Around the room, customers read description cards aloud: “Moderate pepper and bite with a clean finish,” and “Green-apple notes with hints of almond.” This may sound like a wine tasting in action, but it’s actually a tasting with a decidedly more culinary bent: olive oil. Tasting bars dedicated to the Mediterranean nectar of the gods have popped up from coast to coast, and whether you’re serious about cooking or just serious about, well, sampling these little nerve centers of flavor, they give customers a chance to taste and compare. “People love coming to our store to learn, socialize and try the different products,” says Charlie Ruehr, co-founder of Pure Mountain Olive Oil in New York. “We share recipes with customers, and customers share cooking ideas with each other.”
With shiny metal canisters of artisanal oils and glass bottles ready for filling, these shops offer not only olive oils but balsamic vinegars, with suggestions for their complex pairings. While the olive oils (infused with anything from garlic to truffles) are dashing on their own, when served in tandem with vinegars enlivened by flavors like grapefruit or espresso, a whole different level of foodie bliss is revealed. Trust us: Try one of these tasting bars, and you’ll never be able to return to the grocery-store variety of olive oil again. Here’s where to get your taste on:
Pure Mountain Olive Oil
Rhinebeck and Tarrytown, N.Y.
Knowledgeable employees at both locations north of New York City share information on the benefits of olive oil and the process behind making it.
The Olive Bar
Campbell, Calif. (just outside of San Jose)
The friendly staff offer an international selection; they also import high-quality coconut oil.
Boston Olive Oil Company
The company boasts artisanal cooking products in the heart of dignified Newbury Street.
Beacon and New Paltz, N.Y.
Less than two hours north of Manhattan, these two Hudson Valley locations let you bring your own jars if you like.