Sampling wares prior to purchase is not often an option. The chance for this experience is what originally lured me to the Unrefined Olive: Olive Oil and Balsamic Tasting Bar, located on Second Avenue. Once I entered, however, I was guided through the store by knowledgeable staff and my afternoon soon turned out to be as informative as it was flavourful. They had me tossing back product and tossing aside misconceptions with equal fervor.
Food does not improve the tasting experience.
It turns out that there is no such thing as a palate cleanser when tasting oils and vinegars. As well, although it is commonly use for dipping, bread is noy involved when tasting. Rather, the intricacies and depth of the olive flavours are enjoyed without being overpowered by stronger sensory sensations.
There are many varieties to choose from.
Tasting olive oil may seem like a quickly fulfilled task, but the rows of stainless steel containers, known as fustis, put an end to that idea. The Unrefined Olive offers aged balsamic vinegar, flavour infused olive oil and premium extra virgin olive oil. The spectrum for flavours runs from savory to spicy. Some olives are even pressed with citrus fruits to give them quite a bite.
A peppery finish, an aromatic herb, a rich complexity or a fleeting bitterness are all descriptions found on tasting profiles that accompany each fusti. These profiles also offer ideas on how to use each of the differing flavours in your kitchen.
These are not your grocery store’s oils and vinegars.
An apricot white balsamic that is both sweet and tart was on the menu. As was wild mushroom and sage olive oil that had a delicious aroma before I even sipped from the small, reusable ramekin. Going beyond the flavours, The Unrefined Olive also focuses on the quality of product offered in the store. All balsamic vinegars are aged a minimum of 12 years and they each hale from Modena, Italy.
The premium olive oils are not from a single country, but instead are bought depending on the season they were crushed. The Southern Hemisphere presses olives in the spring, so the oils are available in the fall and winter. Once the spring hits, the oils from the Northern Hemisphere begin to surface.
The process is worth it.
I was slightly intimidated when I first entered the store. The tasting bar is actually tasting rows. Each fusti is on a shelf with green, glass bottles beneath it and metal ramekins strategically placed throughout. The entire room is streamlined for tasting, but with a rustic ambience.
However, staff are there to walk you through from start to finish. You can taste as many as you like. The bottles are near the fustis because the oil you try is the exact oil that will fill the bottle. The taste-choose-fill and pay process is admittedly a bit involved, but at least your taste buds have pre-approved the purchase.
What was my favourite part? When I found out that they offer a certificate complete with an empty bottle so you can give both the gift and the experience.
Store hours and more information can be found at www.unrefinedolive.com.