Olive You

Dear Dara takes on the salty, savory, occasionally even burning issue of olive bars in our time

Does any of this mean anything? Probably not, but one runs out of new things to say about this gleaming, marble-accented Italian specialty grocer in Lilydale, and by the time I got myself all sorted out I had hold of the best Kalamata olive I've ever had. It was one of 17 on offer at Buon Giorno, specifically a single-estate Kalamata from the Greek prefecture of Messinia ($10.99 a pound), and it tasted sweet, floral, and big, like a big tea-rose bloom made of olive. I tried a number of other fantastic olives from Buon Giorno, including fat green and black Cerignolas of remarkable purity and lightness ($14.99), and the best pitted black olives I've ever encountered: They were Sicilian Serecene olives tossed with oil and herbs, including dried rosemary, and they had a rich, salty taste and a finish like applewood-smoked bacon. I was telling a new friend about the olives at Buon Giorno while I was writing this story, and she rushed out to buy a bunch of Buon Giorno olives for her sweetheart as a Valentine gift. She reported they were a big hit. Do you, too, rank olives as equal to roses and chocolate bonbons? If so, Buon Giorno. (Buon Giorno Italia, 981 Sibley Memorial Hwy., Lilydale, 651.905.1081; www.buongiornoitalia.biz)

And so, dear Andrea, we have reached the moment of truth. How does your beloved Surdyk's stack up? Actually, very, very well. On my visit, Surdyk's was selling 19 olives from pretty crockery jars, and everything I tasted was marvelous. Surdyk's certainly has the best French olives in the area, bar none—I counted eight different French varieties when I stopped in. The Nicoise ($8.39) were wee, oaky, wine-echoing, smoky-scented beauties. The French cocktail Bernier ($7.99) bore the tart imprint of sea winds on an anise and tarragon meadow. Your beloved Lucques ($9.99) were sweet and pure—Lucques in their best state are described as the vanilla ice-cream olive, for they have such a rich, light, sunlight-and-daffodil personality. These were indeed in great condition, and were in fact better than the much pricier Lucques on offer at Buon Giorno, which cost $16.29. I'm guessing the quality difference might turn entirely on you, Andrea, for you might yourself eat enough of the things to keep turnover high and the olives of freshest possible quality. (Surdyk's Cheese Shop; 303 E. Hennepin Ave. Minneapolis; 612.379.3232; www.surdyks.com) Which brings us to the bad news.

Olive bounty: The impressive array of Olea europaea at Surdyk's
Daniel Corrigan
Olive bounty: The impressive array of Olea europaea at Surdyk's

Andrea: There are other great olive bars in the Twin Cities, but none better than your precious Surdyk's. In the great scheme of things, in a world of many great olives in many fine places, the issue becomes not who has the best olives, but who has the best olives for you. Andrea? It's time to buy the ring.

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