(credit: Thinkstock)

By Christine Hinrichs

Ever since returning from Boston, I’ve been wishing for another opportunity to taste olive oils. Turns out, I am kind of a fan of drinking straight olive oil! It’s rich and delicious and it just makes everything taste better. The Oilerie is a store devoted to selling Italian olive oils and vinegars with a few locations around the country and one in Maple Grove.

(credit: Christine Hinrichs)

But the newest Oilerie store happens to be right in my Grand Avenue neighborhood in St. Paul. Chosen for its location in the midst of St. Paul foodies, the Oilerie offers you the chance to taste olive oils and balsamic vinegars before you buy. You might be thinking—wait, don’t all olive oils taste the same? Well you would be wrong! Pure olive oils can be mildly flavored or more robust. They can be organic. They can Italian, Greek, or Spanish. And each variety has its own, unique flavor that can further complement what you are cooking. The olive oils are kept in large, metal vats and next to each one is a stack of tiny paper cups, allowing you to sneak a taste. And the people at the Oilerie cook with these oils often and can help you find the best olive oil for your uses!

(credit: Christine Hinrichs)

In addition to their selection of plain olive oils, the Oilerie features some delicious-sounding infused olive oils that use their mild Italian olive oil as the base. I stopped to drool over the truffle-infused oil and was convinced to fill up a little tasting cup. It was smooth and earthy, and would be a delicious addition to a pizza or a baked macaroni and cheese dish. But the jug that caught my eye was the garlic-infused oil. First, I love olive oil. Second, I love garlic. It just makes sense to put them together! And on the card, it recommended the garlic oil for use in popcorn. I was sold right there and then. I purchased my bottle and headed home to try out this new popcorn combination!

(credit: Christine Hinrichs)

I am partial to traditionally popped popcorn, as opposed to microwaved, so it was easy for me to substitute the oil for the copious amounts of butter usually in the bags. Once my popcorn had popped, I lightly drizzled some of the precious garlic oil over the popcorn and topped it with a sprinkling of salt and some grated Parmesan cheese. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten popcorn so fast in my entire life. It was insane (and healthy)! I am already dreaming up new uses for my garlic olive oil.

In short, olive oil tasting is something everybody should try, just for the experience. There’s nothing quite like drinking a small cup of olive oil and really tasting it in it’s pure form, without bread or any other side. Not only does the Oilerie offer you the opportunity to taste olive oils, they also have a selection of flavored balsamic vinegars and other products for you to taste and enjoy. You might be surprised at the varieties you end up with.