Sunday, March 24, 2013

Happy Discoveries

I recently read in the Arkansas Times about an olive oil/vinegar shop which opened in Little Rock last Fall. I was intrigued by this since I had visited similar shops while traveling in Europe. Yesterday, I was able to visit this shop, aptly named Strippaggio. As Richard and I walked in the door, we were greeted with samples, including a vinaigrette, an award-winning strawberry jam, and the house bread dip blend in a mellow oil. I was instantly in love with the shop after tasting the vinaigrette, which was a combination of the blood orange olive oil and pineapple vinegar. I would definitely recommend this combination for a tropical feeling salad.

Within seconds of taking my first sample of olive oil from a tiny plastic cup, one of the shop girls came up to me and explained the proper way to taste the oil. The shop is named Strippaggio, which is the proper Italian tasting method of taking the oil into your mouth, coating your taste buds and then inhaling air from the corners of your mouth to allow the scent to reach your nasal passages and get the full effect of the flavors. I have to say, it changed everything. I retried the first oil and was able to detect the hints of banana and flowers. I tasted around twenty different flavors of oil, including a delectable black truffle. The shop also has about fifteen varieties of balsamic vinegar, mostly fruity flavors.

Richard and I agreed on a Tuscan Herb olive oil to pair with a Cranberry Pear Balsamic vinegar, which we planned to put on a shrimp salad for dinner. Then, Richard pointed out the chocolate and espresso vinegars. I was absolutely smitten. Espresso vinegar! Such an amazing flavor, anyone who drinks espresso would agree. I decided to grab a small bottle of this to pair with fresh strawberries as a dessert. I managed to leave with only these three bottles, but will definitely be going back for more soon.

We cooked the shrimp in the Tuscan Herb olive oil with no other seasoning. Our salad consisted of some local romaine, local broccoli leaves, local green onion, bell pepper, carrots, tomato, and feta. The Cranberry Pear vinegar added a sweet touch to the rich tomato like flavor of the Tuscan Herb oil and made a perfect vinaigrette for this salad. I give it four stars.

The dessert was phenomenal. I can say this because I managed to make Richard, who is not a vinegar fan, declare that it was delicious. I literally just quartered some organic strawberries and poured about two tablespoons of the espresso vinegar onto them. I turned the strawberries about four times while preparing the salads, then allowed them to soak up the vinegar while we ate. This might be my new favorite dessert. If I had cooked the mixture down, let it cool, and topped vanilla ice cream with it, I think it would be just as good, if not better. (I had to try this dessert even though it's still a little early for strawberries to be in season.)

Strippaggio is located in the Chenal Parkway shopping center. Each of the olive oils are true extra virgin oils, unlike a majority of the ones you buy in a grocery store. At only $11.15/200 ml bottle, I believe these quality oils/vinegars are worth the expense. I recommend you splurge a little for a friend or a lot for yourself.

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