I spent the night of my birthday in the emergency room with my husband. (He's feeling much better now!) But as soon as he was well enough, we decided to celebrate my special day in grand style! We began our celebration with a trip to our local Olive Oil tasting bar, Olive Grand. I've never been much of a barfly, but that could all change now. This fabulous marketplace sells the most wonderful olive oils and balsamic vinegars (balsamic is my one true weakness), along with an assortment of teas, pasta, spices, cookbooks, and artistic treasures.
As part of Eugene's First Friday Artwalk, several artisans were in attendance at Olive Grand the evening we visited. Giovanni Angello, owner of Sorella Luna Gallery in Portland was there showing off his spectacularly beautiful imported pottery from Deruda, Italy. (I'll write more about Giovanni and his amazing gallery in a future post, so stay tuned!)
How blessed I feel to have been gifted with this gorgeous cheese plate. Thank you, Giovanni! It makes me wish I had some lovely Dr. Cow Tree Nut Cheeses or Ste Martaan on hand. (Click on the pic to see a more detailed closeup of this colorful plate.)
Michelle McLaughlin of Copper Moon Artisans was there, with some of her partner Chardin Reascos' beautiful pre-Columbian-inspired embossed copper designs on handmade paper made from recycled newspaper and banana leaves.
Owners Tamara and Michael have created a beautiful and inviting haven for foodies and art lovers, alike. But the centerpiece of Olive Grand is the tasting bar, where you can sample shots of delectably flavored extra-virgin olive oils paired with some of the most amazing flavor-infused balsamic vinegars. Here, Tamara is pouring Mark one of his favorites, Blood Orange Olive Oil with Chocolate Balsamic!
As with wine tasting, there's an art to tasting olive oil and balsamic vinegar. You want to first warm the cup between your hands, then swirl the oil and vinegar around, take a small sip, and let the flavors melt on your tongue before swallowing.
I prefer to dip a small piece of Italian bread into the delicious mixture. This time it's a citrusy Lemon Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Blueberry Balsamic. It reminded me of a lemon and blueberry poppyseed muffin. So good!!!
The most difficult part of visiting Olive Grand is deciding which flavors to take home with you. They're all so amazing. In addition to the two pairings mentioned above we also tasted Peach Olive Oil with Cherry Balsamic and Rosemary Olive Oil with Chocolate Balsamic, which were both crazy good!
Explore these along with all of their other incredible flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars online at Olive Grand. And don't fret if you find something that sounds enticing. (Did I mention their Chardonnay Wine Vinegar?) They can ship to anywhere in the US and Canada.
Here's a quick and easy appetizer that will make your tongue dance. You can choose any combination of olive oil and balsamic. Let your creativity run wild!
Dreamy Basil and Balsamic Bruschetta
1/2 cup balsamic (I used fig)
2-3 Tbs olive oil (I used lemon)
1 large tomato, diced small
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped fine
salt and pepper to taste
10-12 slices Italian or French bread
Place olive oil and balsamic in a small bowl. Stir gently to combine. Add chopped tomato and basil and mix to coat. Toast bread slices, and spoon mixture over bread. Serve immediately. Makes 4-6 servings.
And now for the really fun part: One lucky reader is going to win a fabulous Mediterranean Bread Dipping Set—complete with a delicately balanced Spanish Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a sweet and syrupy Fig Balsamic Vinegar (my personal favorite!), and Olive Grand's own Mediterranean Bread Dipping Spice Blend with hints of Lemon and Garlic. The set also comes with two beautiful pour spouts so you can control how much you pour and savor the precious contents of your new bottles awhile longer. This is truly a Mediterranean food-lover's dream!
To enter to win, simply visit Olive Grand's website and come back here and leave a comment telling me which oil and vinegar pairing sounds most delicious to you. Please do make sure to include your email address in your comment so I can contact you
if when you win.
If you'd like to earn additional entries, you can do any or all of the following. (Please leave a separate comment for each action you take, and you'll receive an additional entry for each one!)
1. Follow this blog by clicking the "Follow" link in the upper left-hand corner of this page.
2. "Like" Olive Grand on Facebook.
3. Follow Hungry Vegan on Networked Blogs.
4. Follow me on Twitter.
5. Tweet this message: Enter to #win a Mediterranean Food-lover's Olive Oil & Balsamic Bread-Dipping Set from @Vegiegail & @OliveGrand! http://bit.ly/fXT0xx
The winner will be chosen at random before my next post. Good luck! Oh, and I'll be sharing the rest of how we celebrated my birthday in my next delicious post. Ciao!