“Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters.” The lyrics to the Irving Berlin song from the movie “White Christmas” came to mind when I sat down with Jennifer Pardy and her sister-in-law Cheryl Pardy, co-owners of O’Leva Oils and Vins Tasting Room, 390 Topsail Rd. (next to the Rogers store in the Shoppers Drug Mart strip mall).
The upbeat song continues, “Two different faces, but in tight places we think and we act as one.”
In telling me about their new business, selling premium olive oils and vinegars, the Pardys would enthusiastically finish each other’s sentences.
It was as though they couldn’t get the information out fast enough. The song seemed apt.
O’Leva Oils and Vins is a bright, roomy store. Large windows at the front cast light on row upon row of island shelving.
Each island has placed on it six fustis (canisters). Some fustis contain olive oil and some vinegar.
The open shelves below are filled with empty, dark green bottles of various sizes to hold whatever amount of oil or vinegar you’d like to purchase.
Olive oils and condimental (not vintage) balsamic vinegars cost the same. You can buy 60 mL for $6, 200 mL at $14, 375 mL at $22 or 750 mL for $32. Black truffle, cayenne and sesame oils are in a separate price range.
Apart from the oils and vinegars, O’Leva Oils and Vins also carry a range of pastas from Pasta Mama’s of Washington State, some of which are flavoured, and a range of all natural, organic dips, sauces and rubs from Robert Rothschild Farm of Urbana, Ohio.
These products, however, take a back seat to the oils and vinegars that dominate O’Leva Oils and Vins in their sparkling, stainless steel fustis.
All oils and vinegars at O’Leva Oils and Vins are supplied exclusively by the California based Veronica Foods Company, importer of 100 million gallons of extra virgin olive oil yearly from both hemispheres.
Currently O’Leva Oils and Vins have a supply of flavoured and various extra virgin olive oils, mostly from the southern hemisphere. They have names like Koroneiki, Coratina, FS17, Hojiblanca, Frantoio, Leccino and Upper Moutere. Some are mild with hints of mashed banana and grass, while others range from peppery to take-your-breath-away hot.
Jennifer Pardy likens olive oil to wine in that individual taste determines what you buy.
“It’s your choice as to whether you like deep, dark wine or say, a white wine. I think it’s the same for olive oils.”
Of course, only top quality olive oils would be paid such attention and the co-owners are confident that the olive oils they sell are worthy of consideration by discerning palates. Cheryl explained “quality” this way:
“The grocery store brands use a process that yields more juice, allowing them to sell olive oil for a cheaper price, which is not behind the philosophy of our products. We mull fresh olives that are picked at a specific time in their growth process and we grind them at a certain temperature, which yields less juice. All of our olive oils are then taken to a lab and processed to yield chemistry (nutritional properties). Most grocery store olive oils have had most of the chemistry burned off in the processing of the olive oil. That’s what differentiates us from most any other olive oil brands in the world.”
One tidbit of information I found most interesting was that O’Leva Oils and Vins claim their olive oil has a higher smoking point than grocery store olive oils. Why? It’s because, according to Jennifer, “the healthy chemistry isn’t burnt off of it. Its tolerance to heat is higher because of the polyphenol levels, so it allows for a little more abuse on it than the grocery store kinds because it wasn’t heated up during the processing that yields the juice to make the olive oil.”
If true, this means I may now be able to use olive oil in frying, sautéeing and baking without fear of it burning and making nasty stains on my pots and pans.
One of the infused olive oils I tasted at O’Leva Oils and Vins, called Butter Olive Oil, would be a prime candidate for baking especially.
Its remarkable buttery aroma and taste was accomplished by taking a molecule from butter and creating a natural flavouring to add to the oil. O’Leva Oils and Vins provide a most helpful conversion chart that allows you to convert butter amounts to the equivalent Butter Olive Oil amounts when using recipes that call for butter.
Apart from everything else, we’ve known since the 1980s — when the Mediterranean diet was all the rage — that olive oil is better for you than many other fats. Jennifer reminded me of just how healthful it is.
“Our olive oil,” she said, “decreases atherosclerosis, it decreases glucose levels in your arteries by the mono-unsaturated fats, allowing the blood stream not to absorb as much fat. Basically you should consume olive oil because the health properties of olive oil have the antioxidants in them (inhibitors of oxidization which in all forms ages us). Vitamin E is a component in the polyphenols, which is the antioxidant. The mono-unsaturated fats are the good, healthy fats that you want to consume to help with cholesterol levels, which in turn help with our disease.”
“By lowering your cholesterol you’re lowering the amount of atherosclerotic plaque on your arteries. Olive oil is your best consumed fat and your best cooking option because it contains all of these health properties.
“Can you go to a grocery store and yield any chemistry from any olive oil off the shelf? No. None of it is labelled on it. Every one of our olive oils has its exact components labelled right on it.”
My conversation with the Pardy sisters-in-law ended on a sweet and delicious note. They served me a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with drizzles of their Blood Orange Extra Virgin Olive Oil and their All Natural Dark Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar. It was a good illustration of how you need to leave conventional thinking about olive oils and vinegars at the door when entering O’Leva Oils and Vins.
It’s innovative and exciting territory in the field of natural, healthful culinary ingredients. I think curious cooks, foodies and the St. John’s culinary community may well embrace this new venture.
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For regular updates on “One Chef One Critic,” my Telegram Dining Out column and the latest developments on the local culinary scene, please follow me on Twitter @karl_wells
Karl Wells is an accredited personal chef and recipient of awards from the national body of the Canadian Culinary Federation and the Restaurant Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. He is also a restaurant panellist with enRoute Magazine. Contact him through his website, www.karlwells.com.