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From olive tree to table

New store targets demand for fresh food

By: By Lucy Haines

  |  Posted: Saturday, Jun 21, 2014 06:00 am

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  • OIL CHANGE – Curtis Savage, co-owner of Evoolution in The Enjoy Centre, pours extra virgin oils and balsamic vinegars to suit any buyer's taste.
    OIL CHANGE – Curtis Savage, co-owner of Evoolution in The Enjoy Centre, pours extra virgin oils and balsamic vinegars to suit any buyer's taste.
    LUCY HAINES/St. Albert Gazette
  • EVOOLUTION – The oils, vinegars and salts offered at Evoolution are aimed at satisfying a growing demand for fresh quality.
    EVOOLUTION – The oils, vinegars and salts offered at Evoolution are aimed at satisfying a growing demand for fresh quality.

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You’ve heard of farm to fork – the concept of eating fresh, locally-sourced food, often organic and of top quality. The same premise is in the works at The Enjoy Centre, where the newly opened Evoolution store is a natural complement to the fresh, home-grown herbs, tomatoes and salad greens that customers are buying, planting and harvesting like never before.

Hole’s Greenhouses and Gardens co-owner Jim Hole says the culinary aspect of fresh herbs has captured the imaginations of garden lovers, as people see the possibilities of going from seed to lettuce or herb leaf to harvest in a way that becomes a new and exciting gastronomic experience.

“With these totally different flavours of oils and vinegars, gardeners see that they can go from salad leaf to plate and make something extraordinary,” Hole says. “And the chefs at the restaurant next door are drooling at the possibilities. Fresh herbs are now seen as a necessity, not an option, so once you make that step and taste the difference, you aren’t going back.”

The same “no going back” idea could be the motto at Evoolution, where small-batch, young extra virgin olive oils (EVOO) and vinegars are offered to consumers in a way that is reminiscent of a wine tasting experience – tasting cups and cards and education included.

There are no four-litre vats of oil here, just a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere and a tasting bar where staff help fill favourite infused, fused or naturally-flavoured white and dark balsamic vinegars and a range of fresh EVOOs in one of three sized-bottles and flat-rate prices.

“We encourage everyone to try before you buy. There’s nothing like this concept in Western Canada,” said Evoolution co-owner Curtis Savage who, with partners Mark McRae and Sean Murphy, source product from around the world – oils from Spain, Italy, Greece, California, Peru, Chile and New Zealand (and more), depending on when the olives are most recently crushed.

Vinegars all originate in Modena, Italy, home of all true balsamic vinegars.

“Our products lend nicely to buyers who grow their own foods and herbs, or look for fresh produce at the farmers’ market. It’s a premium product with an emphasis on quality, but at a reasonable cost.”

Served from fusti, stainless steel vessels that keep out air, heat and light, the oils and vinegars come in a huge range of flavours and strengths – from simple, grass-like, natural EVOOs to robust oils, deeply flavoured with things like garlic, dill, lemon and basil.

The balsamics can be traditional, aged varieties or infused with notes of chocolate, fig, raspberry, peach, espresso and more.

Think salt is just salt? Not here – natural sea salts include black Hawaiian and Himalayan pink, while finishing salts, perfect for barbecues or rimming drinks, include smoked applewood – like a campfire in a jar – garlic, or vintage merlot.

Savage said customers want to know what they’re getting in the bottle. The least important is where the oil is from, but the how (cold pressed or artificially heated) and when (crush date of less than 14 months) is what’s key.

“Our tasting cards go far beyond a nutrition label. We talk about the chemistry – smoke points and antioxidant levels – and fruitiness, bitterness and pungency ratings too,” Savage says.

“Gone are the days where you buy your food where you get your car oil changed.”


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