Free Tastings of Gourmet Flavored Oil and Vinegar at Olive & Vine

Categories: Local Spotlight

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White truffle oil is dispensed directly from the stainless steel fusti.
In Europe, where small specialty shops abound, it wouldn't be unusual to find a store that specializes in selling extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. But in a city like Houston that is home to mega grocery behemoths like Central Market and Whole Foods, it's not just unusual but a nice surprise too.

Located in the CityCentre off of I-10 and Beltway 8, the husband and wife-owned Olive & Vine sells the kind of stuff you'd find in an upscale farmers' market - fresh, straight-from-the-farm, imported extra virgin olive oils and aged balsamic vinegars from Modena, Italy.

When you walk in, they'll tell you a bit about the merits of the EVOO and why grocery store-bought EVOO won't taste as good, and while it's good to know, all you really need to do is taste. The difference is there for you to experience, and Olive & Vine is set up for you to do exactly that. It's a taste-before-you-buy kind of place, and when you find what you want, they'll bottle it right in front of you.

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Extra Virgin Olive Oil flavors like Meyer Lemon were fun to taste
I hadn't planned on being one of those people who taste everything, but everything tasted so good that I couldn't help myself. Instead of a quick in-and-out visit, I spent the better part of an hour tasting all 18 olive oils and 18 balsamic vinegars in the store.

EVOO flavors like Cilantro and Golden Roasted Onion, Herbes De Provence, Tuscan Bouquet, Meyer Lemon and Rich Roasted Garlic were standouts because I could immediately imagine how I'd use them. The Meyer Lemon would be excellent on fish, for instance. The Rich Roasted Garlic would go great with any type of bread, while the Herbes de Provence would make a wonderful chicken marinade.

The pre-mixed balsamic vinegar and EVOO combinations were even more notable in terms of flavor. A Strawberry Blush balsamic mixed with Meyer Lemon EVOO was fruity, fragrant and tangy, and I knew without a doubt that this combination would make a wonderful salad dressing. A Peach Mist Balsamic with Tuscan Bouquet EVOO was likewise extremely flavorful and refreshing, while a Chocolate Decadence Balsamic paired with Smokey Chipotle EVOO had me imagining how my friends would ooh and ahh if I served it.

More so than the oils, I enjoyed tasting the aged balsamic vinegars. Flavors like Summer Blueberry Balsamic, Peach Mist, and Tangy Tangerine captured the essence of the fruit, were wonderful on the nose, like a good wine, and tasted delicious. The Traditional Balsamic Condimento, aged up to 18 years, was one of the best I'd ever tried, thick and sweet, almost like a balsamic reduction.

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Convenient taster cups are available to taste each flavor

I'm a grocery store geek who likes to roam the aisles to find that one-of-a-kind gourmet condiment. But more often than not, I'll buy things I haven't tasted and leave it there on the shelf, not knowing how to use it. This isn't what happened when I took home bottles of Strawberry Blush Balsamic and Meyer Lemon EVOO, which are nearly half gone in the two weeks since I got them. Both were bottled right in front of me in dark glass jars to preserve their freshness, and since I chose the smaller size, they were just $9.99 each.

In fact, the price was the nicest surprise. Considering the quality, I would have been more than happy to pay more, but virtually everything in the store is a flat rate price of $9.99 for a 200ml bottle (white truffle oil is $19.99). So be forewarned, because even though the tastings are free, when you taste, you'll want to buy, and at that price, it's easy to buy too many.



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Olive & Vine

12848 Queensbury Lane, Houston, TX

Category: General


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12 comments
Jay Francis
Jay Francis

A similar store, and a very fine one, waaaaaaaay up in the Woodlands is "Oil and Vinegar". I've been making the trek up there for several years to purchase their pomegranate infused olive oil. When I saute with it, people go "What is the incredible flavor?"

Hebert
Hebert

I visited such a shop in France.  They sell olive oil and items made with it.  Upon entering, we were offered tastings of a variety of olive oils.  These weren't flavored oils, but oils made from different varieties of olives, each with a distinctly different flavor.  I've revisited the shop on return trips not to buy their oil, but to buy their cookies.  Yes, cookies made with olive oil instead of butter -- if you appreciate the flavor of olive oil, they're the best tasting cookies ever.

Mark W
Mark W

Jesus Christ on a toast, the truffle oil is the best damn oil I ever had. In fact, I can still remember the beautiful sensation linger in my mouth after I took a sip / shot of it instead of dab it with the free bread. Please note that they also sell olive oil based lotion and other health care products and it is really, really good. It doesn't smell synthetic and your skin actually feels cooler after putting it on. We didn't buy the oil or vinegar, but we bought the lotion for both sex usage. Lastly, you didn't describe how awesome of them to seal the bottling in your face with a "faux wax" seal and they have to use a hair dryer to heat the seal up. I think that was one of the nifty part of the bottling service.

Ansfws
Ansfws

Wow this great!! So much better than all the expired, rancid olive oils at Spec's!

Stella Blanca
Stella Blanca

Love OLIVE & VINE!  The place is fantastic.  So many different flavors and varieties of oils and vinegars.  I had no idea how clueless I was about EVOO and balsamic before I went here.  Now I'm spoiled and can never go back to the regular stuff - but the good news is, it's SOOOOOO affordable, that I don't have to feel bad about it!  And at first I thought it was a bit of a hike all the way to CITYCENTRE, but if I-10 is clear, it's truly under 15 minutes from my house in Montrose or my office in Upper Kirby.  Not that I would mind them opening a second inner-loop location...

Christina Uticone
Christina Uticone

Oh! A friend just told me about this place. Thanks for the heads up!

Steve - AllGoodBeer
Steve - AllGoodBeer

Was just there for the first time last week.  Some great tasting EVOO and vinegars. The prices are very reasonable, hope they're able to sell enough to stay around.  Balsamic vinegar is great on ice cream too.

Scott Lynch
Scott Lynch

Well now I know where I'm going to pick out an olive oil to make ice cream out of.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

I visited a similar shop in Paris, as well. Olive & Vine have only been open a couple of months. Maybe with the passing of the new Texas Cottage Food Bill, which allows home bakers to sell commercially - we may see olive oil cookies there one day too. 

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

I can't believe you made it out of there with lotion instead of oil & vinegar! To be honest,  I barely glanced at the lotions because I was so focused on the tastings but will try them next time. And you're right, the bottling with the faux wax seal is pretty cool, indeed. 

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

The difference IS remarkable. The bottle of balsamic from Modena in my cupboard was ok when I didn't have something else to compare it with, but tasted flat and almost rancid in comparison to the Strawberry Balsamic I brought home, so I chucked the old bottle. 

Also, just got word that they're getting ready to re-stock with fresh new product and are having a 25% off sale to make room for the new product.  Going back this week!

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