Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Tasting

Yesterday, my friend Diane had mentioned that she wanted to go to an Oil and Vinegar store here in Chicago. When she told me that, I thought, OK, whatever. It doesn’t sound too exciting, but if she wants to go there, we’ll go. Was I in for a treat!

We ended up going to “Old Town Oil” in the cute Old Town neighborhood of Chicago. I had assumed that this place was just going to have oil and vinegar sitting in bottles for purchase. I was wrong! Instead, there were probably about 30 big metal “kegs” filled with different types of olive oils and balsamic vinegars. And the best part for me—and I had never heard of this before—is that you could taste them all! How fun! All you had to do was take a little tiny paper “cup” from under the keg and “tap the keg” to give yourself a little taste.

And the taste of these oils and vinegars? I was absolutely astounded. Everything we tasted was so delicious! For me, this was an especially amazing thing, because: a) I’ve never liked olive oil, except for the “light” kind that you can buy (which doesn’t have much flavor, anyway), and b) I’ve never much liked balsamic vinegar, either.

But this was no ordinary oil and vinegar. I learned that with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, you really do get what you pay for. And although this stuff was on the pricey side (an average of $16-17 per 12-ounce bottle), I am telling you, it was totally worth it. I have never tasted anything so wonderful.

I learned that pure extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is remarkably different than the cheap olive oil you can buy at the grocery store. To me, there is absolutely no comparison. EVOO is outstanding. And they had about 15 different olive oils. (Click here to see the oils on their website.) I love, love, love garlic, so their garlic olive oil was my absolute favorite. The salesman really won me over when he said it was really excellent for making grilled cheese sandwiches. Yummy! But I seriously could have bought every single oil I tried—they were all so delicious. It was a tough decision, but eventually Diane and I settled on buying the garlic, blood orange, and lemon oils.

And the balsamic vinegar was also completely different—and much, much better!—than any balsamic vinegar I’ve ever bought in the grocery store. According to their brochure, Old Town Oil only buys vinegars that are aged for a minimum of 12 years in wooden barrels. Wow, what a difference that makes! They were all so delectable—I could have bought every one of those, too! (Click here to see the vinegars on their website.) Again, it was a tough choice, but Diane and I eventually decided on the pomegranate and tangerine vinegars. Yummy!

You might be wondering how we chose those particular oils and vinegars (and if you’re not, I’m going to tell you, anyway!). Well, I’ve already told you about the garlic oil/grilled cheese connection. That was a no-brainer for me. But the other ones were special recommendations by the salesman, who made two mixtures for us to try: blood orange oil with tangerine vinegar, and lemon oil with pomegranate vinegar. Outstanding! Miss Healthypants’ salad dressing repertoire just opened up substantially!

Later that day, we bought a nice crusty loaf of French bread and did a tasting with Iwanski and Buck, who also agreed that the oils and vinegars were fabulous. They liked the blood orange/tangerine combination the best.

I was just so surprised by the whole experience. What I had expected to be a normal, perhaps boring visit to an ordinary store turned out to be a delightful new experience. My taste buds—and I—were well-pleased.


Buck said...

I agree. Those oils and vinegars are absolutly outstanding. I'm so glad you found this place!!

(I've already emailed Lorraine about it)

Lorraine said...

I've done such tastings a couple times before...once in Napa Valley at this rickety old mill where they made the oil...the stairs were slick with residue and it smelled of olives...which up to that point I hadn't realized had a smell. O&Co is another place that has similar offerings and tasting experiences...but it sounds like the place you went to is more like the first experience I had. It is officially on the list for my next visit, 'k?

Miss Healthypants said...

Rainey, I will add it to the list! Now when are you getting your butts back here again? *smiles*