When you are celebrities in the food blogging universe like us, you start to get invited to media events. Tonight, we attend our first. We are celebrating National Vinegar Day (November 1) as guests of Oli+Ve (pronounced Ollie and Vee) in Vinings.
When we were in Italy three years ago, one of the things we remember most was the olive oil and balsamic tastings in the City Market in Florence. Now you can taste right here in Atlanta at Oli+Ve with experts that know more about olive oil than you ever will.
There are about 20 people here, mostly food bloggers and members of the food-related media. Store owners Deborah and Suzanne, and many employees from their three stores are here too. Oli+Ve has partnered with the SOHO American Bistro (Date Night #40, 8/17/2012) which happens to be right upstairs. We will be treated to the food stylings of Chef Joe Ahn a bit later.
Oli+Ve are purveyors of “ultra premium” olive oils and balsamics. The coolest thing about the store is that it’s set up for you to taste almost everything they have. And once you taste it, you will buy it.
We taste and compare 3 single-varietal olive oils. It’s like a beer or wine tasting where you start with the lightest, or in this case the mildest intensity and end with something more robust (and peppery in the back of your throat). Next, we sip 3 fused/infused oil and vinegar pairings starting with blood orange olive oil with cinnamon pear balsamic vinegar. It’s wonderful. I could stop right here and be very happy, but there is more. Second is garlic olive oil with pomegranate balsamic vinegar. The best comes last, a pairing of roasted almond oil with raspberry balsamic. It’s like dessert in a tiny little plastic cup, and it’s probably my favorite taste of the night.
Chef Ahn comes downstairs to present his first dish, made with oils and vinegars from Oli+Ve. The grape and brie salad with spiced pecans is fantastic, but the Tuscan herb olive oil and fig balsamic (their top seller) dressing is really the star of the plate.
Our second small plate is shrimp poached with Italian EVOO and capers, lemon zest, garlic and basil. The Chef tells us that he marinated the shrimp in plastic bags and poached them in the same bags so that not a drop of the EVOO flavor would be lost. He’ll get no argument from us and the 2 extra large shrimp are perfect, leaving us wanting more.
Finally, Oli+Ve prepares a dessert pairing which may change my life. We are served chocolate brownies which have substituted blood orange olive oil for butter or margarine in the mix. It makes them healthier, moister and it gives the brownies the slight flavor of orange. The brownies are paired with Blue Bell vanilla ice cream and we are invited to pick our own choice of balsamic to top the ice cream. This brings about a frenzied group tasting with mostly fruity vinegars and lots of use of the espresso balsamic. My favorite is the black cherry. If you have never put balsamic on ice cream, you won’t believe how good it is.
We bought some of the black cherry balsamic and some herbs de Provence olive oil. We can’t wait to use them both. How about a little cherry balsamic on yogurt for breakfast? We’ll let you know how it tastes!
It is Date Night policy to point out that we did not pay for tonight’s food from SOHO and it was furnished courtesy of Oli+Ve. Oil and balsamic tastings are always free at Oli+Ve.