I was given a unique gift certificate for my birthday, by my brother, Jonathan - how thoughtful. It was for an Olive Oil and Vinegar 101 class being held at a local store. I had enjoyed using some of the store's premium oils and vinegar before (also given to me by said brother; he knows what I like), so this sounded like an intriguing event.
This past week was the night for the class, and the other attendees and I gathered in the custom-built kitchen in the back of the store after they had closed for the day.
We each had an embroidered apron at our seats which we could take home. To begin, we were treated to a new method of flavoring iced tea: the addition of a spoonful of sweet and fruity balsamic vinegar!
I didn't know everything to expect, but this chalkboard menu awaited us, a full course meal with appetizers sprinkled throughout the informative talks.
The store's owner, Michelle, a former nurse, gave us the background on how this business got started and proceeded to share her knowledge of how olive oil is produced, things to look for on the labeling, the health benefits of both extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegars, and more.
She was well-versed in not only her products' beneficial qualities, but she also shared a wealth of creative ideas for ways to use the different flavors of olive oil and vinegar in cooking. Below she is stirring up a batch of her grandmother's gazpacho recipe, which included spicy Harissa infused olive oil. We helped ourselves to this delicious salad served with chips.
Her helper prepared a platter of dipping oil, vinegar, and Mediterranean spices, which we enjoyed along with a fresh pesto.
Next, we all got to select and whisk up our own special combinations of oil and vinegar to dress our salad skewers. Examples: strawberry balsamic + basil olive oil, Sicilian lemon balsamic + Tuscan herb olive oil, etc:
One lady said she has attended these classes before, and she comes just for the food! We told Michelle that she should really think about writing a cookbook with all her recipe ideas. Since the store sells dozens of varieties of oil and vinegar, there are so many savory combinations to experiment with.
I might have done a bit of sampling and shopping in their tasting room after class. ;)
The following day for lunch I threw together a taco salad, on which I drizzled some chipotle olive oil that Jonathan had picked out for me and I hadn't yet opened until now....it was very tasty!
What a fun birthday experience gift. Do you have a specialty olive oil shop in your town?