My wife and I just returned from a fun evening of tasting a variety of olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Sound strange? Aren’t those just things you buy at the grocery store for the cheapest price because they all taste the same? Sure, if you only ever bought them from a supermarket, like we have. Enter Evoolution on the 4th Street Promenade, their selection of dozens of olive oils, dozens of balsamic vinegar, and their tastings.
Tastings, which are apparently pretty popular – we were joined by 6 other couples/friends (14 people total) this particular evening – give you an opportunity to learn all about the different types, flavours, and intricacies of olive oils and balsamic vinegars. The owner/manager and our tasting guide for the evening, Curtis, let us browse the small shop for a bit before we started; I admit to being a bit overwhelmed by the number of choices, each in their own fusti, lining the sides and centre of the shop. Where does one begin with so much choice?
We started out with a bit of history about the store, a short video about the making of olive oil, and an explanation of the process that makes for a truly good extra virgin olive oil, how to keep it, and for how long. In the meantime, we were served some refreshing Italian sodas flavoured with some of the white balsamic vinegars; one was made with cranberry pear, another with cara cara orange vanilla.
The tastings started with discussing how to sample olive oil (warm it in your hand first, then “slurp” it with some air to get the full flavour), and the difference between a mild Italian olive oil, and a robust Greek oil. For example, the former was smooth and fruity, while the later was more peppery, flowery, and tingled the back of the throat.
What followed was a course of deli sliced meats, cheese, breads, and spreads made with the infused oils and vinegars. Bottles of various oils and vinegars were provided for us to try in various combinations with the food, including Harrisa – a spicy chili-infused oil (a personal favourite, the spice lingers nicely on the tongue), a garlic oil, wild mushroom & sage oil, a black truffle oil, a juniper berry dark balsamic vinegar, and a mission fig balsamic vinegar.
The second course was a caprese crostini with pesto and a dark balsamic vinegrette, and prosciutto-wrapped pineapple with mango white balsamic reduction, served with another round of Italian sodas made with the same mango balsamic vinegar.
Before the final course, we sampled some 18-year traditional dark balsamic vinegar. It was not nearly as tart or acidic as supermarket vinegar, it was in fact quite sweet, something you could easily pour over a dessert on its own.
Speaking of dessert, the final course served was a mousse made with Persian lime olive oil, and a variety of fruit to be sampled with another selection of vinegars and oils – this time, blood orange oil, dark chocolate balsamic vinegar, and – my favourite of the evening – Vermont maple balsamic vinegar.
After the tasting was over, we were able to purchase any of the oils and vinegars for 10% off. We decided to get some of the sweet, sweet maple vinegar, a lemongrass mint white balsamic vinegar, some of the Persian lime oil, and a roasted walnut oil.
Based on the number of varieties we bought, I think it’s safe to say we were no longer intimidated by the selection.
Tasting fancy olive oils and vinegars may seem kind of hipster or even a bit frou-frou, but it was very educational and fun, not to mention tasty! If you like food and cooking, and like being a bit adventurous, I highly recommend signing up for one of these events. It’s certainly something a little different for a date night!
10130 104 St. NW
Edmonton, AB T5J 1A7