» Subscribe Today!
The Power of Information
The Ledger - EST. 1978 - Nashville Edition
Skip Navigation LinksHome > Article
VOL. 40 | NO. 23 | Friday, June 3, 2016

Gourmet vinegars, oils are great temptation

Print | Front Page | Email this story

Not long ago I visited a store I have deliberately avoided. You see, I knew that if I ever opened those doors it would be the end of my rational thinking, and the temptation to purchase various items would overwhelm my ability to keep my American Express card in my wallet.

And that is exactly what happened. I visited Saggio Olive Oils and Vinegars in the Chenal Promenade in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Like I said, I have been avoiding this particular store on purpose because of the products they sell, which of course are oils and vinegars, two of my weaknesses.

I can walk into any clothing, shoe or household store, see something I would like to have and reason myself out of getting it. It is extremely harder to do when I go into a kitchen supply store or a unique food store. It is, as they say, a totally different ballgame.

It seems that olive oil and vinegar tasting bars are another new foodie trend. If you haven’t visited Saggio yet, my advice is: Go prepared. Take your wallet and your taste buds. Although the oils and vinegars are fairly reasonably priced (remember, these are specialty oils and vinegars), it is impossible to walk out with just one flavor (or maybe that is just me), and every one of the oils and vinegars are ready for tasting.

I was in “Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar heaven.”

Inside there are hundreds of small silver barrels with spouts, holding various kinds of oils and vinegars, and below them are disposable tasting cups. You just walk around and fill up on oil and vinegar! They also have a few breads and crackers accompanied with a special oil or dip that you can taste.

Saggio is the name of the store, but what you do once you get inside is call strippagio. Let me explain.

According to the Italian tradition, strippagio, an important step in appreciating and selecting just the right oil: Take a sip, about a half-teaspoon to cover the surface of your mouth. Hold the oil for a moment, allowing it to spread and warm in your mouth.

Italian Vinaigrette

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Kosher salt and ground white pepper (or freshly ground black pepper), to taste

Place all the ingredients in a blender and mix for about 10 seconds or until fully combined. Transfer to a glass bowl and let stand for 30 minutes to let the flavors meld. Whisk immediately before serving.

Now slurp in some air. Really slurp, then close your mouth and breathe out through your nose. As the air mixes with the olive oil in your mouth, it picks up aromas and brings them up into your nasal passages. Smell is very important if you want to experience the true flavor. Finally, swallow the oil. Tanginess is experienced at the back of the throat and it’s common to cough when tasting good tangy-tasting oil.

I know what you are thinking. Did I go around the store sniffing, slurping, and coughing? No, I didn’t. I just gobbled one down as fast as I could so I could move on to the next flavor. This may have prevented me from truly tasting the oil, and possibly the owner thought I was a rookie-oiler, but I didn’t slurp and cough. (My mother would probably frown on me making any noise, especially slurping!)

Now – about Saggio. The owners, Ron and Lynda McDaniel, import olive oils based on when they are crushed, assuring the freshest oils. Along with their oils and vinegars, they also offer specialty mustards, spices, kitchen items, and a few other things that are worth browsing through while shopping.

I thought I would throw out a few of the flavors they carry so I called the store and spoke with Rachel, who gave me the names of some of the ones I had forgotten about. Like the aged Dark Chocolate. Really? How could I have forgotten that one? Here is a more complete list, but not nearly all that they offer.

Some of their finest and most popular oils are: Black Truffle, Japanese Roasted Sesame, and the Roasted Almond oils. They also carry various infused oils, like Garlic, Natural Chipotle, Persian Lime, Blood Orange, Tuscan Herb, Lemon, Butter, and many, many more.

Balsamic vinegars include: Aged Dark and Aged White (they are so yummy), Aged Dark Chocolate (oh my gosh, pour a bit of that over some vanilla ice cream!), Aged White Peach, Red Apple and Blueberry, Strawberry, Cinnamon Pear, Black Mission Fig, Blackberry, Coconut – need I go on?

These balsamics and vinegars are so tasty and wonderful over salads, in desserts, rubbed on chicken for grilling – the possibilities are endless.

If you can’t get to the store, Google them, as they have a website and a Facebook page, but I suggest visiting the store – it is so interesting.

Now for my recipe. I got this from the website of the Atlanta based store, Strippagio, another such business. I have used it and I love it. You will too!

Kay Bona is an award-winning columnist and photographer. Contact her at kay@dailydata.com.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter & RSS:
Sign-Up For Our FREE email edition
Get the news first with our free weekly email
TNLedger.com Knoxville Editon