The Unrefined Olive is anything but unrefined! In fact, this thriving Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Aged Balsamic Vinegar tasting bar on Second Ave. in the Glebe, offers what owner Elizabeth Kilvert describes as “affordable luxury”.
“People are tending to be doing more at-home experiences — buying finer wine, buying better quality food and meals and entertaining at home instead of going out as frequently” said Elizabeth Kilvert, in a recent interview with The Ottawa Sun. I have to agree!
Although a date night in a cozy restaurant with somebody else cooking (and cleaning the kitchen) is always a pleasure, it is definitely reserved for special occasions. Not to mention dining out with family and friends. There is no way an average family can afford to go out for a decent dining experience … or even gourmet burgers on a regular basis. We do however make amazing meals at home … and the bonus … you can have a bit more than one glass of wine because you don’t have to drive!
Stepping into The Unrefined Olive on a Sunday afternoon was what I might describe as a pleasurable sensory experience. The store is modern with a rustic touch and reminded me of the wine tasting rooms in Italy. We were shown the ropes of proper tasting technique’s and given a quick tour of the rows of stainless steel containers known as fustis. Just like a wine tour, there are tasting notes for each oil which state the origin, type of olive, growing conditions etc. and descriptions such as grassy, buttery, floral, or tropical. Armed with our little stainless steel cups and under the guidance of the friendly and knowledgeable staff, we set out on our tasting adventure.
We were advised to start off with something light and buttery like the newly arrived Arbosana Evoo from Chile … we were not disappointed, it was smooth and delicious. Of course, I couldn’t wait to dive into the flavour fused oils and aged balsamics while my better half lingered over the subtleties of each oil. Basil, Tuscan Herb, Blood Orange, Lime and Mushroom Sage were some of my favourite infused oils. The Aged Balsamic Vinegars from Modena boasted bold flavours of Chipotle, Dark Chocolate, Espresso and the sweeter Honey-Ginger. There are over 50 choices but there is no way you can taste them all in one visit. Even though you are tasting mere drops of these heavenly liquids, they are tasted straight up, without food … and well, you just can’t wait to get home and try them on something!
Beyond the classic salad, the possibilities for olive oils and balsamic vinegars are endless. Try olive oil and balsamic marinades or brush them over fish, poultry or meat when grilling. Drizzle flavoured oils over rice, couscous, quinoa, pasta, roasted vegetables and of course bread! Balsamic vinegar is amazing over ice cream, fruits, cakes, cheese and even in cocktails. I just tried Honey-Ginger White Balsamic with white rum, soda and a lemon twist … super refreshing on this 40 celsius afternoon while my personal chef (haha) is in the kitchen marinating the sirloin steaks with Dark Chocolate Balsamic and Chipotle Olive Oil.
There is no doubt Elizabeth Kilvert came up with an ingenious idea for her first business venture after cuts by the Federal Government left her without a job. In fact, she has recently opened her second location on Terry Fox Drive in Kanata. Despite the recent economic hardships of many local retailers, The Unrefined Olive has cornered a niche market. As Elizabeth says “It’s an edible business, so if things go badly, I can literally eat my business.”
Boomers (and food lovers of all ages) beware … The Unrefined Olive may be highly addictive!