Balsamico can cost as much as century-old cognac

Distillers of spirituous liquors have long referred to the reduction in volume, through evaporation, of their maturing beverages as "the angels' share." Years spent in the barrel improve and concentrate flavor, but diminishing quantity clearly is an offsetting economic loss. Bottling, of course, cuts short the angels' take. But Balsamico can barrel-age for 50 years or more. That should give angels much cause to smile. A traditional product of Modena, Italy, this precious elixir, drop for drop, can cost as much as century-old cognac or whiskey. Like wine, it starts out as grapes. But in the vinegar-making process, the grape "must," including skins and juice, are boiled for many hours rather than being crushed and fermented as they would be for wine.

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Sophisticated International cuisine spices up London diners' palettes

Did Julius Caesar introduce Italian cuisine when he invaded Brittania in 55 BC? It's an unlikely speculation but not totally preposterous. Perhaps the locals welcomed him because they were fed up with overcooked and under-seasoned meals. Centuries of dominance in world commerce shaped London into a cosmopolitan city. But until recently, the food scene remained notoriously a culinary wasteland. The exception was non-native cuisines -- especially French, Indian and Chinese. But these foods came from small ethnic eateries and served only as a footnote to tourism. Not so today: The British dining market hungers for global cuisine and world-class local fare. Offering a cornucopia of modern, sophisticated restaurants, London now attracts destination diners.

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Finding freshness at London's Borough Market

Napoleon Bonaparte once described England as "a nation of shopkeepers." Nowhere does this British characteristic reveal itself more vibrantly than at London's historic Borough Market. While boasting ancient roots -- records suggest that a market in this vicinity existed as early as 43 A.D. -- this unique emporium recently faced demolition. But tenacious traders and enlightened trustees saved it from demise and rebuilt its glory. Today the popular market bustles with more than 100 vendors and lively, munching crowds of local and visiting shoppers.

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High Times in the Lowcountry

Bob Carter and Bob Waggoner share the same first name and culinary passion. And their establishments -- respectively, the Peninsula Grill and the Charleston Grill -- sit across the street from each other in South Carolina's timeless, charming city of Charleston. Both chefs cultivate the heady fare of "Lowcountry" cooking, yet each presents distinctive innovations and sophisticated variations on this regional Southern cuisine.

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Basque in the glory of the modern Spanish kitchen

Culinary stars nd Michelin stars  shine brightly in the Basque region of northeastern Spain. Here, where the language to the uninitiated seems a difficult-to-pronounce alphabet soup of K's, X's and Z's, world-class restaurants and their passionate chef-owners cluster in and around the beautiful town of San Sebastian -- Donostia to the natives. This city beside the shell-shaped bay called La Concha -- with its broad avenues, sandy beaches and Belle Epoque ambience -- holds more Michelin stars per capita than Paris. More, in fact, than any other place on the planet.

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