Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Italian Soft Drinks

     Last week I tackled an Italian cheese (the delicious water buffalo mozzarella), and today I’ll be discussing some of the country’s soft drinks.  I’d never seen any of these for sale before, but the special Market Place version of the Giant Eagle grocery had a more extensive foreign foods section, so I snapped some up.  Three of the choices were made by Baladin, and one was produced by a company called Lurisia.
     I’ll go worst to best.  On that note, first up was Selezione Baladin Ginger.  I really disliked this one.  It wasn’t gingery at all.  Instead it was unpleasantly bitter, and kind of chalky.  I had trouble finishing it.  Later I consulted the company website and discovered that they proudly proclaim that it’s not a ginger ale, and there’s no ginger in it.  It’s flavored with bitter oranges, (non-ginger) spices, and vanilla.  It’s actually named for the famous actress/dancer Ginger Rogers, although this information, or her photo/likeness, or even her last name isn’t printed on the bottle’s label.  This seems bizarrely confusing.  If I was marketing, say a butterscotch pudding, I wouldn’t call it Chili Pepper Pudding because I was a fan of the band The Red Hot Chili Peppers, or if I did, I’d include a prominent explanation of all this.  So, a misleading name for this selection, and a drink I don’t want to have again.
     Next up is Baladin’s Spuma Nera.  I found this beverage drinkable, but bland.  I couldn’t place the flavor, either.  Again, the website revealed it’s made from an orange zest infusion and rhubarb.  Really.  I’ve heard of eating rhubarb pie, or more rarely, pickled rhubarb, but this is the first time I’ve heard of it used to make a drink.  While it was better than the Ginger type, I still wouldn’t try it again.
     The offering from Lurisia was Il Nostro Chinotto.  It had a weird, sweetish taste.  Okay, but not great.  Evidently Chinotto is a popular Italian soft drink type, as it’s made from a local small bitter orange.
     Finally, there was the Baladin Cedrata.  This was by far the most familiar tasting soda, and perhaps because of this I liked it the best.  It was nice, very lemony and citrus-y.  Unlike the others, I would be willing to buy this one again.
     The bottle sizes for all of these were a little odd, too.  Most American single serving size sodas are 12 ounces.  Of the European beverages I’d had (including beer), they usually are 330 milliliters, or 11.16 ounces, roughly the same size as the U.S. ones.  These Italian soft drinks were markedly smaller, though—the Baladins were 8.45 ounces, and the Lurisia 9.3.
     Don’t mean to be too harsh on these soft drinks, as I recognize that certain tastes and flavors are culturally-bound.  If I’d grown up regularly consuming the local fruits, and the foods flavored with them, perhaps I’d feel differently.  But I didn’t, and I’m not much of fan.  Also, it’s possible that there are Italian sodas that I’d really enjoy, but they’re not exported as much.  So I’d certainly be willing to try some different ones, just as long as they’re not the lackluster selections I’ve mentioned above.

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