The real deal

New shop in Fayetteville offers bottles and samples of authentic oils and vinegars

Posted: July 25, 2014 at 6 a.m.

Customers who visit Old World Imports are invited on a journey of high-quality olive oils and balsamic vinegars. The tour spans several continents, beginning with extra virgin olive oils and pure balsamic vinegars, then through a table of flavored selections.

Located at the corner of North College Avenue and West Spring Street in Fayetteville, the locally owned shop carries a dynamic inventory of world-class oils and vinegars.

Olive oil flavors:

• Garlic

• Jalapeno

• Basil

• Rosemary with lavender

• Blood orange

• Meyer lemon

• Persian lime

• Butter

• Rhubarb

• Sage & onion

• Sundried tomato

• Garlic mushroom

• Basil lemongrass

• Rosemary

• Citrus habanero

• Garlic chili

Specialty oils:

• Almond

• Avocado

• Flaxseed

• Hempseed

• Walnut

• Toasted sesame seed

• Grapeseed

• White truffle

Dark balsamic vinegar flavors:

• Raspberry

• Strawberry

• Blackberry

• Blueberry

• Lavender

• Bordeaux cherry

• Cucumber melon

• Espresso

• Dark chocolate

• Fig

• Hickory

• Honey ginger

• Pear

• Pomegranate

White balsamic vinegar flavors:

• Lemon

• Peach

• Coconut

• Pineapple

Specialty vinegar:

• Serrano chile honey vinegar

Sampling is part of the shopping experience at Old World Imports. Similar to the concept of wine or beer tasting, sampling oil and vinegars is an educational experience for many. Furthermore, there is a community of olive oil connoisseurs that has sparked a market for tasting bars, notes, kits and glasses.

Not all olives are the same. In fact, there are more than 500 different types of olives, co-owner David Beatty said. The growing conditions, harvesting timeline and pressing process all largely affect the end product, as well.

Not to be taken too seriously, however, Beatty fondly calls the shop a candy store for adults.

The owners of Old World Imports have curbed the pomp and circumstance and offer tastings in small paper cups. This simple gesture, partnered with the open display of products for sampling, creates an approachable atmosphere that is prevalent in the many of the small businesses in the South.

Old World Imports sources products from a few select farms across the world. Mostly small producers, the uniting qualities include hand-picked, early harvests that are cold-pressed within 12 hours.

There is a selection of pure, fused, infused and naturally flavored oil olives and vinegars.

"Fused oils is where you are crushing the olives and whatever you are flavoring the oil with at the same time, in the crusher together," Beatty said.

For example, fresh garlic, chili peppers and olives are crushed simultaneously to produce the garlic-chili olive oil.

The infused selections are steeped for the best results, such as jalapeno, rosemary or garlic olive oil.

Naturally flavored oils include oil extracted from a fruit, herb or vegetable, such as Myer lemon, rhubarb or sage-onion.

Although oils with any alteration cannot technically be called extra virgin, the specialty and boutique oils carried in Old World Imports are from the first crushing of the high-quality oils.

Extra virgin olive oil is a term that signifies the first crushing of a harvest. As the olives are reheated and crushed again, the labeling progresses from virgin olive oil, to olive oil, to lamp oil.

As the process continues, the oil provides less antioxidants and nutrient value. Recent investigations into the olive oil industry have revealed that many bottles that are labeled extra virgin olive oil, are not.

The fraudulent mislabeling of olive oil is a profitable counterfeit market. According to a University of California at Davis study, a sample revealed that more than two-thirds of common brand extra-virgin olive oil were spoiled, made from low quality olives or contained other oils such as soy, hazelnut or fish oil.

Once people taste authentic, extra-virgin olive oils and pure balsamic vinegars, the difference is easy to notice. The higher quality olive oils and vinegars have a more pronounced flavor profile.

"Not only are you putting something healthier and better on your food, you are probably not going to use as much," co-owner Krista Steele said.

Common uses include drizzling balsamic on fresh fruit and vegetables or dunking bread in a small dish of olive oil. The owners also suggest drizzling on ice cream or yogurt; using instead of jam or flavored syrup; or adding as a sauce to meat.

"The balsamics are thick enough that if you wanted to drizzle it as a sauce, like the blackberry on some duck, would be amazing," Steele said.

It is a convenient and quick way to add depth of flavor when sauteing or finishing dishes after it is cooked.

The high-quality oils can be cooked with up to 400-425 degrees because of the lower amount of free fatty acids, which is achieved by an early harvest, Beatty added.

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Old World Imports brings a new experience to Fayetteville, with a tasting room of high-quality olive oils and balsamic vineg... (By: Amber Stanley-Kruth)

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In addition to the diverse selection of pure and flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars, such as the basil-lemongrass and... (By: Amber Stanley-Kruth)

It also makes cooking preparation easier, as one doesn't need to finely chop garlic, onions or herbs. The flavors will be also a fresh experience in the off season, when fresh herbs and vegetables aren't as prevalent.

The extra virgin olive oils and pure balsamic vinegars are staples, however an unexpected customer favorite is the hickory balsamic. As a substitute for barbecue sauce, it has no corn syrup, added sugar or caramel color.

The possibilities extend much beyond use of an individual flavored oil or vinegar. There are more than 900 paired combinations of flavored olive oils and vinegars, and nearly 1,500 if one includes the extra virgin olive oils and pure balsamic vinegars.

Open the thought process to adding flavor to sparkling soda or cocktails and the possibilities grow.

With the pure and natural quality of the olive oils and balsamic vinegars offered at Old World Imports, customers can be confident in their purchase.

Additionally, the sampling process allows first-hand experience to make decisions. Although that does not mean that making decisions will be simple.

Most people have to debate after several tastings which ones they will take home this time and which one they will have to come back for, Steele said.

Old World Imports supports other local, small businesses by carrying Gina's Authentic Salsa; Sipes Busy Bee pure and nature honey; Baba Boudan's roasted coffee beans; and Pennington butcher block-style cutting boards and utensils made with a mixture of local wood.

The shop is adding salt and spices, including fine chili powders, Pyramid salts, and seasoning blends to add to oil for dunking bread.

"There will always be new and interesting things added to our selection," Beatty said.

Build-your-own gift baskets and gift certificates are also available.

NAN Dining Guide Cover on 07/25/2014

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