A little sweet vinegar with your ice cream?
When Bruce Bushey and Janet Richards decided to get married in Greece 10 years ago, not only were they inspired by the romantic atmosphere, but also the Mediterranean cuisine that uses infused oils and vinegars.
The owners of Olive Branch Oil and Spice Company noticed how much healthier they were eating when cooking with olive oils, fresh fruits, veggies and seafood.
"One, we noticed how much weight we lost ... but how good we felt," Richards said. "Because it was all oil and very, very little bread, very, very little meat unless it was seafood ... just a very healthy way of eating."
So they decided to bring the diet back with them.
Fast forward a few years. The couple opened a store that would spread similar ways of cooking to residents of the east metro.
Olive Branch Oil and Spice Company in White Bear Lake has been open for one year and this year, Bushey and Richards will open their second Minnesota location at Woodbury Lakes Mall.
With 23 olive oils, 20 balsamic vinegars and 175 herbs and spices, the new 1,200 square-foot store will take over the former Starbucks location near Trader Joe's.
"People are already thinking food and they're already thinking healthy because it's Trader Joes," Richards said. "I think we complement them very well."
The store has potential to serve as a meeting spot for friends and food lovers, she said. The owners plan to have tasting parties with wine and hors d'oeuvres made with their products.
Imported from all over the world, Olive Branch Oil and Spice Company's store will be filled with specialty oils like sun-dried tomato, parmesan and garlic olive oil and the most popular, white strawberry peach balsamic.
"It makes a fantastic sangria," Richards said of the strawberry flavored vinegar.
Used for dipping bread, pasta sauces and appetizers, the flavors of the oil run the gamut for savory dishes.
For sweet treats, balsamic vinegars like the chocolate raspberry or chocolate mandarin, which may sound odd at first, can be drizzled over yogurt, ice cream, salads or even pork chops.
Zesty lemon, which is the second most popular of the vinegars, is often used for martinis or as marinate for meat, chicken or fish.
The duo plans to open the new Woodbury Olive Branch Oil and Spice Company in July. They will also be available to help customers navigate the selection, offer recommendations on how to use the oils, spices and vinegars and share recipes.
"Bruce and I are very, very big on education," Richards said. "You shouldn't have to go to a store like this and have to figure out what to do with it."
And with the motto "Try before you buy," everything will be available for tasting.
"We encourage people to play with their food, that's what they do here," she said. "They share their recipes with us and we put them out for other people to see."