Olive This! treated the Charlotte Food Bloggers to a night of olive oil and vinegar tastings at our April meetup, and taste we did.
Salad dressing is a common use when pairing olive oil and vinegar, so naturally, we ate our fair share of salad. But we did not stop there.
We poured olive oil and balsamic vinegar over everything from pasta to goat cheese, asparagus to potatoes, tomatoes to hard-boiled eggs, and bread to beats. Beyond what flavors go with what foods, we learned a lot more about olive oils and balsamic vinegars.
Why buy olive oil from a specialty shop when you can pick up a bottle at the grocery store?
Store co-owner Kara Deir started our olive oil education by asking us just this. Just as different types of apples can be used to make a gallon of cider, different types of olives can be pressed into one bottle of oil. That is what you will find at the grocery store.
What differentiates the olive oil available at Olive This! is different olive varieties are not blended into the same oil. Ultimately, this creates a superior, single varietal olive oil.
Kara also encouraged us to think of olives for oil like we would think of grapes for wine. The fruit varies from season to season, so the product will also vary each year.
Olive oils are best used within one year of the olive crush date. In grocery stores, the expiration date seen on bottles is a rancidity date. Specialty stores like Olive This! will have the actual crush date available.
How should I choose an olive oil?
Just as you would taste wines from a mild white to a robust red, you also want to taste olive oils based on the intensity of their flavor. An olive oil with polyphenols of 200 indicates a mild flavor. On the opposite end of the spectrum, an olive oil with polyphenols of 300+ will taste much more robust.
Olive This! shelves its olive oils from least robust to most robust, and each oil is accompanied by a sign that indicates its polyphenol count. One last note about polyphenols: the higher the polyphenol count, the more antioxidants found in the oil.
What olive oils are best for baking?
Kara suggested a single varietal or citrus-fused olive oil, like lemon, for olive oil cake. To give us a sense of just how much oil can affect flavor, Kara baked the same brownie mix two ways. In one she used an orange olive oil, and in the other a chipotle olive oil. (Kara recommended the chipotle oil for cornbread mixes too.)
The flavor the oils lent to the brownies was amazing and strikingly different. We’re not sure we will ever look at boxed brownie mix the same, and we certainly won’t use plain olive oil the next time we bake.
Are there sustainability considerations?
When we asked about what happens to the remaining fruit once it is crushed and the oil is extracted, we learned there are a number of ways the waste is put to use. Compost and animal feed are two main uses, but the byproduct is also used in some lamp oils and makeup bases.
What should I know about balsamic vinegar?
Balsamic vinegars are made from sweet wine grapes cooked in copper kettles and then barrel aged. Wines are aged in cool environments, but vinegars are aged in the attics where it gets hot in the summer time.
The minimum age of authentic balsamic vinegars is 12 years, and along with an 18-year aged traditional balsamic, that is what you will find at Olive This!.
Both white balsamic vinegars and traditional dark balsamic vinegars are sold at Olive This!. A fun way to enjoy the many flavors is to add a tablespoon or two of balsamic vinegar to a glass of club soda or sparkling water. Trust us, it’s delicious.
By the end of the night, the harissa-infused olive oil was definitely a crowd favorite. This oil pairs well with the cara cara orange-vanilla white balsamic. A robust pairing guide and plenty of recipes are also available on the Olive This! website.
Sincere thanks to co-owners Andrea Edwards and Kara Deir for hosting us at their store and to store sales associate Jim for his help. You can find Olive This! in the shops at Piper Glen.
6414 Rea Road
Charlotte, NC 28277
All photos featured in this post were shared by Ashley at The Olive and The Sea.