Balsamic vinegar isn’t just for salad dressings anymore. If you find the right flavor, you can use it as a low-calorie ice cream topping or to flavor your bottled water.
Don’t believe it? Trying it just got easier than ever.
Mike and Charlotte Easler this month opened The Crescent Olive at 2901-C Devine St., specializing in fresh olive oils and aged balsamic vinegars.
“The fun part about our store is you get to come in and taste everything we have,” Mike Easler said. “It’s unique. … People don’t really know what to expect until they come in the store.”
Wide varieties of oils – think chipotle and blood orange – and vinegars – honey ginger and dark espresso – are stored in large stainless-steel containers around the store. Customers can try a variety of flavors with bread for the oils and many of the vinegars, and ice cream for some of the more luscious flavors of dark balsamic vinegar.
Once the customer picks a favorite, Easler fills one of three bottle sizes – 200, 375 or 750 milliliters – with the oil or vinegar. Prices range from $10.95 to $30.50 for the most common flavors. Gourmet flavors range from $18.95 to $38.95.
Tastings also can be done for small groups, such as wine or book clubs, after the store closes.
The oils – not your garden-variety type – are seasonal. Easler gets them from a California company. The current stock is from countries in the Southern Hemisphere, including Australia and Chile, where olives are in season. In late December or early January, the stock will switch to Northern Hemisphere oils, including olives from Italy, Spain and Portugal, Easler said.
“We get the freshest and the most tasteful olive oils available,” he said. Customers should use the oils within about nine months for the freshest flavor and most health benefits, he said.
Vinegars, on the other hand, are served aged. The white vinegars are aged 12 years, and the dark vinegars, 17.
The Easlers will sell a few other products – including some S.C.-made items – but the bulk of their inventory is oil and vinegar.
“The ‘foodies’ love it,” Mike Easler said. “It will add so much more dimension to your cooking.”
Even less-accomplished cooks also like the specialty products because they give their skills a boost in the kitchen, Easler said. “It will make you look like you are a good cook.”
Easler is a partner in a similar store that has been open in Greenville for 11/2 years. A banker for 20 years, Easler lost his job when the government shut down the bank that he was working for during the U.S. financial crisis.
He decided to bring the concept to Columbia to fill a niche, hoping to capitalize on its emerging “foodie movement,” fueled in part by the nearby Whole Foods, preparing to open.
“I’ve always liked Columbia,” he said, “and I loved Devine Street.”