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Customers Give a Standing “O” to EVOO at St. Louis’ An Olive Ovation

AnOliveOvation2-CSBy Lucas Witman

Located 2,000 miles from the olive groves of Northern California, St. Louis, Missouri seems an unlikely destination for those looking for high-quality, in-demand olive oils. However, this presumption would be incorrect, thanks in large part to St. Louis’ own olive oil doyenne Marianne Prey and her retail shop An Olive Ovation, a local destination-store for aficionados of the chartreuse elixir.

An Olive Ovation opened in 2007, after Prey decided to leave her 24-year career as a pathologist to pursue a second career as a retailer. Inspired by the small olive oil shops she liked to visit when traveling to major metropolitan areas elsewhere in the country, Prey wanted to bring this type of experience to a city that had not yet been bitten by the olive oil bug. “An Olive Ovation was the first olive oil market in St. Louis. The whole concept of olive oil tasting hadn’t even hit this area. It was really before the huge influx of olive oil stores across the country,” said Prey. “I got my inspiration from a little tiny olive oil ship in Chicago that specialized in Turkish oils … I was just kind of fascinated with the whole idea of olive oil tasting, so I tucked that idea away.”

It took her two years to plan out and build the store, but once An Olive Ovation finally opened, the store grew quickly. Last year, Prey actually moved the store from its original 1,200-square-foot home to a new, larger 1,600-square-foot retail space in Ladue, just outside St. Louis, to accommodate its expanding product selection.

The centerpiece of An Olive Ovation is the tasting bar. At the bar, customers can sample at least 100 different products, including extra-virgin olive oils, flavored olive oils, balsamics, wine vinegars, fruit vinegars and more. The tasting bar is a good place to begin one’s shopping experience at the store, before one sets out to browse through 50+ vinegars, 30-35 extra-virgin olive oils, as well as an extensive selection of specialty foods, including cheeses, olives, tapenades, crackers, breads and wines. The store also offers products for the home and kitchen, such as olive wood kitchen utensils and serving pieces, Mediterranean-themed cookbooks, French table linens and more.

When it comes to the store’s signature product, the selection of olive oils at An Olive Ovation is always in flux, partly out of Prey’s desire to always offer her customers something new, but also partly out of necessity. Because Prey stocks unique hard-to-find oils produced by small family farms and family cooperatives, she is often at the whim of the producer (and in fact, the weather) when it comes to what olive oils she can get and how many bottles of each. She cites one particular olive oil, the December’s New Oil from California-based Katz & Co. as an example of a seasonal product that is particularly in demand among her customers, but which lasts on her store shelves only a short while.

“Customers know that we get four cases in early December, and if they aren’t there to get it they miss out until the next year,” said Prey. “I would like to get more, but usually Albert [Katz] allots us four cases.”

Asked what are the best olive oils currently on the shelves at An Olive Ovation, Prey, ever the scientist, scoffs at the question. “We’ve had a couple of instances when a customer comes in and they say, ‘Pick for me,’ and it’s like, how?” Nevertheless, Prey utilizes her skills as a pathologist to ask pointed questions and guide her customers to the product that is going to be the best fit for their unique palate.

Of course, shoppers come to An Olive Ovation in search of much more than just olive oil. Prey’s shop serves as a destination for anyone who loves food, more generally. And the shop’s wide selection of hard-to-find specialty food products from around the world brings in customers searching for something truly unique to serve at their next dinner party, whether it be the Tunisian sun-dried garlic from Les Moulins Mahjoub or the Spanish spicy catch-all condiment Mojo Picón, from Ferrer.

The concept of pairing is a particularly important one for Prey, and she works to provide her customers with apt suggestions for bringing together olive oil, wine and food. With each of the wines offered at An Olive Ovation, Prey offers an olive oil pairing suggestion. And similarly, with each of the oils sampled at the tasting bar, Prey provides a comparable wine pairing.

“When you taste a dish, you taste the olive oil before it goes into the finished product. I want people to really focus on the taste and how it can vary when you pair one ingredient with another ingredient – how you can change the mouthfeel and the sensation,” said Prey. “An olive oil paired with one ingredient might just explode in your mouth and transform the salad or the steak and make it completely different.”

Prey’s commitment to educating her customers about how best to pair and enjoy her store’s products extends even further, as An Olive Ovation offers monthly classes on a number of related themes. Prey teaches the classes herself, providing lessons on how best to incorporate the store’s olive oils into various cuisines, from pastas to salads. A recent class taught attendees about using olive oils to prepare end-of-summer harvest delicacies from the garden. In addition, An Olive Ovation also offers more in-depth tasting classes, training customers about the intricacies of how to sample and enjoy high-quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

With the holiday season fast approaching, An Olive Ovation is an ideal stop for those looking to offer unique hostess gifts that are sure to stand out among the plates of cookies and bottles of wine. The store offers a wide selection of items from $5 to $500 that make great gifts on their own, or Prey is happy to put them into custom gift baskets. “A bottle of olive oil lasts much longer than a bottle of wine and a bottle of balsamic even longer,” said Prey. “A bottle of wine, they don’t even remember where it came from. It’s gone before the evening is over. [Olive oil and balsamic are] thoughtful nice gifts.”

The success of a store that specializes in a single commodity without a doubt hinges on the passion and expertise of its proprietor, and An Olive Ovation is an expression of the dedication its owner has for the world’s small-batch, estate-grown extra-virgin olive oils. “It’s the taste. Every sip is just a new experience. It’s wholesome, and it’s satisfying. It just makes everything that you put it on taste good,” said Prey.

This story originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of Gourmet News, a publication of Oser Communications Group.

Flavor Bombs Add Explosive Taste to Everyday Meals

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Flavor Bombs are a line of all-natural, fresh-frozen, gluten-free, low-sodium cooking bases that ignite an explosion of flavors when preparing memorable meals for family or friends. Flavor Bombs come in five explosive flavors that include basil, sage, rosemary, mirepoix and soffritto, turning everyday dishes into gourmet meals. The products are the creation of Giovannina Bellino, a long-time entrepreneur and the owner of Goddess Gourmet, a Long Island-based natural foods company.

Flavor Bombs provide consumers with an arsenal of ingredients making preparation times shorter and cooking more enjoyable, flavorful and affordable. The products are concentrated blends of caramelized aromatics and fresh herbs in an extra virgin olive oil base that offers consumers a burst of flavors and aromas that works perfectly in their favorite recipes. Flavor Bombs are pre-cooked so consumers have the flexibility of using them to start or finish a dish.

Flavor Bombs are now available nationwide at chain supermarkets, independent supermarkets, gourmet food stores, club stores and foodservice operations.

Finish Off A Sweet Treat with Something Savory from Salty Wahine

Salty Wahine-CS (2)Salty Wahine Gourmet Hawaiian Sea Salts, which are perfect for meats and vegetables, have also become a favorite for many dessert chefs. Award-winning Salty Wahine products can add that extra touch to make your creation stand out.

A chef favorite for providing a great finishing touch is the company’s Black Lava Hawaiian sea salt. Black Lava is a favorite finishing salt as seen on many Food Network episodes. It is used by many chocolatiers. The company’s Li Hing Margarita salt is a favorite for a cake baker on Oahu, where it makes an appearance on pineapple upside down cake. Additional flavors from Salty Wahine include Hawaiian Rub, Pineapple Poultry seasoning, Hot Lava, Mango Java, Red Alaea, Passion Fruit Chile Pepper and Guava Garlic, plus a variety of rubs and sugars.

The company is a Kauai family business that has received a number of awards, including 2012 US SBA Hawaii exporter of the year, Kauai Economic Development Board Business Plan Competition Grand Prize Winner and Best Kauai Product in 2013 and 2014. Salty Wahine takes pride in the fact that 82.76 percent of its end product is Hawaii origin.

For more information on Salty Wahine Gourmet Hawaiian Sea Salts, visit http://saltywahine.com.

The Mustard Seed Sauce & Dressing Company Brings Restaurant Flavor to Retail Shelves

2-Mustard Seed-CSSThe Mustard Seed Sauce & Dressing Company has been crafting unique Asian-inspired sauces and dressings and serving them in the company’s eponymous restaurants for over 35 years. Now, consumers have access to these sauces in their local grocery stores with the recent launch of the company’s retail product line.

The Mustard Seed Sauce & Dressing Company product line includes Asian Oil & Vinegar, a delightful Asian twist on the classic vinaigrette; Osaka Sauce, the company’s signature sauce, delicious on chicken; Teriyaki Grill Sauce, a finishing sauce for proteins; and Ginger Dressing, a signature dressing that doubles as a finishing sauce for meat or seafood. The four sauces and dressings are also available in a variety pack.

All Mustard Seed sauces and dressings are all-natural, and they contain no MSG, trans fats or preservatives. The products are made in small batches from the highest quality ingredients.

For more information, visit www.mustardseedsauce.com.

Blackberry Patch Introduces Two New Premium Syrups

1-BlackberryPatchFILL-CSSTwo new syrups have been added to Blackberry Patch’s sofi-Award-nominated product line. Like other Blackberry Patch products, the new Pumpkin Spice and Apple Butter syrups are full of all-natural, old-fashioned goodness.

Pumpkin Spice syrup tastes just like a pumpkin pie. Add it to coffee with hot milk for a pumpkin pie latte treat. Apple Butter reminds one of apple cobbler fresh from the oven. Consumers love to start their day with Apple Butter Syrup mixed into a wholesome bowl of oatmeal.

Blackberry Patch was founded in 1988. It is owned and operated by two farmers seeking to provide unique, high-quality, handmade fruit and sugar-free syrups, toppings and salsas to the specialty food market. Today, Blackberry Patch offers five premium, all-natural, pure cane sugar syrups: Blackberry, Raspberry, Blueberry, Pumpkin Spice and Apple Butter. For more information, call 800.853.5598, or visit the company online at www.blackberrypatch.com.

The Chefs’ Warehouse Acquires Maryland-Based Euro Gourmet Inc.

The Chefs’ Warehouse, Inc.. a distributor of specialty food products in North America, today announced that it has acquired substantially all of the assets of Euro Gourmet Inc., based in Beltsville, Maryland. Founded in 1999, Euro Gourmet is a wholesale specialty distributor of imported and domestic products along the East Coast.
“We are pleased to welcome Euro Gourmet to our growing family,” said Christopher Pappas, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Chefs’ Warehouse, Inc. “The Chefs’ Warehouse entered the Mid‐Atlantic region in 2005 through the migration of top NY‐based chefs and restaurateurs into the area. We’ve continued to grow in the region organically and through the previous acquisition of American Gourmet Foods. The addition of Euro Gourmet both strengthens our existing employee base and complements our already extensive Mid‐Atlantic product selection.”
“Both The Chefs’ Warehouse and Euro Gourmet were founded on the idea that our customers deserve high quality products at an affordable price and we strive every day to make that happen. Joining forces will only help us further improve and thrive in this endeavor,” said Francesco Marra, President and CEO of Euro Gourmet Inc.
Euro Gourmet Inc. is expected to generate approximately $5.0 million in annualized net sales in 2014. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Litehouse Expands Award-Winning Consumer Favorite Opa Line

5-OpaGreekYogurt1FILL-CSSLitehouse® Foods, maker of salad dressings and dips, recently announced three extensions to its OPA by Litehouse line of Greek yogurt salad dressings. The new items pull from global flavor inspirations to add interesting, palate-pleasing flavors to consumers’ favorite dishes. The new flavors include Kalamata Feta, roasted pepper and jalapeño ranch.

Utilizing Greek yogurt as a salad dressing base provides a lower-calorie dressing with twice the protein of a traditional dressing. OPA dressings are free of trans fats, have no MSG or artificial preservatives and less than a gram of sugar per serving. The new flavors provide a balance of creaminess with a layer of spicy richness.

Kalamata Feta (60 calories per serving) provides a burst of Mediterranean flavor with the rich tanginess of handcrafted feta cheese. Roasted pepper (50 calories per serving) offers a sweet, smoky pepper flavor blended into smooth creaminess. And jalapeño ranch (50 calories per serving) contains a cool blend of garlic and onion with the right amount of kick

The new flavors join the existing Opa line of ranch, blue cheese, Caesar and Feta dill. The dressings are available at an SRP of $4.49 for an 11-ounce jar. For more information, visit www.litehousefoods.com.

New Meat Labels Begin Appearing as Country of Origin Rules Upheld by Federal Appeals Court

wagyu cows with baby

Wagu Cows at Skagit River Ranch

By Dave Bernard

New labels that have begun appearing on packaged meats stating where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered, the result of 2013 federal legislation involving “country of origin labeling,” took one step closer to permanency when a federal appeals court recently upheld the new rules.

In a blow to some of the nation’s largest meat packers, which had asserted the new labels would yield minimal benefit to consumers while forcing costly changes in production practices, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia determined that consumers’ right to know the country of origin of their foods, and the government’s interest in protecting public health outweighed the “minimal” intrusion on meatpacker practices. The American Meat Institute, which represents the country’s largest packers and was joined in the appeal by other meat industry groups, has not yet decided whether it will appeal to the Supreme Court.

The new law, which fits with a growing desire for awareness on the part of consumers over what they eat, could favor producers and retailers of 100 percent American-born, raised and slaughtered meat products. Consumers wary of foreign meats can now select “purely” American beef, pork and other products. With the USDA limited in its capacity to test imported foods – only about 2-3 percent of the 10 million or so international food products on U.S. retail shelves have undergone testing – Americans will now be able to readily choose more rigorously tested domestic meat products.

“Consumers today want more information, not less, about the products they are buying and feeding their families,” said Colin O’Neil, Director of Government Affairs at the Center for Food Safety in Washington, D.C. “And this ruling is an import victory for those U.S. consumers.” In a survey conducted by the Consumer Federation of America, 90 percent of respondents favored requiring food sellers to indicate the country of origin of fresh meat products on the label.

While some large meatpackers are opposed to the new labeling requirements due to the expense involved in complying (for example, live animals imported from Canada, Mexico and other countries will need to be kept segregated from U.S.-born animals), many groups involved in the domestic beef and pork industry actually support the legislation. 

“We view country of origin labeling as a marketing tool,” said Dale Moore, Executive Director of Public Policy for the American Farm Bureau. “Our grassroots members are confident that if consumers have a choice, they will select the American product.” Moore and others in the industry view country of origin labeling as similar in nature to designations such as Angus Beef, in which producers meeting certain criteria can receive a premium price for a much-desired product.

Another such desirous label is ‘organic,’ and some organic ranchers are equally pleased with the new labels. “We’re happy to see it. It should be on all our foods,” said George Vojkovich, Owner of Skagit River Ranch in northwest Washington state. Skagit River Ranch is an organic farm that raises cattle, pigs and poultry. “Labeling is so important, and it’s becoming more important when we see issues [instances of food contamination] abroad. People are trying to eat healthier food, and they’re aware of quality issues.”

As consumers are given more information about the foods they buy, and country of origin labeling rules have evolved, some believe that a momentum continues to build that is felt on a broader scale, over and above a consumer’s choice on which package of tenderloin to buy.

“When people find out about this, they want to know more,” said O’Neil of the expanded information on meat labels. As consumers ask more questions and take more interest in what goes into the foods on their dinner table, gourmet retailers may see new opportunities to introduce shoppers to higher-quality products across all food categories.

This story was originally published in the October 2014 issue of Gourmet News, a publication of Oser Communications Group.

DORVAL Premium Collection Cocoa Now Non-GMO Project Verified

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DORVAL Trading Co. Ltd. has received the Non-GMO Project Verification seal for its DORVAL Premium Collection Cocoa. “We recognize today’s retailers and consumers have high standards and are becoming more aware of the use of GMOs in some products,” said Roberta Cappel, President at DORVAL. “At DORVAL, we strive to add superior quality to the market with our chocolate and cocoa products using natural ingredients. We are confident that this verification will increase distribution of our DORVAL Premium Collection Cocoa brand into more outlets that are committed to non-GMO products.”

The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit organization and is North America’s only third party verification and labeling source for non-GMO food and products. Once products are Verified, they are authorized to bear the Non-GMO Verification seal indicating that the item has gone through Non-GMO Project’s strenuous Verification process.

DORVAL Cocoa is available in 12-count cases as well as a 32-count shipper. The product’s packaging has an upscale, premium look that stands out among the rest.

For over 45 years, DORVAL Trading Co. Ltd. has been an importer of an extensive range of high-quality confectionery products from major manufacturers around the world. Dorval has grown into a significant presence in the confectionery and specialty distribution arena.

 

Pure Epicurean Seasonings is Shaking Up the Salt and Pepper Market

1-Pure Epicurean Seasonings-SSTaking its cue from the farm-to-table dining philosophy, Pure Epicurean Seasonings has conceived and launched a new gourmet product for the hospitality and foodservice industries: pre-portioned packets of natural Himalayan salt and organic black pepper. Pure’s single-serving all-natural salt and pepper packages are the first of their kind.

The attractively packaged, easy-to-tear-open salt and pepper packets are meant to replace the glass shakers found on full-service tables and fast-casual counters. Glass shakers break, can be tampered with and, in some cases are unhygienic. And when done correctly, sanitizing glass shakers – which should be done daily – is a time-consuming and inefficient process.

Each all-natural salt and USDA-certified organic pepper packet is packaged with fresh ingredients acquired from regional and global sources. Packets are sold in quantities of 500 and 1,000 that can be used on self-service counters or for take-out. Refillable bamboo presentation boxes that hold 10 salts and 10 peppers are also available for dining tables.

For more information on Pure Epicurean Seasonings, visit www.pureepicurean.com.

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