By Cindy Zimmerman
Deliciously wonderful! When you think about it, ink is not unlike the delectable sauces used to add a finishing note to fine entrées. They both come in endless colors and textures. They both elegantly dress up the simplest of notes, the simplest of dishes. A touch of special ink or a special sauce, added here and there, can turn the otherwise mundane into a beautiful masterpiece. And the ink itself can be a masterpiece: luscious reds and purples, crisp greens, intense, citrus-inspired yellows and oranges, lush blues, smoky grays or toasty browns.
But the connections between ink and food go beyond this. Imagine my surprise when I discovered a twelfth century ink recipe that calls for wine. Yes, hawthorn branches, water, wine, iron salts and more wine. The branches are cut in the springtime, and then dried, soaked in water, boiled with wine, hung in special bags in the sun, mixed with a bit more wine and iron salts, hung over a fire, and the ink is complete.
I also learned that ink made from vinegar serves up a number of environmental benefits. I had never thought my favorite balsamic vinegar might be pressed into service for writing. It had never crossed my mind. I began to think that I should start making my own ink. Wouldn’t that be fun? However, I am always careful to research my creative ideas. So, I reached out to my friend chef Gabe Bertaccini and asked him, “What do you know of delectable inks?”
Chef Bertaccini is known for using only the best ingredients and adding great wines, simple execution and great passion, in the culinary tradition of his beautiful homeland, Italy. As executive chef at the Los Angeles Il Tocco restaurant and the creator of the extraordinary Culinary Mischief underground dining events, he will surely know the answer to my question, I thought. To my dismay, my dear friend replied, “Cindy, my love, let me do the cooking, you drink the wine,and buy your ink from a pen store. The wrong combination of food, drink or ink, and you might not be around to talk with me about handwritten notes!”
Did I mention the chef is ever prudent? And I think he might just be right! So for now, at least, I’ll continue to accent my handwritten compositions with specialty inks from my favorite makers in the tastiest colors I can find. Because in the world of communication, as in the culinary world, presentation is everything.
Chef Gabe Bertaccini divides his time between Phoenix, Los Angeles and Florence. For more about his private dinners and culinary events, visit iltoccofood.com. Catch him hosting or in a guest spot in Phoenix Channel 3’s Your Life, A to Z.