Top 5: Olive oils for those looking beyond supermarket shelves


Sick of your economy-sized Roundy's brand extra virgin olive oil staring at you from the counter? Sure, it does the job, but it's kind of like Yellow Tail wine: At some point, it's just time to move on. Or maybe you're just trying to cut butter out of your diet and looking for alternatives (can't say we really endorse that though). Olive oil's been kind of taking off in the last few months in the Twin Cities, with three new specialty shops opening up in the area -- Annona Gourmet, Vinaigrette, and Olive Grove Olive Oil Company. We chatted recently with Natalie Jaeger, who owns Olive Grove Olive Oil Company in Mendota Heights. Here are her Top 5 suggestions for those looking to take that next little step with olive oil.

1. Castile olive oil, from Spain. Olive Grove sells 10 different kinds of "natural-flavored olive oils," which Jaeger says "just means it comes from the first pressing of the olive, with no other flavor added to it." The one she she most often recommends -- which also happens to be her personal favorite -- is a Spanish castile olive oil. A deep yellow color, "It has a full-bodied, rich flavor with accents of green olive," Jaeger says.

2. Picholine, from France. Picholine olive oil is another one Jaeger frequently recommends for customers who are looking for a basic, everyday oil that improves on what they've relied on in the past. This particular one has the added bonus of having a high level of anti-oxidants in it, the highest of all in the store in fact, Jaeger says. "This one is really popular," she says. "People love it." The picholine has a lighter color, more yellowy-green. "It has a lot of different flavors in it. It tastes green, a little fruity, sweet, but then at the end it's bitter" (which isn't a bad thing). And, what, you might ask, makes olive oil have higher or lower levels of anti-oxidants? High anti-oxidant levels indicate the olive was harvested early, Jaeger says. "The earlier the harvest, the more flavor and more anti-oxidants its going to have."

3. Chemlali olive, a Phoenician. Many people seek out olive oil for reasons less to do with flavor enhancement in cooking than with dietary concerns. "We get a ton of people who come in from Weight Watchers who want to use olive oil instead of butter," Jaeger says. In this case she directs them toward one of two different oils she stocks that taste a lot like butter. One is a Phoenician olive oil made with the chemlali olive. "This one has a very buttery flavor," she says.

4. Mission olive, from California. Olive oil, as many already know, contains "good" monounsaturated fats instead of saturated fats contained in butter, which is one reason some people to try to incorporate it into their diets more. The other buttery-flavored oil Jaeger recommends is made with a California mission olive. Like the chemlali, the mission is versatile and utilitarian. "You can drizzle these olive oils over a baked potato ... You can put it on fat free popcorn ...," she says.


5. Flavored olive oil. Olive Grove also has a number of flavored olive oils, and for someone not necessarily ready to try blood orange or chipotle olive oil, Jaeger also sells a number of more approachable, familiar flavors. For newbies, she most often recommends lemon, garlic or a Tuscan herb blend (the store's most popular flavored oil).

Jaeger says flavored oils you typically find at the supermarket have been infused, meaning the flavor was added later, whereas her flavored oils contain fruits or herbs that were crushed and added to the olives right at the press.

Flavored oils are good on top of veggies, she says, or even as a standalone pasta sauce. Some other ideas: Mix in with mashed or roasted potatoes or even in scrambled eggs.

All of the store's oils sell for $14.50-$15.50 for a 375ml bottle.

Olive Grove Olive Oil Company 720 Main Street, #105 Mendota Heights, MN 55118 651.686.4710