Thursday, February 7, 2013
Olive Chattanooga’s brand of olive oils and balsamic vinegars, The Oil Reserve, will soon be available in local retail and grocery stores as well as in area restaurants. The oils and vinegars are currently only available online and through Olive Chattanooga’s tasting room on Frazier Avenue.
Opened in August by North Chattanooga resident Randall Stappenbeck, Olive Chattanooga imports the finest extra-virgin olive oil from around the world, including countries such as Argentina, Chile, Spain, Tunisia, Italy and Greece as well as balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy.
“First and foremost, we’re a tasting room,” said Stappenbeck, who offers more than 40 flavors of extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar as well as non-flavored varieties. “We wanted to bring the concept of ‘Try before you buy.’”
Most olive oils found at the grocery store do not tell the customer the type of olive used, as they are typically a blend of different types of olives, he said.
“Our olive oil is olive-specific, and each one of our oils comes from a different region,” he said,m as to what makes olive oil from Olive Chattanooga special. “You can get as specific as a certain olive you like grown in a different soil.”
Stappenbeck said his olive oils are made from olives hand-picked from the tree, as opposed to olives picked by machines or off the ground, which are often bruised.
Tasting the difference — and the difference between flavors — is a new experience for customers in the Scenic City.
“It’s a fun and unique experience that is good for the whole family,” said Stappenbeck, who often samples different combinations of flavors with his wife, Brooke, and son, Hayden, 9. “You get to experience flavors from all over the world in one place, brought to us right here in Chattanooga.”
Flavored olive oils can be either fused, in which a natural fruit or vegetable is pressed with the olives during the first cold-press by hand, or infused, in which natural concentrate of the fruit or vegetable is infused with the liquid oil from the first cold-press.
Stappenbeck said he rotates between favorite flavors depending on mood and application, but a recent combination that struck his fancy was a mixture of green apple white balsamic with caramel dark balsamic, which he finds tastes similar to a caramel-covered apple.
The most popular picks for customers include the non-flavored extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, as well as the Persian lime oil and peach white balsamic.
“The most-asked question I have here is ‘I like it, but I don’t know what to do with it,’” Stappenbeck said, adding that the easiest way to use flavored oil is to substitute it for a fresh fruit or vegetable in something you normally make.
For instance, if someone likes to eat raspberries on their salads, substituting raspberry balsamic vinegar for the berries saves money and gives the same flavor, he said.
The same principle can also be used in cooking by adding flavored olive oil in place of what one might usually cook with. A cook who typically squirts lemon on their broccoli as it cooks could substitute the lemon for the citrus flavor of Olive Chattanooga’s Persian lime olive oil.
“It simplifies your cooking, or you can add ingredients,” Stappenbeck said.
For example, substituting blood orange olive oil for the regular oil called for in a brownie recipe produces brownies with a hint of orange, and adding raspberry oil to yellow cake batter is also a nice twist, he said.
“It makes cooking fun again,” said Stappenbeck. “You can take the same steak, chicken or seafood and add new flavors, and you can make staple choices taste like anything.”