to heart disease.  While marketing firms continue to promote nutritional benefits, very few claims are supported by clinical studies. Nevertheless, balsamic vinegar does contain antioxidants and appears to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.  Also, it appears to stabilize blood glucose because it is low on the glycemic index.

Q - How much does balsamic vinegar cost?
A - The price of balsamic vinegar varies significantly depending on its age and quality. Traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena - consisting of 100% wine must - is carefully regulated and barrel aged balsamic vinegar can can cost $400 for a 100ml bottle. Nevertheless, most readily available balsamic vinegars are mixed with wine vinegar. Generally speaking, the higher the proportion of wine vinegar to wine must the lower you will find the price.  Most "balsamic vinaigrette's" consist mainly of wine vinegar and many are tainted with additives such as caramel.

Q How do you determine the quality of balsamic vinegar?
A
Distinctive P.D.O. and I.G.P. seals should be on the label of a bottle to insure the authenticity of the product. Some producers have added colors (Red, Black, Silver and Gold) or wine leafs (up to 4 wine leafs) to distinguish the quality of their vinegars. It is wise to consult the label for any additives (there should be none) and, by all means, buy only from trusted firms. Be careful with vinaigrettes as most of the time they consist almost entirely of wine vinegar.

Q How is balsamic vinegar made?
A Balsamic vinegar is made from Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes which have been pressed and then reduced by heat in an open vat for some 24 to 36 hours. The resultant wine must or mosto cotto is aged in wooden barrels. Each year, a certain percentage of the liquid evaporates producing a far more concentrated wine must. Generally, the wine must is then mixed with wine vinegar to produce most of the commercially available balsamic vinegar.

Olive Oil

Q - What are the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil?
A - The health benefits of using extra virgin olive oil is a very controversial subject. The proponents of the benefits olive oil suggest that the regular use of olive oil can reduce heart disease and helps control diabetes. Others maintain that these "health benefits" are not supported by clinical trials.  However, both sides maintain that eating fresh fruits and vegetables (commonly eaten with EVOO) are healthier than most factory-processed foods. 

Q How much more expensive is extra virgin olive oil ("EVOO")?
A - The production of EVOO tends to be more labor intensive than the production of other vegetable oils. Prices for a 500 ml (17FL oz) bottle of EVOO can vary between $4 and $20. Not all oils labeled "extra virgin olive oil" are truly harvested and bottled under the protocols established by the International Olive Council. Good quality oils from reputable producers in Italy, Greece and Spain tend to be more expensive.  I often pay $20 or more for a 500ml bottle of EVOO to use on salads and braised vegetables.

Q - What is the shelf life of extra virgin olive oil?
A - Extra virgin olive oil has a shelf-life of two to three years if stored under good conditions: out of the sunlight with a stable temperature. Once the olive oil is open, we recommend that it be used within a year.  Anything left over at that time can be used as a cooking oil. 

Q What is the conversion rate to substitute butter for olive oil?
A 
-  One tsp (teaspoon) of butter is roughly equivalent to 3/4 tsp of olive oil.

Q - What’s the best extra virgin olive oil?
A -  I don't think there is any way to determine the "best" extra virgin olive oil.  There are many factors that go into establishing the quality of various olive oils:

  • Differences in the harvested crop each season;
  • Region and soil content where the olives are grown;
  • Age of the bottled olive oil
  • Bottling process (is nitrogen used to prevent the oil from oxidizing?)
  • Is the olive oil a blend of different varieties?

Sea Salts

Q - Is sea salt healthier than table or cooking salts?
- Technically, there is little to no difference between "normal" or table salt and sea salt.  Nevertheless, sea salt crystals tend to be larger than commercially processed salts and, as such, the amount of salt or NaCl that you get in a teaspoon can vary significantly. Also, many sea salts are "washed" or "cleaned" to remove trace minerals and other undesirable elements captured during the harvesting process.  

Q - Is Himalayan salt better than sea salt?
A - Actually pink Himalayan salt is simply a "sea salt" that has been mined. Most cooks know that all salt is sea salt and the differences in taste, texture and color are simply a function of how the salt crystals are processed. There are no special nutritional or health benefits in seasoning your food with Himalayan salt, but you may like the color.

Q - When do I use sea salt in cooking?
A - Chefs do not generally use sea salt in cooking or in the preparation of food. Sea salt is generally used as a "finishing salt" and added only have the food is ready to be served.