Oil and vinegar tasting bars bring new life to healthy cooking
ERIN DEBOOY, NEWS EDITOR
Chantal Hogue shifts seamlessly between two customers, going over the benefits of olive oil with one while pouring samples for the other.
“I feel like I’m hungry all the time. I talk about food all day,” Hogue said, laughing.
Hogue manages Frescolio, a family-owned fine oil and vinegar-tasting bar in Winnipeg.
Hogue’s passion for the quality and benefits of oils and vinegars is contagious, and Winnipeggers have caught on. After her mother and stepfather opened Frescolio in 2013, Hogue said they were able to open a second location just a few years later.
“Winnipeg has such a foodie sort of culture. People are willing to experiment and try new things, so it’s been great from the beginning,” Hogue said. “There was never a point where we felt we weren’t being seen. There’s always people interested.”
Regular Frescolio customer Nicole Shust heard about the store through a coworker and said she has shopped there ever since.
“The set up is really cool,” Shust said. “There’s like 30 different casks full of oil and balsamics. You can walk around and sample before you buy.”
What makes Frescolio’s oil different from what you buy in the supermarket is the quality, Hogue said.
“There’s a fair amount of corruption in the olive oil industry and there is a lot of mislabeling of supermarket brands,” Hogue said. “ The olive oil we have is ultra premium certified, which actually exceeds a lot of international standards for quality and testing.”
The flavour and the health benefits of ultra premium certified olive oil starts right from the beginning.
“It starts from good olives,” Hogue said. “The young, immature olive will give you more of those antioxidants and it gives you a better taste, as opposed to an olive that has started to age and degenerate a bit. You’ll get more oil out of it, but it’s a lower quality oil.”
There have been a lot of studies done on the health benefits of olive oil, Hogue said. Most circulate around people who follow a Mediterranean diet, which recommends about four ounces of olive oil a day.
“If you just use (olive oil) instead of using butter it will be a lot healthier,” Hogue said. “It’s one of the healthiest oils you can use when you get a good, high quality product.”
Olive oil is high in antioxidants. It helps with oxidization that can unclog arteries, and it has monounsaturated fats, which is the good type of fat, Hogue said.
Frescolio’s flavoured oils and vinegars are also all natural.
“There’s no artificial flavours, no added sugars, so what you’re getting is just a really true flavor,” Hogue said.
The wide variety of flavours provides uses for the products beyond cooking.
“Some of the balsamics are fruity enough that you can add it to club soda and make a less sweet soda-type drink,” Shust said.
Balsamic vinegars can also be used for cocktails, which is called a shrub, Hogue said.
“[Balsamic vinegar] is kind of like a simple syrup already. It’s concentrated and fruity but without the added artificial flavours or sugars,” Hogue said.
Even with such a wide variety of options, Hogue recommends starting with the basics and branching out from there.
“We have people who come in and know how to cook and know what they love, and then there are people who are maybe students and learning to cook for the first time and willing to experiment,” Hogue said. “We’re just really happy to be able to help, it’s a lot of fun.”