Olive oil is a staple in most home kitchens. And it’s touted by chefs, in cookbook recipes and on cooking shows. But not everyone who uses extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) knows what the “extra-virgin” label actually means. According to Bon Appétit, it’s the highest designation of quality given to olive oil, which means the product is unrefined, is free of chemicals and has never been treated with heat. The preparation of the oil makes all the difference.
So, when Sharon Kirkey and her husband, Dave, ventured into the world of selling olive oils and balsamic vinegars, their priority was quality. The couple, who are passionate about Mediterranean food, had purchased some imported oils and enjoyed them so much, they decided to contact the importers and bring the high-quality products to Eastern Arizona.
Pinetop Olive Oil opened in March 2013, selling EVOO imported from places such as Italy, Spain and Greece. “We research our oils very well,” Sharon says. “All of our oils are extra
virgin. They can range in flavor from mild to very robust.”
And adding a new product to the store isn’t done lightly. Sharon and Dave (pictured) each taste samples from new vendors to determine if the oil or vinegar is up to their standards. The shop currently sells more than 85 flavors of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The infused olive oil flavors range from traditional, such as basil and rosemary, to more adventurous, such as bacon and chocolate.
Sharon says she knows it can be daunting for people to figure out which kind of oil they like and how to use it, so she offers tastings to customers. “If you’re looking to get healthy and eat healthy, just come into the store and taste — your taste buds will tell you [what you like],” she says. “After customers have tasted a couple of them, they get an idea of what the differences are. Some are grassy, some are nutty, others are buttery.”
The Kirkeys also offer tips on how to use the oils and vinegars, so customers can get the most out of the products. “Some people aren’t sure of what to do besides using them in salads,” Sharon says. “White balsamic, which is made from white grapes, can be used in cocktails and salads, while the dark [made from red grapes] can be used for marinades and desserts.”
If you stop by, Sharon will share recipes to make meals and treats out of the shop’s products. And recipes are also available online for everything from breakfast to side dishes. As for tips on storing EVOO, Sharon says it’s pretty simple: Just keep it in a cool, dry place, such as your pantry.
Pinetop Olive Oil also sells tapenades, pasta and specialty salts to accompany the oils and vinegars. The products can be purchased in person at the store in Pinetop-Lakeside or ordered online and shipped anywhere in the U.S., and the olive oils and balsamic vinegars are also available for purchase at the farmers market in Gilbert from October through March.
Pinetop Olive Oil
1684 E. White Mountain Boulevard, Suite 2