Local merchant sells Mediterranean gold
By: Viola Pruss
| Posted: Saturday, Aug 10, 2013 06:00 am
The first thing you notice at Edmonton Olive Oil Corporation is the heavy, soothing scent of olives that sifts through the air, mixed in with a bouquet of citrus and herbs.
That’s before you see the bottles lined up on tables along each wall, filled with a slightly overwhelming variety of olive oils and balsamic vinegar.
Open for a month, Edmonton Olive Oil Corp. is St. Albert's new gourmet shop, located at 31D Perron Street. It offers a variety of infused extra virgin olive oils from countries such as Spain, Australia, Egypt or Greece and balsamic vinegars aged 14 and 18 years.
“We have all kinds of varieties and flavours,” said owner Hemant Patel. “People come in and taste and we help them find the right combination.”
Patel chose the location because of its close proximity to downtown St. Albert, and the St. Albert Farmers’ Market – which is located just a block down the road. He hopes the variety of his products will attract customers who enjoy different tastes and like to spice up their food (or baking) with a special treat.
There’s extra virgin olive oil infused with black truffle and garlic, sun-dried tomato and cheese, or butter – used for salads or meat. Blood orange or Persian lime mixes come with a mild start and strong citrus ending. Even bacon olive oil is available to substitute saturated fats. It leaves behind a sweet-salty and slightly smoky taste.
The balsamic vinegars are even more adventurous. There’s a cinnamon and pear mixture that channels Christmas foods, and a soft chocolate variety with a zing of raspberry. Fruit lovers will be in a peach, blueberry, or strawberry heaven, but you can also find mixes with cucumber and lemon, espresso, or black walnut taste.
“It’s good for meats, salads and salad dressing and desserts,” said Patel. “We even have a traditional 18-year-old balsamic vinegar.”
Customers can dip fresh bread into the oil, or use spoons to sniff and slurp from sample bottles. A 375 mL bottle of olive oil costs about $20. The vinegar costs between $16 and $20.
Beside the oils and vinegars, the store also sells gluten-free, homemade pasta, spice blends and tapenades, as well as non-perishable olive oil products, such as lotions and soaps. Patel also considers holding special taste events and promotions throughout the year.
Specialty shops en vogue
Specialty shops selling olive oils and vinegar have seen a steady rise in popularity in recent years, said Bob Bauer, president of the North American Olive Oil Association. That’s mostly due to people’s enjoyment of the oil’s taste and its health benefits.
In addition to bolstering the immune system, olive oil has been found to lower blood cholesterol leading to heart disease and blood pressure, he said, but also aids in weight loss.
“It’s just been something that people have been exposed to more and more,” Bauer said. “And when they try it, it’s just got that taste and it’s good for you so when you put those two together it becomes something that people gravitate towards.”
Olive oil is made using a basic hydraulic press, or centrifuge, and comes in several qualities – virgin and extra virgin are the highest grade. Like any fresh product, it deteriorates over time and should be sold within a year of being pressed.
Bauer said that specialty stores provide an experience and a wider range of products, but their oils don’t always differ in quality from most supermarket brands. Most oils go through very specific quality control programs to make sure that rules are kept and extra virgin oil is not mixed with lower grade oils, he said.
The association also tracks olive oil producers and regularly tests its members for quality. People should keep an eye out for specific seals and logos on the bottles that signify quality tests. But they can also test oils by settling on a specific brand and taste. If the taste changes, you know there’s something wrong, he said.
“It’s a good idea to go into a store and try to sample two or three of them and buy a small amount of something you like,” he said. “And then you go through the process again and start to develop for yourself a field of what you like, the type of olive and the region you like.”
Edmonton Olive Oil Corporation is located in the former Meese Clothing store at 31D Perron St. More information will soon be available at edmontonoliveoil.ca