Olivia’s Olive Oils and Vinegars
By Monique Tamminga.
You’ve gone wine tasting and maybe tried flights of new craft beer. Now it’s time to taste your way through deliciously flavoured olive oils and balsamic vinegars.
Tucked away in one of Penticton’s best little shopping plazas on Riverside Drive is Olivia’s Oils and Vinegars where you can taste 25 different flavoured olive oils and 25 flavoured balsamic vinegars.
There are 50 shiny stainless steel tasting kegs called fustis – which is Italian for jugs or containers.
The store supplies Italian bread and a tasting cup and you can go around the store trying flavours like a white balsamic pomegranate quince paired with a blood orange olive oil or Sicilian lemon vinegar with garlic oil. Or in the darker balsamics, try the popular black mission fig or Olivia’s 18 year balsamic reserve.
It’s fun to discover your own favourites too. And that’s the joy of tasting at Olivia’s. It’s a very casual atmosphere where you are welcome to wander around and taste and try your own combos until your taste buds are content.
This summer, I combined Olivia’s coconut balsamic vinegar with their Persian lime olive oil for dipping French bread into. It was a big hit at my barbecues and dinner parties. Drizzling raspberry balsamic over ice cream for dessert also went over well.
There’s even dark chocolate and champagne balsamics. Their popular black truffle oil drizzled over popcorn takes movie night to a new level.
“There are so many ways to use these oils and vinegars from making an Italian soda to creating an amazing salad dressing or marinade,” said Christopher Mekellar, who shares his passion and expertise at the Penticton store. You can usually find him representing at the Penticton Market on Saturdays too.
“There has been a whole foodies movement especially with the popularity of Anthony Bourdain. We are seeing so many foodies come in here and even the little ones are getting into it,” said McKellar. “A good chef’s trick is use the garlic olive oil, parsley, chili flakes and add to pasta and bam, you’ve taken dinner to the next level.”
Everyone has heard about the health benefits of apple cider vinegar. But using Olivia’s flavoured balsamics like their ripe peach or Sicilian lemon takes boring water to a new level.
Competitive athletes like runners are using their fruit flavoured balsamics to flavour their water to get all the health benefits from the aged vinegar.
“There is one tenth the sugar in balsamic vinegar compared to flavoured water drinks and the sugar is natural,” he said. “We’ve had people come in on doctor’s orders to use the oils with no infusion because they are so high in biophenols. Our oils are very fresh which is important,” he said. “Olive oils have antioxidant properties and other health benefits but lose their quality if they sit on a shelf for a long time.”
And as with wine, there is quite the process to create a balsamic and there are standards just like VQA for both olive oil and balsamics.
Olivia’s balsamic vinegars are from Modena, Italy and are made from the Trebbiano grape ‘must’ that is cooked, reduced and aged up to 12 to 18 years in the true Modena tradition. As the grape ‘must’ ages and transfers from barrel-to-barrel each year, it gains character and texture until it is ready to bottle.
Olivia’s extra virgin olive oils are 100 per cent cold pressed and claim to be some of the freshest in the world today. Their oils are sourced from two hemispheres. In the Canadian fall and winter, the oils are coming from the northern hemisphere from classic olive countries like Italy, Greece and Spain. In the summer, the oils at Olivia’s are coming from the southern hemispheres like Chile, New Zealand and South Africa.
So get tasting and up your foodie prowess. Olivia’s Oils and Vinegars is at Orchard Park Mall in Kelowna, at Guisachan Village on Gordon Drive in Kelowna and in Penticton at 300 Riverside Drive.
Featured photo: Christopher Mckellar smiles while tasting dark chocolate balsamic.