While we’ve been inundated with news about the health benefits of olive oil, the process of shopping for a bottle at the supermarket or Italian food shops is less well-defined. In fact, it can be downright confusing, if not daunting. The prices range wildly, and even those of us who don’t mind spending a bit more money on good quality pantry staples wonder how much is too much to spend on salad dressing basics.
How can we choose between the $17 bottle and one that’s $37? How do we know when we’re paying for fancy marketing or worse — how do we know the bottle contains what it claims it does: 100% pure extra-virgin olive oil (adulterated and even fake oil is apparently widespread according to Tom Mueller in his book “Extra Virginity: the Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil” — a great book, by the way).
Two independently-owned olive oil boutiques have launched in Ottawa in recent weeks, offering a new way to shop for oils and vinegars. It’s part of the wave of tasting bars that have supposedly become a retail craze across North America and Europe.
I visited Emulsify, the olive oil bar on Wellington St. W. but I understand the shopping experience is similar at The Unrefined Olive (151A Second Ave.) in the Glebe. Both shops are dedicated to extra-virgin cold-pressed olive oils and aged balsamic vinegars, but rather than choosing by price, the name of the game appears to be flavour — dozens of them.