Four companies in Calgary offering exquisite oils and vinegars from all over the world.

The difference between good food and exquisite food is all in the details – a perfectly ripe tomato, fresh-made pasta, and the hand of a master chef with just the right amount of spices… or simple, fresh ingredients served with nothing more than a perfect olive oil and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Five years ago, finding gourmet oils and vinegars here was not easy, but Calgary now has four companies offering exquisite oils and vinegars from all over the world, either pure and fresh, or flavoured with herbs, spices, and essential oils. You can also find these fresh, imported goods at most of our farmers’ markets. Keep some stocked in your kitchen cabinets and it will be easy to add a unique touch to dinner any night of the week.

Wondering what to start with? Gord Fontaine, of Soffrito’s, says that you will start to wonder what you have been eating your whole life until now, if you try a blood orange agrumato olive oil with cranberry pear white balsamic vinegar on a salad or even a bit of bread. “Bright, fresh, sunshine-y, big happy flavours on a warm day,” he says. A way to bring summer back to your mouth this winter? Why not!

Hereare a few things to keep in mind when you’re picking out artisan oil and vinegars in Calgary.

Buy local, buy fresh

Fontaine, owner of Soffritto’s Oil + Vinegar bar in Fish Creek Village, says that he just loves to see Albertan faces when people discover the taste difference that freshly imported olive oil can make.

Olive oil that you buy on the shelves in a typical grocery store might be two to seven years old. But Gord knows people who supply him with oil from California as soon as three weeks after it’s pressed, and Australian oil as soon as five weeks after pressing.

Ask about the crush date when you go in to buy olive oil anywhere, he says. It’s the most important aspect if you want prime flavour and quality.

Tuscan Herb Olive Oil is Fontaine’s everyday go-to to cook or finish with. Pizza, Greek salads, and pasta all enjoy a little touch of it with his favourite Peach White Balsamic Vinegar, which he says is crisp but a little sharp in acidity.

He says this idea from Food Network Canada’s David Rocco is one of his favourites:

Spaghetti ala caprese
1. Take basil leaves, fresh mozzarella*, and ripe red tomatoes
2. Add hot fresh pasta, extra virgin olive oil, and a little hot pasta water
3. Drizzle with garlic olive oil and basil olive oil – Fontaine says that the oil tastes so intensely good that you can nearly get away without using any real basil (but he wouldn’t – it’s better with the greens in the dish).
*(such as Calgary’s own fiore di latte)

2116, 380 Canyon Meadows Drive SE, and Calgary Farmers’ Market, soffritto.ca

Health starts with quality

In West Springs, Bruce and Courtney Gillis of Blue Door, say that they enjoy educating customers about the health benefits of great olive oil at their tasting room. They love to share their knowledge of what they call a “fascinating golden elixir,“ and have hosted many seminars and workshops for the community.

Bruce says that whether it’s taste, health benefit, or ability to cook with the oils, it all comes back to the quality of the oil you start with. Bruce’s favourite flavoured olive oil at Blue Door is their Rosemary-infused Olive Oil, paired with Neapolitan Herb Balsamic Vinegar. Courtney’s two favourites are the Garlic Infused Olive Oil and Maple Balsamic Vinegar.

8561 8A Ave SW and 14555 Symons Valley Road NW bluedoorcalgary.com

Other options for oils and vinegars

Oliv has tasting rooms all over Canada, from Toronto to Moose Jaw. Visit olivtastingroom.ca for other locations, information, and recipes. Their Calgary shop is on Kensington Road.

Oil & Vinegar stores in Alberta are the first stores for this company here in Canada. This company started in the UK and has spread to 12 countries so far. Calgary has stores in Willow Park and TD Square. See oilvinegar.com for mouth-watering photos and recipes.

On Tap in Okotoks and Bragg Creek Oil & Vinegar, and Banff Oil & Vinegar Market offer you three other local proprietors of oil and vinegar to try the next time you’re on a road trip.

Definition: Agrumato, or fused, olive oils are made by pressing fresh whole fruits, herbs, or chilli peppers together with the olives right in the press.
Infused oils, by contrast, are made by storing the oil in containers with the various flavouring agents. Vinegars can also be fused or infused.

Tasting Experiences: All of the stores listed in this article offer in-store tasting of products before you buy. If you would like a tasting event for a party or get-together, Soffritto’s will bring one to you. Get creative! There’s so much to learn and enjoy.

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