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Olive Oil Delights [Dec. 7th, 2011|08:02 am]
When I was a little kid growing up in a small town, our grocery stores were about half the size they are now, because there were far fewer choices. Coffee was Folgers or Hills Brothers, and the choice was whether you bought it in a one- or three-pound can. Cereals took up half of one side of an aisle, and that included the hot cereals. Whole categories of foods like granola bars didn't even exist. And if you were lucky, there might be two kinds of olive oil on the shelf.

I remember there being a small bottle of olive oil in the refrigerator when I was a kid. I think it was the same bottle of oil for pretty much my entire childhood, mostly because it was a bitter and unpleasant substance that my mom had purchased for a recipe and disliked. But she didn't know any better, because there simply wasn't any choice about these things in our little town at that time.

So I grew up thinking that olive oil was hideous, and not understanding why anyone liked or used it for cooking. I took that attitude into my adult years, I'm ashamed to admit, and only overcame it when Ferrett introduced me to the pleasures of quality olive oil. I cook with it all the time now, rarely using other oils.

Nevertheless, when a store called The Olive Scene opened in our neighborhood, I was kind of perplexed. A whole store, devoted to olive oil? I kept meaning to drop in, but always seemed to be in a hurry when I was in the area, until yesterday.

As of today, I will be making excuses to drop in as often as possible. Because this place is a treasure.

As you walk through the door, you're greeted by a scene that seems more alchemy than cooking: both walls of the shop are lined with squat, stainless steel firkins, each with a spigot at the front and a small catch bowl beneath. To your right are the olive oils. To your left are the balsamic vinegars. In the center, another half dozen of these small silver, holding the most precious of these marvelous fluids.

The olive oils in the front part of the store are identified by region and olive, much like fine wine. Infused oils make up the back half of these oils. The balsamics are flavored with everything from avocado to vanilla.

And you are welcome to taste everything. Small plastic cups are stacked liberally throughout the store, and the women who helped me was generous in her introduction to the process, enthusiastic about sharing her favorite oil and vinegar combos--and then gracious about leaving me alone to wander about, tasting to my heart's content. In the end, I bought a standard bottle of a medium-bodied oil for cooking, a mini bottle of blood orange infused oil, and a small bottle of vanilla infused balsamic. And limited myself to only these so that I'd have an excuse to bring Ferrett back as soon as possible.

I would love to see the store expand to organized tastings, maybe in partnership with Tartine Bistro, an excellent little restaurant three doors down. Nevertheless, I will be spending more time and money in that little section of Rocky River. And my cooking will benefit.

Yours can, too. They have a thriving online business, and two of the lovely ladies working there were packaging up oils and vinegars as we talked. Honestly, I'm contriving a reason to go back today.

Crossposting from Dreamwidth now. Sigh. If LJ won't let you comment, you can comment here: http://zoethe.dreamwidth.org/786429.html?mode=reply:

[User Picture]From: naamah_darling
2011-12-07 01:10 pm (UTC)
Lord, that sounds divine! I love olive oil for everything from cooking to cleaning makeup off my face and moisturizing my hands and feet. Not that I'd be using anything like this on my skin. TOO YUMMY.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-07 01:21 pm (UTC)
I promise to take everyone who ever visits us to this shop, if they want to go!
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[User Picture]From: noevilliveon
2011-12-07 01:15 pm (UTC)
O.O Holy crap. I think I know what a small bit of my first paycheck is going to next month when I make the transition from broke student to stable-if-not-rich professional...

Mmm.... Lemongrass mint balsamic.... Cilantro onion oil...
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-07 01:23 pm (UTC)
It's totally worth rewarding yourself with them!
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[User Picture]From: heathrow
2011-12-07 01:29 pm (UTC)
I had such an opposite experience growing up! I grew up cooking with olive oil. We had a small bottle of vegetable oil that was used only for baking. (My family is half-Spaniard, and the area I grew up has a large Cuban/Spanish/Italian influence.)

When olive oil became "the thing", I was baffled. It was just what we used in the house.

My MIL always remarks on my use of olive oil, saying I have such an exotic palate. Of course, I do chop up onions and garlic for cooking, rather than use garlic salt. ;)
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[User Picture]From: yshaloo
2011-12-07 02:02 pm (UTC)
you rebel!

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From: twinkelbelpeach
2011-12-07 02:04 pm (UTC)
Oh, that store sounds heavenly. I love olive oil and balsamic vinegars.
When I was growing up, my mother always had a can of bacon drippings
in the refrigerator to cook with. I know it wasn't healthy but it sure
made the food taste good. And mother lived till the age of 89, so it
couldn't have harmed her too much.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-07 03:49 pm (UTC)
I keep some bacon drippings around for precisely this reason. It doesn't take much to add a lot of flavor!
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[User Picture]From: yshaloo
2011-12-07 02:05 pm (UTC)
We have a place here that sounds like an almost exact copy of your olive oil store called Stuarto's. I had a splendid time in there and came away with many bottles, at least half of which were to be gifts.

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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-07 03:51 pm (UTC)
There will be some Christmas shopping there, believe me!
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[User Picture]From: ba1126
2011-12-07 02:28 pm (UTC)
In my childhood, butter or Crisco oil was for baking, Bacon fat (saved in a jar)was for frying.

I'd never heard of/used olive oil, until I met my Irish/Italian husband. Since his Italian mother taught me how to cook beyond the 'meat, potato, two veg' of my background, I did slowly learn to use it.

My hubby is a GREAT cook, and he would be in heaven if a store like that were near!!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-07 03:55 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that was my family's cooking. It's awesome to experiment!
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[User Picture]From: oceansedge
2011-12-07 02:29 pm (UTC)
what a lovely thing you have there!!

I'm sure I will be placing a small online order, but it won't be the same thing. A lot of the joy of such selections is in the tasting and mixing and finding 'just the right thing'. And the right thing will be different depending on your mood today

Just don't get that online
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-07 03:57 pm (UTC)
Definitely it's more of a Willie Wonka experience when you get to go there.
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[User Picture]From: redstapler
2011-12-07 02:32 pm (UTC)
There's a place like that near my office.

I went once and have never gone back out of fear of bankrupting myself to fill my house with bottles upon bottles of olive oils.

Should I ever have a special recipe to make, I will probably return.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-07 03:58 pm (UTC)
It's a pretty dangerous place, no doubt.
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[User Picture]From: jennythe_reader
2011-12-07 06:30 pm (UTC)
I have two stores like that in my area (for large values of "my area.")

They are wonderfully dangerous places.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-07 07:03 pm (UTC)
They are, indeed.
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From: anonymousalex
2011-12-07 07:04 pm (UTC)
Oh, I do love me a good olive oil tasting. Though for my palate, the differences disappear on cooking; I completely don't understand why anyone would use expensive EVOO to cook with when plain ol' olive oil will do just fine.

For dipping or making a vinaigrette, though . . . yum!

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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-07 07:09 pm (UTC)
Oh, definitely the super good oils are for salads and such.
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[User Picture]From: violet_helix
2011-12-07 08:26 pm (UTC)
I checked out their site at lunch and, while I'm not prsonally foodie enough to appreciate this, I'm definitely buying gift certificates for my frind who are!

As an aside I was just looking at my browsing history and thought "Theo live scene .com? I don't remember going there and it definitely doesn't seem like someplace I should go at work." *facepalm*
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-07 10:48 pm (UTC)
LOL!!! That's awesome.
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[User Picture]From: miintikwa
2011-12-08 12:20 am (UTC)
ZOMG. *drools*
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-08 03:06 am (UTC)
Truly. It is worthy of the drool.
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[User Picture]From: polymorphism
2011-12-08 02:03 am (UTC)
There's a place like that in Chicago's Old Town shopping district, right by a bulk spice place, I'm blanking on the names of both. LOVE going there, need to go for my new kitchen here - though it sounds like yours may have more a wider array of flavor options!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-08 03:18 am (UTC)
In my ideal Christmas, I would receive gift certificates from The Olive Scene, Penzey's Spices, and King Arthur Flours.

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[User Picture]From: cosmicbandit
2011-12-08 04:12 am (UTC)
Bought a bottle of very delicious olive oil at Whole Foods and my husband didn't understand why I bought another bottle when we had some already. They had samples which of course reeled me in. They also had an awesome balsamic reduction with fig which they then cruelly informed us was sold out.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-08 04:17 am (UTC)
Balsamic with fig is one of the many flavors available at Olive Scene. I will be acquiring some soon.
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[User Picture]From: jmfunnyface
2011-12-10 04:28 pm (UTC)
For a year and a half I worked at one of those stores--the one called Oil & Vinegar. We got to take home samples & the leftovers of big bottles that didn't have enough to sell to customers.

If your store has them--my absolute favorites were the lemon oil olive (for sauteeing green beans), the basil & garlic olive oil (for slow roasting peppers & onions) & the fig balsamic.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-10 09:49 pm (UTC)
They do have them. I will be returning for such goodies soon!
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