The True Olive Connection in Downtown Santa Cruz is Bursting with Flavor!
For the True Olive Connection, a family-owned tasting room and boutique in Downtown Santa Cruz that specializes in unique, high-quality olive oils from around the world, its name is as carefully chosen as its products. Co-owner Susan Pappas knew she had the right combination of words when it reflected perfectly her store's aim: to spread the truth about olive oil and freshness while connecting with families and the local community.
Indeed, when you walk through their doors, education is first, taste is secondary. I didn't know olive oil today is centrifuged, rather than pressed. I didn't know most of the stuff on grocery shelves is aged past its medicinal properties. But mostly, I had no idea what my taste buds had in store once I started sampling from the gorgeous displays of oil and vinegar that line the walls. Holy chipotle olive oil with chocolate balsamic vinegar! Throughout the year and depending on seasons, the True Olive Connection offers over 100 different varietals, with 35 olive oils and 25 balsamic vinegars on the tasting room floor.
Employees, who are either personal chefs or fantastic cooks, lend their culinary expertise in matching the right oil with the right vinegar. Twice a week, staff is encouraged to create new flavor blends which then get put to vote. If everyone likes a certain blend, it's added to a pairing sheet that is handed out to customers. But pairing is more than an art, it's a reason to come together and celebrate.
The shop hosts private tasting parties for their customers to socialize and learn about the many health benefits of fresh olive oil while enjoying wine and hors d’oeuvres. Children are welcome too and if you let them know ahead of time, they will provide kid-friendly snacks. My kids have actually followed in my footsteps and can enjoy a simple meal of cheese and crusty bread dipped in oil and vinegar, so I know they would enjoy a sampling party, as would my dad and countless other friends and relatives.
When I asked Susan what the most popular pairings in the store were, she mentioned Walnut Olive Oil with Cranberry Pear Balsamic, Lemon Olive Oil with Espresso Balsamic, and Chipotle Olive Oil with Tangerine or Raspberry Balsamic. Each blend makes a perfect 2 ingredient salad dressing, but between staff and customer feedback, there is no shortage of recipe ideas. In fact, I followed their recommendation to use Blood Orange Olive Oil throughout the holidays to take my chocolate brownies from a box to a whole new level! A future recipe book based on customer contributions is in the works, as are plans to hold pairing classes for the public. For now, click here for a delicious recipe for Kiwi and Lemon Extra Virgin Olive Oil Sorbet!
The True Olive Connection has enjoyed a very successful first year of business, not just by building a strong, loyal customer base but by connecting with the community. Over the last year, they donated over three hundred raffle gifts to non-profits that benefit the homeless, foster children, and the elderly, to name a few. This certainly fulfills the connection part of their name and Susan's mission to give back.
Stop by and try something new and unexpected: your tastebuds won't be disappointed!
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