Meet Your Merchant | Olive oil shop brings premium products for foodies, cooks
December 31, 2013
What: Tahoe Oil & Spice
Location:10091 Donner Pass Rd
TRUCKEE, Calif. — Cooks and chefs, foodies and epicureans, all have a new place to play.
Tahoe Oil and Spice, a premium olive oil store in Truckee's historic downtown, opened its doors for tasting and experimenting earlier this month.
Natasha Weissman first discovered infused olive oils in Tuscany, and for years she had the product shipped from Italy. But when the Arkansas native was laid off from her marketing and sales job in July, she combined her experience with her interests and opened Tahoe Oil and Spice.
“It’s a science experiment in here every day. We try different combinations and have fun
— and that’s what we want you to do.”
Employee Gail Ozanich
Natasha likes to start customers' experience by asking, "savory, spice or fruit?," which can guide customers to combine garlic olive oil with wild mushroom sage balsamic for savory taste, chipotle olive oil with espresso balsamic for some spice, or a mild olive oil with apricot infused balsamic for fruit.
Natasha said the most novices of palettes can enjoy the tastings. Tahoe Oil and Spice offers their own combinations but encourages customers to create their own.
"It's a science experiment in here everyday," said employee Gail Ozanich. "We try different combinations and have fun — and that's what we want you to do."
Fifty chromed fustis take center stage inside the shop, while infused balsamics line the walls. Each oil reflects the season — Australian, Chilean, Peruvian, and olive oils from South Africa are available for tasting. Countries in the northern hemisphere will have tastings available in early spring.
Tahoe Oil and Spice also sells spices and mulling spices from Tahoe Spice works, artisan fig and jam spreads by Three Little Figs, pasta and sauces from Tahoe House in Tahoe City and Olivella beauty products.
Finding a Niche
Truckee is a great place for premium olive oils, Natasha said. She and her husband, Mike, consider themselves "foodies" and think they're not alone in the area.
"Truckee is really up and coming as a foodies' destination," she said. "There are some chefs in town doing some great thing with food."
The couple's most recent discovery has been the chipotle olive oil combined with an espresso infused balsamic. Following the latest trends of coffee grounds as ingredients to meat glazes or rubs, Natasha's husband Mike experimented with the combination a few weeks ago.
In the Weissman home, Christmas fare traditionally consists of prime rib with a homemade horseradish, but this year Natasha has other ideas.
"We'll have a choice," she said. "You can have your traditional horseradish if you must, but this year a chipotle and espresso sauce will be a choice as well."
Another favorite of Natasha's is the premium truffle oil she drizzles on roasted red potatoes. The new-to-cooking cook then adds rosemary to bring the dish together.
Gail recommends a spinach salad with blood orange olive oil and dark chocolate balsamic.
In Extra Virginity, The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive oil, journalist Tom Mueller discusses the industry's lack of regulation. Because olive oil is technically juice, he writes, the oil's crush date is an important indicator of its freshness.
"The stuff you can buy in the store is just not as fresh," Gail said of the products from Tahoe Oil and Spice. Natasha works with Veronica Foods, a distributor based in Oakland, which earns the Ultra Premium Certification, the industry's highest standard.
Truckee local Thomas Stokes, a longtime fan of olive oil but new to the world of official tasting, enjoyed the recommended combos from Tahoe Oil and Spice and invented a few of his own.
"I was never aware of the fact that there were so many olive oils!" Thomas said.
Tahoe Oil and Spice's store and tasting room is located in downtown Truckee and open seven days a week.
Jenny Luna is a freelance reporter for the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza and Sierra Sun newspapers. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.