Olive oil and balsamic vinegar are much more diverse than the few varieties found on most grocery store shelves. But step inside the door of a certain new shop along Collier Boulevard and you’ll find a broad assortment of the two tasty, healthful and versatile food items.
The Pressed Olive is an olive oil, balsamic vinegar tasting bar, with an array of gourmet foods and gifts. The store features extra-virgin olive oil, fused and infused olive oil, and premium balsamic vinegars. All of them are harvested from producers in both hemispheres during peak season to ensure freshness.
Marco Islander Amy Steen opened the store in mid-October. The former dental assistant and her dentist husband, Dr. Glenn Steen, moved to the island in March from Alabama, where she frequented a store that provided the inspiration for creating The Pressed Olive.
“When we were here last December, were looking around Marco,” she said. “I hadn’t worked in six years and I was thinking of doing something different. I noticed there wasn’t a shop like this that sold the different oils and vinegars and gourmet food items, hostess gifts and things like that.”
Twenty-two extra-virgin olive oils, both fused and infused, can be found in containers lining the shop’s shelves. Their source is such countries as Chile, Australia, Tunisia, Spain and Italy. Eureka Lemon, Blood Orange, Rosemary, Tuscan Herb, Dill and Garlic are but a sampling of the varieties represented.
There are also 22 types of dark and white balsamic vinegars, bearing such names as Serrano Honey, Vermont Maple and Fig.
Sampling is encouraged.
“What I love about the shop and Veronica Foods, which is my distributor, is that for all of our oils and vinegars, we have tester bottles, so you get to sample and taste everything before you buy it, so you don’t think, ‘Oh, it’s just the right thing,’ and then you get back home and it’s not at all what you expected,” explained Steen.
She praised Oakland, California-based Veronica Foods for its dedication to providing quality products.
“My distributor has been working with the same farms and farmers for years and she actually goes there when they are harvesting the olives and for the crush of the olives,” said Steen. “I think it’s the best product out there for extra virgin olive oil. Her grandfather emigrated from Italy and started Delizia Olive Oil Company in the 1930s. So they’ve been around for a long time and they make sure they give you a really, really good product. They go from both hemispheres, depending on when the harvest and the crush are the freshest. So we’re always rotating every six months, depending on what is the freshest olive oil.”
The wide selection offers an opportunity to incorporate the health benefits of olive oils and vinegars into ones diet in new and different, palate-pleasing ways.
For example, balsamic vinegars are commonly used for salad dressings and dipping. But some of the white varieties Steen carries are pineapple, peach, grapefruit, cranberry-pear and coconut flavored.
“All of those are really good in water, either in bottled water or sparkling water,” she said. “There are no refined sugars. All of our balsamics have no thickeners, no coloring agents. They’re just a really great way to jazz up your water. Everybody needs to drink more water and it just gives it a nice, natural flavor, something a little different. It’s probiotic. It’s good for you.”
There’s also a type of olive oil called ‘butter.’
“It has a butter flavor from organic botanicals, so it’s vegan, it’s heart-healthy, it’s good for you, but you’re getting that flavor of butter,” said Steen. “So it’s good to scramble eggs with, to put in your grits, on top of popcorn, to bake with, that kind of thing.”
Free fatty acids make the arbequina olive oil from Chile especially good for grilling.
“The lower your free fatty acid level, the higher the smoke point,” said Steen. “If you’re going to be grilling something and you’re worried about it flaming up or smoking too much, that’s an oil that’s really good to use or to sauté with.”
She said that in some cases, the olive oil found in grocery stores may not be the genuine article.
“It’s terrible to say but there are lots of facts and indications that the extra-virgin olive oil in your stores is not actually extra-virgin olive oil,” she explained. “There are lots of stories of tankers leaving certain countries with sunflower oil that miraculously turns into extra-virgin olive oil on the sea.”
Steen said she’s been pleased with the public’s response to The Pressed Olive since the doors opened on October 15.
“I knew I was starting during the slow season, which I wanted to do to get all the kinks worked out and just to have my feet on the ground since it’s my first time owning a retail shop,” she said. “But the response has been very good.”
The Pressed Olive is open from 10 AM to 5:30 PM, Monday through Friday, and from 10 AM to 2 PM on Saturdays. The store is located at 917 North Collier Boulevard. For more information, visit thepressedolivestore.com or call 239-970-5231.