We Olive is a new venue at Trolley Square that’s more of an experience than just a store. This is the first franchise of We Olive in Utah, which retails California-based extra virgin olive oils, balsamic vinegar, and artisan foods. It’s also a wine bar and cafe serving small plates, salads, panini and flatbreads.
We Olive celebrates its grand opening from March 26-April 1, with cooking demos, seminars and tastings.
A few days ago, I was invited to visit We Olive and meet owners — Stephanie Ennis-Garcia and son, chef Josh Garcia. Here they are, standing next to the big fustis containing a variety of California olive oils and balsamic vinegars.
All the products are displayed with samplers, to “try before you buy.” And the staff is well-educated to tell you about the olive grove and which region of California that a certain oil comes from. And were the olives grown during a rainy season or a drought? These factors can affect the flavor of the oil.
“If you are unaware of the flavor profiles of olive oil, or uncertain how to use it at home, we want to share our knowledge with you,” said Stephanie.
That goes for the other products besides oil. For instance, Stephanie sometimes pairs the peach balsamic vinegar with sparkling Perrier water for customers to sip. That’s something they probably hadn’t thought of trying with a balsamic vinegar.
The tasting bar has fustis (stainless steel tanks) filled with different varieties of oils and balsamic vinegars, with sample cups next to each. When you decide what you’ll purchase, the oil is bottled and sealed on the premises in amber bottles. Josh explained that the enemies of olive oil are heat, light, air and water, which can cause them to go rancid or lose flavor.
When you sample the olive oil, take some time to swirl it in the cup; smell it; then sip and swallow. That’s the Four S’s of olive oil-tasting, according to Josh.
“When you get a tickle in the back of your throat, that’s the polyphenols,” said Josh.
Polyphenols are an antioxidant thought to fight against age-related diseases like heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and certain types of cancer.
The oils sold at We Olive have been certified by the California Olive Oil Council (COOC), to assure that the oil you’re buying is actually 100% extra virgin, or the EVOO as TV chef Rachael Ray calls it. Many news reports, such as this “60 Minutes” story, warn that some imported olive oils are mixed with cheaper oils, then sold as “extra virgin” at a jacked-up price.)
For an olive oil to be seal certified as EVOO, it needs to adhere to the COOC’s guidelines:
- All olive oil must be mechanically extracted without the use of chemicals or excessive heat.
- There must be less than .5% free oleic acid in the oil itself.
- Must pass a blind taste test, performed by a certified tasting panel, to ensure positive taste elements and no defects.
It happens that I became acquainted with the California Olive Oil Council while covering the Pillsbury Bake-Off in San Francisco early in my food writing career. One of the seminars included a California olive oil tasting, where we learned to detect subtle flavors and aromas — the fruity, pungent or bitter notes, and whether the oil seemed more mild and buttery, or more spicy or robust. Sampling oils at We Olive brought back those memories for me — a taste in time.
The cafe menu showcases the store’s olive oils and balsamic vinegars, as well as Utah-made products such as Creminelli salami and Beehive cheeses.
Prosciutto-wrapped dates became my favorite appetizer: sweet, plump dates, creamy goat cheese, walnuts, finished with blood orange balsamic vinegar and Meyer lemon olive oil. The prosciutto wrapper is crisped a little, so it’s almost bacon-y.
My second favorite dish: Stuffed Pappadews, which are bright-red pickled African peppers, skewered with Genoa salami, goat cheese, flavored with aged balsamic vinegar. This was the dish that Stephanie fell in love with at a We Olive store in La Jolla, sparking the idea of bringing We Olive to Utah. It’s a great combination of heat, sweet, salty, creamy and tart, all in one bite.
The BBQ Chicken Flatbread features Manchego-style cheese, fresh cilantro, peach balsamic-pickled onions, and jalapeno flavored olive oil. It’s $12.
The Artisan Cheese & Charcuterie Plate offers a loaf of bread for dipping in EVOO, a bowl of olives and pappadews, and Creminelli salami and proscuitto. One of my personal favorites — bright-green, mildly flavored Castelvetrano —is part of the olive mix.
On the cafe menu, any ingredients that can be bought in the store are highlighted in green. Often I’ve tasted something in a restaurant and wondered how to duplicate some of those signature flavors. But where would I find that blackberry balsamic vinegar or wasabi-sake mustard? Well, here you go.
Stephanie is an interior designer with Midwest Commercial Interiors for nearly 30 years. Josh attended the French Culinary Institute in New York City, and honed his skills in New York restaurants before returning to Salt Lake City. He spent seven years as a kitchen manager and chef in Gastronomy, Inc.’s Market Street and New Yorker restaurants.
“I’m trying to instill all the great things I learned at Gastronomy about quality, great service, and having a pleasant place to work,” said Josh, who also earned a degree in entrepreneurship at the U.
The store’s grand opening is March 26-31. Here are some of the events:
- Sunday, March 26th from 6:00 – 9:00 pm: Extra Virgin Olive Oil Cooking demonstration and class. The California Olive Oil Council will give a sneak peek of select 2016 new harvest olive oils, and chef Josh Garcia will do a cooking demo showing how to incorporate them into meals. Tickets are $20 and includes free sampling of the oils, along with tasty bites of the food. Reserve your seat today.
- Beer and cider pairing on Friday, March 31 from 2-5 pm. We Olive is partnering with local craft beer and cider producers Proper Brewery, Talisman Brewery and Mountain West Cider for a tasting event at our store. We Olive will be pairing samples off our menu featuring small production, family produced olive oils and vinegars from California. Tickets are $30 and include beer and cider tasting paired with small bites. Attendees also received a 10% discount on retail purchases during the event.
- Saturday, April 1 from 2:00 – 5:00 pm: Food & Wine Pairing Event with award-winning Will Pliler of The New Yorker. Chef Pliler will prepare items from his upcoming spring menu, and We Olive’s Lindsey Kornowske will be coordinating a wine pairing/education class to go along with Will’s delicious bites. Tickets are $30 and include wine and food pairing. Attendees also received a 10% discount on retail purchases during the event. Seats are limited so reserve your space early! Reserve your seat today.