This shop focuses on two main things: olive oil (obviously) and balsamic vinegar. There are many flavors of used/infused olive oils, including lemon, blood orange, Persian lime, cayenne chili pepper, wild mushroom and sage, cilantro and roasted onion, Tuscan herb. What sets this shop apart from other olive oil shops I've been to is the friendly service and knowledge offered up by the owners, Donna and Joel Woelfel. Donna is a foodie and avid cook who clearly knows her stuff when it comes to cooking, especially Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes. She takes the time to explain not only the health benefits and flavors of each oil, but can also recommend exactly how to use, and what to cook with them to get the best results. She lists recipes on their web site using many of their products. Their goal is to change the way people perceive and consume olive oil and vinegar through information and first hand experiences, which is exactly what you'll find at The Olive Tree.
All the oils and vinegars are lined up and ready for tasting with tiny pieces of crusty bread. I learned on this visit that many people like to actually sip their olive oil when tasting. They offer up samples of chocolate brownies made with blood orange olive oil instead of butter to show you the unique uses of their products. On this particular day, they had brownies made with cayenne pepper infused olive oil and cinnamon. They were slightly spicy and delicious -- the olive oil gives the brownies such a great texture, not to mention being a much healthier baking ingredient than butter.
On the left side of the shop, all the balsamic vinegars line the wall. Flavors range from black mission fig to cinnamon pear to pomegranate. I even tried a dark chocolate vinegar, drizzled over vanilla ice cream. This was amazing! I had a hard time choosing which flavor to buy as I liked so many, but in the end, I went for the traditional balsamic. While all the fused vinegars tasted awesome, I found the traditional to be different than any balsamic I've had before. It almost tasted like a balsamic reduction, which Donna explained is due to the aging process thee vinegars go through. They all are produced in Modena, Italy and imported to the shop.
The Olive Tree also offers handmade pastas, sauces and olive spreads that you can grab for a special dinner or night of entertaining.
Over here, the gourmet "non-olive" oils -- truffle oils, sesame oil, almond oil, walnut oil, etc. All these can be used for cooking specialty recipes. Aside from sesame oil, I haven't really ventured into cooking with specialty oils like this, but after learning more I would be interested to try.
And the icing on the cake: every item you buy gets gift wrapped. Even if it's not a gift! In addition to my own bottle of balsamic, I picked up a basil infused olive oil as a hostess gift for a New Year's Eve party I'm headed to. Both got wrapped up beautifully. The Olive Tree is located at 10115 Montague St. Tampa, FL 33626 and their phone number is (813) 920-4781.