This article is sponsored by our friends at Two Rivers Olive Oil in Beaver and Sewickley. Their flavored vinegars and oils are an awesome addition to any meal, and also a killer gift idea!

Many people don’t yet know about their second location in Sewickley, which is located in the Nickelodeon Mall on Beaver Street; their store entrance is on Locust Place, Catty-corner from Starbucks.For hours and inquiries, please call 412-356-5148. To find out more about Two River’s products and stores, visit tworiversoliveoil.com, or find them on Facebook and Instagram.

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Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Balsamic Shopping Basics

Let’s pause for a minute and talk about shopping basics. If you are anything like I was, buying oil and vinegar was a simple process. There’s extra virgin or regular for your olive oil choices, and there is balsamic, red wine and apple cider for vinegar. I would buy the bulk sized jug of oil that would last us a year or more, and use it to cook with. Vinegar was the same – use it in recipes or drizzled on a salad. As it turns out, I had been missing so much.

When you buy olive oil, it is important to know the answers to a few key questions – When was it made? Where it was made? And who made it?

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Check the Dates!

Here is the thing… olive oil is actually a fruit juice, and it can go bad pretty quickly, even in the initial stages of the oil making process. If the olives are harvested and then end up sitting before they are crushed, the flavor, quality, and health benefits will be sacrificed.

As oil ages, the flavor changes. It starts out bitter and pungent and as time goes by, it turns buttery and smooth. The more pungent the taste, the fresher the oil.  To get the freshest oil you can, you should look to buy as close to the processing mill as possible.

Clearly in Western Pennsylvania, we are not close to any olive oil production plants. Since this is the case, you want to check your labels. Look for the harvest or crush date.

Another thing to help with freshness is to purchase smaller quantities in dark colored glass bottles and to store those bottles in a dark, cool spot. Light and heat will deteriorate the oil benefits and taste quickly.

Ok, so the dates are important. What else should you look for when you are buying oil? Check the label for WHERE it was made and WHO made it. Words like ‘Packed in’ or ‘bottled in’ do not mean the oil was actually produced somewhere. Oil manufacturers can stick an Italian flag on the label and say that it was ‘bottled in Italy’, but the oil could have been made anywhereand contain an unknown blend of oil varieties.

The Ultra Premium Single Varietals:

The UP-EVOOs are the first thing you see when you walk into Two Rivers; they are on the table when you first enter the store. They each have a complete set of specs, that include the crush date, flavor profile, country of origin and the chemical analysis conducted by an independent laboratory  (don’t worry – It sounds complicated, but it really isn’t!).

Ultra Premium (UP) is the highest standard for EVOO in the world.  They are the best of the best, so to speak, and some of the freshest you can get in the world! Two Rivers’ UP selection will turn over every 6 months, as the Northern Hemisphere countries harvest and crush their olives in the fall, and countries in the Southern Hemisphere do this in the spring.  Each has a different flavor, and each deserves a taste. Freshness makes all the difference in taste.

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Fused / Infused EVOOs:

In addition to Single Varietal Olive Oils, there are also 15 flavored oils. These all began as Ultra Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oils, then were either fused or infused. (I had to ask what the difference was….  Fused is when the olives are actually crushed with the flavoring ingredient – such as Blood Oranges. Infused is when the ingredient is added to the oil after it is made to let it ‘infuse’ its flavor – such as Basil.)

Flavors range from Lemon, Blood Orange, and Persian Lime to Garlic, Basil,Cayenne, and   Wild Mushroom & Sage. They also carry 3 specialty oils –Black Truffle, Toasted Sesame, and Roasted California Walnut.

SO, WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THESE EVOOs AND BALSAMICS?

Let’s start with the olive oils. Two Rivers’ oils are perfect for giving all sorts of meat a nice sear. You can use whichever flavored Ultra Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil your tastes prefer, but here are a few flavor suggestions.

Oils for Meats-

  • Beef: Butter, Garlic, Tuscan Herb, Wild Mushroom and Sage
  • Poultry: Garlic, Rosemary, Butter, Wild Mushroom and Sage, Lemon, Herbes de Provence
  • Seafood: Eureka Lemon, Persian Lime, Garlic, Baklouti Green Chili, Blood Orange, Dill
  • Pork: Harissa, Tuscan Herb, Garlic, Herbes de Provence, Rosemary

You can see by that list that the oils are very versatile. You can use what you like on more than one type of meat. These aren’t just single use oils!

Oils for Dipping-

You can also use any of the olive oils for bread dipping; think of that fun Italian joint that gives you a loaf of soft, warm bread and a plate of oil to dunk it in before the meal. Recreate that at home!You can use any of the oils, of course, but the folks at Two Rivers recommended the Tuscan Herb, Garlic, or Milanese Gremolata. Pour enough oil to cover your dish, and add a drizzle of balsamic across the top. Then start dunking! Yum!

  

Balsamic Vinegars for Meats-

Next up, let’s talk balsamic vinegar. You can use them as a marinade for meat. It will not only add flavor but will also tenderize the meat. Use the extra virgin olive oils before or after marinating for searing.

  • Beef: Blackberry Ginger, Neapolitan Herb, Espresso, Traditional
  • Poultry:  Oregano, Sicilian Lemon, White Peach, Coconut
  • Seafood: Sicilian Lemon, Coconut, Pineapple, Jalapeno (for Salmon – Maple)
  • Pork: Red Apple, Maple, Raspberry, Serrano Honey

Again, there is no right or wrong here. It is all based on what you like!

Salad Dressing Pairings-

Then there is the obvious – incredible salad dressings.Simply mix 1-3 parts of extra virgin olive oil to 1 part vinegar. That ratio should be done to taste, so if you want less oil, just use less oil!

Just whisk both the oil and vinegar in a shallow bowl and ladle on your salad immediately. Some of Two Rivers’ favorite pairings are:

  • Peach White Balsamic and Basil EVOO
  • Cranberry-Pear Balsamic and Blood Orange EVOO
  • Strawberry Balsamic and Lemon EVOO
  • Blackberry Ginger Balsamic and Persian Lime EVOO
  • Dark Chocolate Balsamic and Blood Orange EVOO
  • Neapolitan Herb and any Ultra Premium single varietal Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Sicilian Lemon White Balsamic and Eureka Lemon EVOO
  • Grapefruit White Balsamic and Herbes De Provence Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Balsamic Vinegar Cocktails…..REALLY?

Yep!  Using balsamic vinegars in cocktails are called Shrubs. Just a couple of dashes of balsamic to a cocktail or sparkling water adds a depth of flavor.

We took that to the next level and have tried quite a few combinations of vinegars with both rum and vodka.

Two of our favorites are a lighter version of a Pina Colada:

2 ounces of white rum                                                                                                                      1-2 ounces of Coconut White Balsamic

  • Fill the glass with pineapple-coconut seltzer

Or a lighter Vodka Cranberry with a Fizz:

*  combine 2 ounces of vodka

  •  1-2 ounces of Cranberry-Pear White Balsamic

*  Splash of cranberry juice

*  plain seltzer to the top

All of the vinegars have very low calorie counts and very high flavor punches, so they make great diet substitutions for those calorie-packed cocktails you like but try to avoid;

keeping things healthy, that’s what we are all about! We have also put a little drizzle of the Jalapeno White Balsamic in a Bloody Mary for a nice morning kick!

No matter your taste preference, there is an olive oil or balsamic vinegar for it! Meat, veggies, desserts, drinks…anything can use a little extra zing. Talk to Sherri, Bill, Kate or Debbie when you are in the store for more ideas! They have lots!!