Author Archives: penelope

Roasted Vegetables

I love roasted vegetables because:

  • They are incredibly easy to prepare
  • You can memorize the recipe, making it easy for shopping
  • You can make all the same or mix all kinds of different vegetables, depending on what you have on hand
  • They taste so good you can’t believe you are eating something so good for you. Always make enough for left-overs!

When I first started roasting vegetables, I carefully followed recipes, but then I realized that the recipes were pretty much the same, so I have gotten a little lazy and just wing it. In preparation for this blog post, I found a great “recipe” that differentiates between dense, low moisture vegetables, like root vegetables and squash, and those with more moisture, such as zucchini and eggplant.

Here is the recipe, courtesy of the New York Times, which you will probably only need once!

Ingredients:

  • 2 to 3 pounds root or dense vegetable, peeled if you like and cut into 1-inch chunks or wedges (carrots, beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, radishes, rutabaga, winter squashes).
  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons Good Olive Oil, divided. (Always F. Oliver’s! I use either a medium to robust bodied single varietal, Fresh Pressed Blood Orange, Fresh Pressed Meyer Lemon, Heady Garlic, Tuscan Garden, or whatever other F. Oliver’s EVOO sounds good to you.)
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

Heat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss vegetables with 2 tablespoons of oil. Spread out on a rimmed cookie sheet so that the vegetables are in a single layer. Salt, and pepper as desired (or for added flavor, sprinkle with your favorite spice blend). Roast for 25 to 35 minutes, stirring at least once or twice during roasting for even cooking and browning. Drizzle with remaining oil just before serving (optional).

Variations:

  • You can use 2 pounds high-moisture vegetables instead (eggplant, peppers, zucchini, fennel, onions, brussels sprouts). Slice them and cut into chunks or wedges. Roast at 450 degrees until golden brown all over, 10 to 40 minutes depending on variety and the size of the pieces.
  • Or use 1 to 2 pounds hardy green vegetables (broccoli rabe, snow peas, green beans, kale, collard greens, chard) or cherry tomatoes, trimmed. Roast at 450 degrees for 7 to 15 minutes.

Final note: even if you put all the vegetables together and some get more done than others, so what, you still have a good healthy dish that will taste great!


Mediterranean Diet

From Courtney, our operations manager: There has been quite a buzz around the Mediterranean diet lately and we wanted to share some of the information with you. The Mediterranean diet consists mostly of healthy fats and plant foods.

Olive Oil is one of the key components to the Mediterranean diet, which plays a role in lowering LDL, a bad form of cholesterol. Not only that, but this diet holds many other health benefits. It protects against the development of cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and certain types of cancer. The newest study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that the Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease by a whopping 30% in those most at risk. Participants who were asked to consume at least 4 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) showed the most improvement. One thing that the study results neglected to mention is the heightened benefit of freshness in EVOOs. Olive oil should be consumed within 18 months of the olive harvest date, so ALWAYS look for that date when purchasing in order to get maximum health benefits.

Along with Extra Virgin Olive Oils, the other foods that are staples to this life style are vegetables, fruits, legumes, and nuts. Meats and dairy play a smaller role.

F. Oliver’s has plenty of options of ultra premium Extra Virgin Olive Oils to start you on your path to a healthier and longer life. Stop in to any of our stores and we can help you choose different Flavor Infused or Single Varietal Oils to drizzle on fruits or vegetables along with any other culinary use.


Tale of a Tasting Dinner

A Fond Reflection by Sean, F. Oliver’s Ithaca Store Manager:

A few days ago, we shared a wonderful evening with Taverna Banfi and Damiani Wine Cellars for our first-ever tasting dinner in Ithaca. The restaurant, Taverna Banfi, is part of Cornell University’s prestigious Statler Hotel and specializes in Tuscan cooking. It was a splendid affair with first-rate cuisine and lovely wines to match. Showcasing our oils and vinegars with the help of Taverna Banfi’s hardworking, creative, and deeply talented team of professionals and students was such a pleasure.

The Evening

The tasting event began with an introduction from Greg Mezey, Director of Food and Beverage for the Statler Hotel. He recognized our collaborative dinner as the kickoff for a series of educational and inspiring tastings the restaurant will hold this year. The dinner was presented in five courses, created by Taverna Banfi’s chefs. Each course was paired with a unique and carefully selected wine from Damiani. During courses, Lou Damiani and our very own Penelope Pankow circled around to each table discussing the unique qualities of the oil, vinegar, or wine used for that course. For a look back at the evening’s wonderful courses, glance at the full menu.

A Budding Partnership

This week’s tasting dinner serves as the beginning of a very exciting partnership between F. Oliver’s and Taverna Banfi. We are working closely with Greg and his team to supply our ultra-premium extra virgin olive oils for the restaurant’s many tables. We are so honored and excited to be working with Taverna Banfi in this way.

Finally, we’d like to thank everyone for coming to the dinner–the strong attendance was instrumental for the atmosphere and overall success of the evening. Tasting dinners are an exciting opportunity for us and we’d like to do more of them! Be sure to leave a comment here, on our Facebook page, or visit us in our stores with your own ideas for tasting venues! And last but certainly not least, savor a photo of one of the evening’s highlight courses: Ruby Red Grapefruit Herb Salad with F. Oliver’s Fresh Pressed Meyer Lemon Custard.

Grapefruit Herb Salad

Grapefruit Herb Salad


Soups on!

Wise words from Crystal, F. Oliver’s Park Avenue Store Manager:

As flu season grips the nation it is good to be reminded of simple ways to stay healthy. Proper hand washing, cough covering and healthy eating are a sure way to avoid getting the flu. During this time of the year I am always looking for recipes that warm me up but are also packed full of local seasonal fresh vegetables. Recipes that really make you feel good and give you the energy you need to fight off illness. One of the ways I do this is by visiting my local farmers market on a weekly basis. It’s a way for me to get the ingredients I need, to become inspired and create healthy recipes all week long. Of course I love using our FRESH extra virgin olive oils to accompany different recipes that not only add delicious but HEALTHY flavor.

I LOVE SOUP! It’s an amazing way to get as many veggies as possible into one pot. It’s warm, it’s comforting, it’s chock full of healthiness! Below is my all-time favorite soup recipe to keep you feeling good all winter long!

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons of F. Oliver’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil (choose your favorite!)
  • 2 cups chopped onions or thinly sliced leeks (whites only)
  • 2 cups of carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup thinly sliced celery
  • 2 cups of green beans, cut on a bias
  • 2 cups of potatoes, cubed
  • 2 cups of zucchini, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Italian dried herbs
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 8 cups reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste

Directions

  1. Heat EVOO in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add onions or leeks, carrots, celery, green beans, potatoes, zucchini, garlic, and Italian seasoning; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are translucent, 5 to 8 minutes.
  2. Add broth, tomatoes and their juice, tomato paste, bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, 30 minutes.
  3. Season with salt and pepper, as desired.

Extra’s

Add an array of beans, short cut pastas or shredded chicken to the pot to change to soup completely! Drizzle with your favorite F. Oliver’s EVOO!

Stay healthy;)


Before and After

Food has always played an important role in my life. Not as you would normally consider it as sustenance and fuel, but as the center of a lot of emotion. Often, I tend to eat not because I am hungry, but because I am stressed, tired, or otherwise emotional. So, while I am eating, the voices in my head say, “you shouldn’t be eating this,” or, “don’t have more,” or, “you should be eating more healthily.” In short, a lot of negatives and shoulds, which generally lead to eating more and enjoying less.

I was sick recently and, although my appetite stayed healthy, I was only able to eat small amounts of food very slowly. The silver lining around the illness cloud was that I learned once again to savor every bite with enjoyment and gratitude; because I was eating so slowly I fully realized when I was satiated and when I had consumed enough. I even had cookies and ice cream, but in small, reasonable quantities, without any guilt. I feel as if I was given a gift of a healthy, appropriate relationship with food and intend to do everything I can to keep these good habits going. It’s so much more gratifying to eat this way!

Here are a few easy recipes that I have enjoyed recently; I hope you enjoy them as well.

Easy Weeknight Pasta

  • 1 lb rotini pasta, preferably whole wheat or “pasta plus”
  • 4 tablespoons ultra-premium, fresh extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), divided
  • 2 cups broccoli or other firm vegetables
  • 1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes, with juices
  • 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to instructions on package. While pasta is cooking, sauté broccoli in 2 tablespoons of EVOO in large sauté pan over medium low heat. (I used F. Oliver’s Heady Garlic EVOO.) When pasta is cooked and broccoli is tender, toss pasta with broccoli in sauté pan. Add remaining 2 tablespoons of EVOO (I used F. Oliver’s Favolosa Single Varietal, additional Heady Garlic, Fresh-Pressed Meyer Lemon, or Fresh Bright Basil EVOOs would be good as well.) Remove sauté pan from heat and add tomatoes and parmesan cheese. Thoroughly combine and serve. This recipe can be easily cut in half or makes terrific left-overs.

Vanilla Greek Yogurt with Balsamic and Fresh Fruit

This one couldn’t be easier! Simply select a fresh fruit you choose to serve on your Greek Yogurt. (I like sliced strawberries, blueberries, chopped peaches, or banana slices.) Mix fruit with a healthy drizzle of balsamic vinegar of choice. (I like F. Oliver’s Dark Chocolate, Raspberry Treat, or Café Espresso) and place on top of a portion of vanilla-flavored Greek yogurt. If you like you can top with a tablespoon of granola; better than a fruit crisp!

The Perfect Vinaigrette (from Epicurious.com)

  • 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 5 tablespoons ultra premium fresh extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • Ground white pepper

Whisk together vinegar and Dijon mustard in small bowl, then whisk in honey. Gradually whisk in oil. (I used F. Oliver’s Sicilian Cerasuola; it is EXTREMELY important to use the best, freshest EVOO you can get for a vinaigrette as it is a critical flavor component.) Season vinaigrette to taste with salt and white pepper. Do ahead Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover. Chill if making more than 1 day ahead. Use vinaigrette at room temperature.

I served the vinaigrette over a mixed green salad with a good sheep’s milk cheese and dried cherries. Be sure to dress your salad so that the greens just glisten with dressing, but are not laden or soggy.

I wish you happy, healthy, and thankful eating. Enjoy!


Back to School and Back to the Kitchen

No matter how old I am, my life continues to follow the rhythm of the school year. Here we are at back to school time, so I am naturally trying to get more organized, be a bit more disciplined, and figure out what supplies I need for the task at hand. In school days that meant new pencils, pens, folders, and notebooks. In “adult” days that means something different for each of us.

During the summer months I just don’t cook as much; our schedules are just too crazy. My favorite “back-to-school” tool is one that is enticing me back to the kitchen. It is a cookbook that was borrowed from a creative and fun vegetarian friend; an entire book of Veggie Burger recipes! Please don’t think of those tired dried out things being served in many restaurants; those are not at all an accurate representation of the delicious, healthy, and creative combinations that are possible.

There are a couple of tricks to keeping a good veggie burger together. The first is getting the amount of moisture just right, which is not very hard when following the instructions. The second is that they really are better fried in olive oil in a non-stick pan and then warmed through in the oven. This method leaves that golden crust on the outside that makes them look so beautiful and holds them together. It also gives us the opportunity to add some additional flavor with either a robust single varietal extra virgin olive oil or a flavor infused extra virgin olive oil.

The toppings provide another opportunity for easy and healthy flavor addition. Add a little Smoky Chipotle EVOO, Tuscan Garden EVOO, or Fresh Pressed Meyer Lemon EVOO to some mayonnaise and you’ve taken it to a whole new place. If you prefer to do more from scratch, check out this easy and delightful recipe for making your own flavor-infused mayonnaise: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/23/dining/easy-homemade-mayonnaise.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

Anyway, the cookbook is called “Veggie Burgers Every Which Way,” by Lukas Volger. My favorite recipe from it so far is for Spinach-Chickpea Burgers. Here it is:

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon good extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (fennel or caraway or a combination work well too)
  • 5 ounces fresh spinach
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (canned work fine but when you get a chance, cook your own)
  • 2 eggs
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup chick pea flour or more if needed (you can make your own chick pea flour by grinding dried chick peas in a spice grinder, mini-food processor, or blender or purchase it at a grocery store or at an Indian grocery, where it is sometimes called gram flour)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
  2. Toast cumin seeds in a dry skillet or saute’ pan over medium low heat
  3. Add 1 teaspoon of the EVOO and raise heat to medium. Add the spinach and cook, tossing with tongs, until the spinach is completely wilted, 2 or 3 minutes. Transfer spinach and cumin seeds to a heatproof plate and allow to cool until safe to handle. Drain if necessary, wrap in a towel, and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Chop mixture finely.
  4. Combine 1 1/4 cups of the chickpeas, the eggs, lemon juice, and salt in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture resembles a chunky hummus.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the spinach with the remaining 1/4 cup beans and mash coarsely with a potato masher. Add the bean-egg mixture and stir thoroughly. Fold in the chickpea flour. The mixture should be sticky but somewhat pliable. Add more flour, 1 teaspoon at a time, if too wet, or a bit of water if too dry. Shape into 5 patties. (I did 4 bigger ones)
  6. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons EVOO in a non-stick saute’ pan over medium-high heat. (This is where you can get creative; F. Oliver’s Tunisian Harissa EVOO for some excellent spice, Fresh-Pressed Meyer Lemon EVOO for a citrus boost, or just a fabulous Single Varietal. I used the Cerasuola Single Varietal EVOO.) When hot, add the patties and cook until browned on each side, 6 to 10 minutes total. If your pan is oven-proof, transfer the pan to the oven. If not, transfer the patties to an oven-proof plate or cookie sheet and place in heated oven. Bake for an additional 12 to 15 minutes until the burgers are firm and cooked through.
  7. Serve with any toppings you prefer (lettuce, tomato, cheese, mustard, mayo, etc; I like these with a thin slice of cheddar cheese and a grainy mustard) On a bun or not: your choice. (I love a good grainy or sour-dough roll drizzled with a little EVOO.)
  8. You might want to double the recipe and have some easy-to-reheat left overs.

I am back in the kitchen, motivated to try more of these tasty treats. Next up is cashew-leek burgers with bulgur and lentils, or maybe corn burgers with sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese. They are easy, fun, and healthy; F. Oliver’s ultra premium extra virgin olive oils make them more so!


Olive Oil 102

In my last post we talked about why extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is good for us, what makes an olive oil an EVOO, and some simple things to look for when buying olive oil. This time, let’s take a look at olive oil that is not considered extra virgin; what exactly is it?

We discussed the measures that qualify an olive oil as Extra Virgin; they basically measure the quality of the fruit at the time of pressing. The next level down from EVOO is virgin olive oil, which is made from inferior olives, due to growing, picking, storage practices or to laxity in getting the olives to the press as quickly as possible. These olives could be bruised, rotting, or affected by fungus, and will result in an oil that doesn’t taste as good and will not deliver the health benefits of an EVOO. Like Extra Virgin Olive Oil, this oil is mechanically extracted, but will have Free Fatty Acid (FFA) and Peroxide (PV) measures outside of those required to be considered EVOO.

Oils that measure lower than a Virgin Olive Oil are not fit for human consumption as is and require refining with the use of charcoal and other chemical and physical filters. Refined oil is generally tasteless, odorless, and colorless; the health benefits of these oils range from neutral to negative.

The issue in the olive oil industry today, according to Tom Mueller’s book, Extra Virginity, is not that these varying grades of oil exist, but that in many cases refined olive oils or seed oils are blended with an Extra Virgin Olive Oil and labeled as Extra Virgin Olive Oil. In the United States, most of us just don’t know what a high quality, ultra-fresh EVOO should taste like so we are often paying for what we think is EVOO and getting a markedly lower grade oil.

We at F. Oliver’s have been on the EVOO education trail since the beginning of the year. In addition to attending olive oil educational conferences and sensory evaluation classes, we have started to hold focused tastings of our EVOOs and other oils available in the Upstate New York market. We are learning to taste the components that help us discern the good stuff from the not-so-good stuff and the fresh from the not-so-fresh stuff.

Recently we were invited to do an educational tasting for a social group and, for the first time, brought some super market oils with us for comparison. Even though these were premium Extra Virgin Olive Oils the flavor differences between a year-old oil and a fresh oil were remarkable to all of us tasting, both trained and untrained.

If you are interested in learning more along with us, we invite you to come in to taste our oils (and vinegars!) anytime. If you would like to do some comparison tasting, we welcome you to bring in any other oils and vinegars that you would like. We even have an olive oil tasting wheel to help guide us as we taste.

The next natural question is one we get often, “which oil should I use when in my cooking?” Stay tuned for our next blog post. In the meantime, if you have questions or an interest in learning more about olive oil, stop by the store or give us a call anytime.


Olive Oil 101

I’m not a big fan of being preached at about health related issues and the healthy-ness or unhealthy-ness of products, but over the past five to ten years many of us have started using Extra Virgin Olive Oil for its health benefits and exquisite flavor. There is enough in the current press to incidate that we in the United States may be paying for what we think is Extra Virgin Olive Oil, but not getting what we are paying for . Tom Mueller’s book,Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, (find more information at www.extravirginity.com) is an informative look at what is really in those bottles labeled “Extra Virgin Olive Oil made in Italy” and where to find the truly good stuff.We encourage you to check out the book or the website. But, if you are in a hurry and prefer the “Cliff Notes Version,” here are the highlights.

Why is Extra Virgin Olive Oil good for me?

Numerous studies show that olive oil reduces cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, inhibits platelet aggregation, and lowers the incidence of breast cancer. Because it is so rich in antioxidants, olive oil appears to dramatically reduce the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, thereby preventing heart disease. These same antioxidants also add to the stability, shelf life, and flavor of the oil. However, for an olive oil to provide these health benefits it must, at the very least, meet the standards required to be classified as Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

What makes an olive oil an Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

The International Olive Oil Council defines Extra Virgin Olive Oil as follows:

  • Mechanically extracted only from olives
  • Having a free fatty acidity (FFA) level of .8 percent or lower
  • Having peroxides at less than 20 milliequivalents per kilogram
  • Having passed a panel tasting test certifying that it is free of taste flaws.

The United States has not yet adopted this standard, which results in lesser grade oils being labeled as “extra virgin” while technically they are not.

Just what do “mechanically extracted,” “free fatty acidity level” (FFA) and “peroxides” mean?

Mechanically extracted means that no chemicals were used in the extraction of the oil from the olive.

Free fatty acids result when the olives are damaged by handling, insect infestation, fungus, or other problems that may occur when there are delays between picking and pressing the olive. In general, the higher the FFA, the more likely the oil is to be of poor quality. Experts state that .8 percent is actually too lax of a standard and that excellent extra virgin olive oils often have an FFA measure of .2 percent or lower.

The peroxide level measures the level to which the oil has been oxidized; higher measure = worse. Experts deem that the measure of 20 millliequivalents per kilogram is also too high and that an excellent EVOO will contain 10 meq per kilogram.

What should I look for when I am buying an Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

If you can’t trust the label and these measures are not available, how can you be sure that you are getting high quality extra virgin olive oil? For starters, look for freshness. Ideally, the label will include the harvest date of the olives; you want an oil that you will consume within 18 months of this date. Some brands will feature a “use by” date that is generally 24 months from the harvest date. We encourage you to buy oil that is not more than 12 months old.

As a service to you, F. Oliver’s will publish the harvest date for each of our single varietals, along with the FFA level, the peroxide level, and other components that we will discuss in future newsletters. For now, we welcome your interest and questions. We are proud to be the premium EVOO supplier in Upstate New York and want to serve as your source of information for all things olive oil.


This is It!

I was (rightfully!) chastised this week for getting so far behind on my blog postings, so here goes…….

This post is much different than it was originally intended to be. F. Oliver’s was so busy in July and August that it was all I could do to keep up with the business. Since then we have been actively preparing for Christmas, and now the season is upon us. So, in short, it’s been busy busy busy. After months of not posting, my first post back was going to be some cute, hopefully clever post about being so busy. But some other things have happened and cute and clever are not what come to mind.

During the last several weeks serious life situations have been on my mind. I learned that two of my friends’ husbands have been diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses. Another friend’s family mourned the tragic suicide of a young family member. Then yesterday a customer told me that the husband of a Kodak colleague (and friend) is fighting to keep working while untreatable cancer invades his body.

Hearing about these sad “real-life” situations always serves up a healthy dose of perspective and leaves life lessons to be learned and relearned. Today is only here today, so this is our chance to work, play, live, and love as we want our lives to be; this is it – no do-overs! The things that seem big are incredibly small in the scheme of things; not to overuse the tired, “don’t sweat the small things,” but….

Another lesson taught by these sad life situations is that we can all be oases of warmth and kindness in a high-tech, increasingly de-humanized world. While running the business well is important, F. Oliver’s is blessed with a kind and sensitive staff who respect and care for each other and who truly enjoy warmly hosting store visitors. Who knows what another person is dealing with in their life? If in the course of each of our daily business we can add a little warmth and happiness isn’t it our place in life to do so?

Yesterday, within an hour of hearing the latest sad news, a woman came into the shop carrying a baby carrier. While the mother tasted oils and vinegars, the baby slept peacefully. After I tried casually to catch a glimpse of the sleeping infant the mother unzipped the tiny sleeping bag for me to get a better look. I saw a perfect TINY little girl with fingers the size of a doll’s, a full head of dark shiny hair, and a lovingly placed pink ribbon around her small round head. The mother told me that she didn’t know until three days after the baby’s birth that the baby would be theirs to adopt and that the baby was truly an unexpected gift. At that moment I was struck by how happy life can be. How nice to work in an environment where people who were previously strangers can share these happy events with us.

So what about the oils and vinegars? Well, not to be preachy, but FRESH extra virgin olive oil is VERY good for you. It helps prevent heart disease and some forms of cancer. Vinegar aids digestion and builds our bodies in countless other ways. Beyond the health benefits though, repeatedly our customers share with us what they made with F. Oliver’s products and how much their family and/or friends enjoyed their creations. What could be more warm, loving, and nourishing than for a family or group of friends to share delicious healthy food and friendship around the dinner table?

Seize the day – it is only here today!


Inspiring Creative Growth

Corporate America leaves an indelible mark on a person. In some cases, such as using goofy acronyms and using words like “debrief” instead of “talk,” it’s not such a great thing. In other cases, like clearly defining objectives (or mission), it is quite a good thing. Does a small business need a mission statement? I don’t know, but establishing a mission statement is part of my corporate America DNA, so F. Oliver’s has one and here it is:

F. Oliver’s will inspire creative growth for its employees, customers and community and will attract a loyal following by offering

  • A professional, yet warm and welcoming environment
  • A distinct, fun, and informative store experience
  • The freshest and best selection of high quality olive oils and balsamic vinegars in Upstate New York

During the first days getting the store open and running I thought about the mission statement a couple of times and laughed to myself; it seemed like a silly, irrelevant luxury amidst the numerous nuts and bolts tasks requiring attention. Then some remarkable things happened.

First, customers started returning to tell me what they had made with their F. Oliver’s purchases. One had done a pasta dish with the Mediterranean Cassis Balsamic Vinegar and the Sage and Wild Harvest Mushroom Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). Another made a “salsa” from tropical fruit, cucumbers, cilantro, and Creamy Coconut Balsamic with Fresh Pressed Persian Lime EVOO, then served it on grilled fish. A third person made a thin-sliced sirloin “pizza” with Smoky Chipotle EVOO and Dark Chocolate Balsamic. Not only did each dish sound DELICIOUS, but truly creative. Clearly, each home chef had fun with the products as well.

The other thing that happened concerned the front windows. I had contacted a visually creative person I know to see if, by some chance, she would be willing to help me figure out what to do with the store windows. By coincidence, she is studying painting in Canandaigua for a few weeks and agreed to stop by. Not only did she stop by, but realizing that we needed something in the windows ASAP she took what we had on hand – some fustis and tissue paper – and assembled beautiful, colorful, fun and interesting displays. People stopped walking by and started to notice us here on Main Street.

But it didn’t stop there. Over the weekend she shopped for the best looking faux flowers and plants at the best price and came back again with these beautiful items to replace the colorful tissue paper. Now there is a massive stainless steel fusti sporting a glorious sunflower arrangement in one window and a pyramid of fustis with assorted spring greenery and butterflies in the other. Flanking the adorned fustis are small bottle arrangements, tastefully displaying what we sell here because her research on how to do store windows suggested that you always need to display what you are selling.

Every time I look at the windows I smile, not only because the arrangements are so beautiful, but because it represents the kind, helpful, and generous nature of the designer. She has many hobbies, many friends, and, I’m sure, many things to do. Yet she has spent several hours researching, thinking about, shopping for, and assembling these bright beautiful F. Oliver’s advertisements. Just when I thought that I had received way more window design help than I had any business expecting, I received an email from her. She said that she has enjoyed this project as much as I have and that she is willing to redecorate the windows seasonally. Wow! How cool is that?

So, is F. Oliver’s fulfilling its mission to inspire creative growth? I can’t answer for anyone but myself. In my case the answer is a resounding yes. I am growing and becoming more creative in ways that I couldn’t have anticipated. For our customers, if not growing creatively, at least it appears that many are thoroughly enjoying F. Oliver’s products and being very creative with them. For the window display artist, it feels like a stretch to say that F. Oliver’s inspired creative growth, but the store was at least a venue for inspired creativity. And – all of us have contributed to the “warm and welcoming environment” and the “distinct, fun, and informative store experience.” Business has been great, so maybe the mission statement isn’t an irrelevant luxury after all.

Stop by, we would love to share the F. Oliver’s experience with YOU and possibly inspire some creative growth.


My New Life as a “Shop Girl”

Yesterday I completed my first week working as a “shop girl.” Doesn’t that conjure images of a routine, mundane daily life? My week was anything but.

As a quick catch-up for those of you new to the F. Oliver’s blog, the store had been in its pre-opening phase for several days prior to last Tuesday, when we actually opened for sales. So, as of Tuesday, I started my position working the tasting and retail area of F. Oliver’s. Actually, I am the store’s owner and principal employee; my duties include everything from building the business plan and updating the cash flow projection to scrubbing the floor and taking out the garbage. Somewhere in the middle of that spectrum of responsibility is assisting customers as a “shop girl.”

For those of you who don’t have time to read the rest, here is the bottom line: Both F. Oliver’s and I had an excellent week! Thank you to all who made that possible. For those of you with a little time, following is the color commentary.

I’m still figuring out the rhythm of the day and week, but here are some anecdotes and highlights from week one:

If you are the only one minding the store, how do you gracefully visit the ladies room? So the store is empty at the moment, but it is guaranteed that the minute you duck into “the ladies” the bell on the door rings and one is left to finish thoroughly washing one’s hands and emerge, acting as if just coming up from the stock room, when everyone knows exactly where you are coming from. Oh well, at least “employees washed hands before returning to work” – and – I am cutting back on my morning coffee consumption.

Ditto lunch. My first day in the shop alone I didn’t make time to pack a lunch in the morning. By about 1:00 I was getting more than a little hungry. For those of you who haven’t visited the store yet, picture this: the cash area is a beautiful high table behind which one sits looking out at Main Street, Canandaigua. A fixture of decades on Main Street is Ken’s Doghouse, a renowned street stand selling some of the best hot dogs I’ve ever had. So here I am, starving, gazing at Ken’s Doghouse. After considering alternatives, I quickly put up the “back in 5 minutes” sign and ran over to Ken’s in my F. Oliver’s apron. During my 5 minutes at Ken’s, I experienced one of the most beautiful aspects of doing business in a small town. I ran into and chatted with my insurance agent, who introduced me to another Ken’s fan, George Hamlin, a big time local celebrity who is the President and CEO of Canandaigua National Bank, our incredibly well-run and growing “local” bank. I can’t wait to see who else I meet during future “back in 5 minutes” lunches.

Ken's Doghouse

It is really important to open in an organized manner at 10:00 if that’s what your hours are. I decided to do a quick errand one morning before opening. I was walking back up Main Street when I realized that it was a few minutes after 10. I thought to myself, “Oh well, no one really knows that we are open and who is going to be there at 10 anyway?” Wrong – I got back to the store and found 2 people waiting. When we all entered together there was a ladder in the middle of the store. That was a great message underscoring the reality that the store needed to immediately exit its development phase and become more officially run as a business.

There are two best parts to my new “job” at F. Oliver’s. As I mentioned earlier, my duties are varied and gratifying. I love “doing it all,” from figuring out the point of sale system to bottling product. Emptying the waste baskets and taking out the garbage isn’t bad at all either. At least you can see the results of your work.

The other best part is that I GET TO MEET NEW PEOPLE EVERY DAY! It is really fun and rewarding to become acquainted with people and to help them become acquainted with our products, and, not surprisingly, everyone so far has loved the products!

As the F. Oliver’s “About” Page states, “everyone from the novice cook to the seasoned chef can taste the difference.” I saw the spectrum of cooks this week and, based on the amount of product they bought, they did taste the difference. Based on the comments I received, they love the ambiance of F. Oliver’s as much as I do. I can’t wait to start my second week as a “shop girl.”


Freshly Filled Fustis

F. Oliver’s now has 36 fustis full of incredibly fresh oils and balsamic vinegars!

If you missed my previous post, a fusti is a stainless steel container specifically designed to store and pour oils and vinegars. Most of ours are 15 liter, but some are 5 liter; all came from Italy. The taps come separately and if they didn’t say “made in Italy” on them I would have thought that they were engineered and fabricated in Germany. It seems that we are all used to seeing flimsy, poorly made goods in stores; what a pleasure to have a store full of such beautiful, well-engineered, and well-made containers and taps.

Filled Fustis (with temporary labels)But the best part is what fills the fustis! For each product I noted the date that it was filled by the supplier; most were dated March and some dated late February. Of course I had to try a lot of them. This is probably the freshest product I have ever tasted; one can definitely taste the difference that fresh makes.

F. Oliver’s broad product line includes something for everyone. For a quick weeknight meal, a little Sage with Wild Harvest Mushroom EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) drizzled over ravioli or an omelette is delicious. The fresh delicate flavor of California Arbequina EVOO, which was just pressed early winter, would be beautiful in a light vinaigrette or with some delicate spring vegetables or herbs and seafood. The balsamics mix beautifully or are great on their own. I keep envisioning dipping a nice sharp cheese into the Felix Oliver’s Special Reserve Balsamic or the Royal Pomegranate Balsamic along with some fruit; yum.

Now that everything is filled we’ve been trying combinations. The Arromatic Oregano Light Balsamic mixed with the Fresh Bright Basil EVOO was a crisp herbal blend with buttery undertones – a very quick, delicious multi-use dressing. On the fruity side, the Farmstand Strawberry Balsamic with the Fresh Pressed Meyer Lemon EVOO was a knockout; would be great on greens or fruit salad, or with chicken or pork for that matter.

I can’t wait to welcome you here at F. Oliver’s to taste our wares. I know that you will find your own favorite products and combinations. Truly, there is something for everyone and for every situation, from pulling together a quick appetizer or entree to preparing a multi course slow-cooked meal. Welcome and Bon Appetit!


Out of Sight but Not Out of Mind

I am amazed at the amount of work that goes into opening a business. Aside from establishing the brand, systems and processes, finding excellent employees and acquiring inventory, just getting the store physically ready to open requires more work than one person can perform in the amount of time given, and, if help were hired, probably more expense than the business case could easily carry. F. Oliver’s has been extremely fortunate to benefit from “donated” labor on both large and small scales.

My husband, Eric, has to burn vacation this year owing to a new non-carryover policy at his company. While he easily could have spent his vacation time at Bristol Mountain skiing or going south to start the golf season early, he spent his time instead working at F. Oliver’s. More specifically he built (beautiful!) work tables and a portable wall, he fabricated and mounted room dividers and doors, assembled shelves, installed molding and door returns, painted, and even configured computer systems. Those of you who know him know that he does high quality work, regardless of where or by whom it will be seen. To him, “a job worth doing is worth doing well.” Every bit of what he’s done is done completely and beautifully, free of charge, and has taken hours and hours of hard work. No complaining, no grandstanding; he just gets the job done. His father even painted for two full days to help out!

Another behind the scenes worker is the property’s landlord, Mike Yarger. Truly the landlord doesn’t have to take part in renovations at all, and most prefer not to. Mike is different. When we learned that we needed to install a 3-bay sink and pull up some old, very grody carpeting, he found a solid sink at a great price and installed it. He not only pulled up the carpet, but used some tiles originally purchased for his home to install a beautiful Mediterranean tile floor in the storage and dishwashing room. When we learned that the furnace wasn’t operating as efficiently as it could, Mike installed heating vents and air returns that will result in higher comfort and lower utility bills for the F. Oliver’s team. Additionally, he’s installed a hand-washing sink, the infamous grease trap, and electrical outlets where required.

What I find interesting is that this work most likely won’t be noticed and admired by the public. But it does make the store operate a whole lot better and make it more attractive; in short the store will be a much nicer place to work. The work is out of sight, but far from out of mind as it will be noticed every single day behind the scenes and will help us to work better and more efficiently out front.

So, this post is a small but very sincere recognition of all the generously donated hard work that’s taken place behind the scenes. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


Riding the Wave

A friend once told me that it is important to “ride the wave” of the good times to carry you through the not-so-good times. It sounded a little too new-agey for me then, but I believe now that I understand better what she meant. To me it means be fully aware and appreciative during the good times and to carry that attitude into the bad times. There is always plenty for which to be appreciative even in what we think of as the bad times; the positive energy that comes from an appreciative attitude is a lot more motivating than what comes from focusing on the bad.

The “ride the wave” perspective carries over into the smaller parts of life as well. After my last post (which was also my first) I received a comment that the post didn’t adequately convey my excitement about starting my new business, F. Oliver’s. I thought about that a lot, reread the post, and agreed. Am I excited about starting the business? YES, YES YES! It is one of the most fun things that I have ever done. However, not every part of it is fun and exciting. So, I need to improve my wave riding so that the fun, exciting parts carry me through the not so fun and not so exciting aspects.

Like most everything else, the project of starting a business has phases. For me the first phase was becoming acquainted with a concept that seemed fun, fulfilling, and economically attractive. The second phase was considering and testing the concept to see if it really would work. The third phase was creating the brand, and the fourth was and is performing all the operational tasks required to bring the business to life. There are many, many tasks to be accomplished in this, the fourth phase!

I got a full dose of those tasks last week. Among other things, I filled out city permit applications, learned how to determine what size grease trap the business needs and then questioned the city code enforcer about whether we really do need a grease trap (according to him we do….), reviewed compliance with NY state requirements for our food processing permit, discussed furnace efficiency with the local heating and cooling expert and the benefit of adequate cold air returns with the landlord, learned how to paint over exterior aluminum, and determined that at this stage Pantone 377 is close enough to Pantone 382 to go ahead with printing. All necessary to get the business up and running, but not exactly my favorite parts of it.

Yesterday morning I picked up the large “coming soon” signs for the store windows, the first time to see the logo large and live. WOW! Last night, I received a proof sheet of all the product packaging artwork. DOUBLE WOW! I am thrilled to see the brand coming to life and to be back on the wave again. There are many more mundane tasks to be completed, but focusing on the emerging personality of the business energizes me tremendously.

Better yet, what’s coming to life results from the collaboration of talented, caring, and fun colleagues and friends. I am truly thankful to have the opportunity to be part of this exceptional team and to create something tangible with people that I like and admire; people who energize me.

Riding the wave alone is terrific; riding the wave with others is exponentially terrific.


The Birth of F. Oliver’s

“You’re going to open a store? In the middle of the recession? You’re going to sell Olive Oil and Vinegar? In Canandaigua? Have you lost your mind? What else are you going to sell? Nothing! What??” … then a polite smile and the sympathetic eyes that indicate a thought balloon reading, “You have no idea what you are doing and you’re going to be sorry.” Maybe so, but not yet.

So, yes, this is my newest venture. I am opening a store in Canandaigua where we will, at the start, sell only olive oils and balsamic vinegars; but not just any olive oils and vinegars. Hand crafted, small batch Extra Virgin Olive Oils – single varietals, flavor fused, and flavor infused; Balsamic Vinegars – 12-year old and 18-year old, and flavor infused. What does that mean? Details to follow.

What’s important to explain right now is what makes the store so special. Aside from the beautiful historic space where it is located and the caliber of people who will be working there is the store concept. All the products will be lined up in those big beautiful European looking stainless steel containers, called fustis, and every product (and delightful, delicious combinations of products!) will be available for tasting right from the fusti. We will bottle the product in our own branded F. Oliver’s bottles.

We plan to open soon…. in fact in so soon that the long to-do list is starting to keep me awake at night. I have never opened a business before. If you have, then you know that I don’t know what I don’t know. Got that? So, in the upcoming weeks I want to share with you our progress, triumphs, tribulations, and the general story of the birth of F. Oliver’s. AND – I sincerely hope to see you at the store.