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When my boyfriend and I visited France a few months ago, I noticed that a lot of savory dishes were drizzled with some black-brown colored sauce on top (see picture I took, which is a plain risotto). The sauce tasted fairly sweet and not salty.

My best amateur guess is that this is some sort of reduced sugary balsamic vinegar sauce, but it does not taste acidic at all. Maybe the vinegar evaporated while reducing?

plain risotto

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

It is most probably crema di balsamico, a quite popular condiment, even often only used for decorative purposes. It can both be used with savory dishes, but also with sweet dishes, as in e.g. ice cream or gelato.

Traditionally, crema di balsamico is made by reducing grape juice and optionally wine to the point where the sugar in the grape juice starts to caramelise and then deglaze the reduction with balsamic vinegar. Convenience products are often pepped with food colouring and thickening agents.

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It is most likely a reduction of some kind. It could be wine or balsamic, or any other dark liquid, really. Most of the acid does cook off in the reduction process, and what is left is mostly drowned out by all the residual sugar.

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If it tastes fruity it could be a coulis.

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I have never seen a coulis so dark, they keep the color of the vegetable itself. – rumtscho Nov 11 '13 at 13:20

What you have tasted is most probably "Demi-Glace" sauce. it is delicious and also very expensive and hard to make. Traditionally, it requires beef or veal stock along with so many other ingredients and delicacies and 12 hours of your time. I'm glad you had the opportunity to taste it.

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Demi-glace is not a sauce, and does not "require many other ingredients". Demi-glace is just plain stock concentrated to half its original volume and is used in places where normal stock would be used in order to impart stronger flavor. It doesn't have the dark appearance or sweet taste the OP mentioned, and I have never heard of it being drizzled on food. – rumtscho Jan 30 '14 at 11:48

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