The Virgin Olive is a gleaming new shop in Woodbury where you can taste flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars, experiencing interesting flavors such as black truffle oil, Tuscan herb olive oil, chocolate raspberry balsamic vinegar and white peach balsamic vinegar. There are 54 different flavored olive oils and vinegars plus Jacques Torres chocolate, sea salt and organic honey from Savannah.
This boutique shop, in the Woodbury Village Shopping Center off Jericho Turnpike, is a small but mighty place where the walls are lined with fustis—highly polished stainless steel containers with dispensers for serving the oils and vinegars. Customers can taste as much as they wish to find the flavors that they like. Although there are cubes of bread for dipping, the owners recommend experiencing the taste without the bread to get the full flavor. The best way to taste the oil, says Lisa Dobler (who owns the shop with her husband Fred and Fred’s sister Renee) is to follow the four esses: swirl (cover the cup and swirl to release the aromas), sniff, slurp and swallow.
The business started as a hobby after the Doblers visited Italy, amazed at the quality of oils and vinegars there. They conducted the business on-line for two years and in August of this year opened the Woodbury store, giving customers the opportunity to taste for themselves. The extra virgin olive oils come from Spain, Greece, Italy and California and the balsamic vinegars are produced in Modena, Italy. Bottles are filled directly from the fusti, fresh for the customer in the store. The sea salts originate in places such as Hawaii and the Himalayas, some flavored with smoked garlic, mushrooms or hot peppers. Honey choices include wildflower, orange blossom and acacia.
“You can incorporate any of these items into your cooking,” said Dobler, “and a little goes a long way.” Information cards on each fusti tell a bit about each product and suggest how to use it. For example, there’s smoked olive oil which “is smoked using a specifically designed smoker and a hand selected blend of sweet and aromatic woods to best complement the oil’s flavor profile,” read the cards. Suggestions for use include drizzling the oil on steaks, pork chops, shrimp and roasted vegetables and pairing it with fig balsamic vinegar and traditional balsamic vinegar. The sign on the coconut white balsamic vinegar suggests drizzling it over pineapple, blueberries and strawberries and using it as a glaze for shrimp kabobs and chicken skewers.
Dobler suggests using flavored olive oils when frying and sautéing to create uniquely flavored dishes. “When making standard chicken cutlets, zest a lemon and add it to the breadcrumbs. Pan fry the cutlets in Meyer lemon olive oil for lemony chicken cutlets. The same process can be done using our blood orange olive oil,” she said.
You can even use the blood orange olive oil to make brownies, said Dobler. “Just substitute our blood orange olive oil for vegetable oil in any store bought brownie mix. Once baked, you can drizzle any fruity dark balsamic such as blood orange, fig, or raspberry on the brownies and sprinkle with sea salt.”
This is the opportunity to create new flavor-popping dishes or to enliven some old recipes. Before the blueberry season is over, I’m hoping to make their lemon blueberry pound cake using Meyer lemon olive oil instead of butter and when I start roasting vegetables again, I plan to toss the vegetables in a mix of olive oil and pomegranate balsamic vinegar. With The Virgin Olive, there’s a whole world of tastes to discover.