Ever tasted great olive oil…the kind that brings out the best in recipes or simply tastes delicious—mixed with a 25-year-old balsamic and accompanied by a fresh piece of ciabatta ready for dipping?
If that description makes your mouth water, you need to visit Beyond the Olive. This Old Town store calls itself “Pasadena’s premiere source for the education, tasting, and purchasing of California’s high quality extra virgin olive oils, gourmet vinegars, specialty food products, and merchandise.” The description does not disappoint.
Beyond the Olive opened its doors over four years ago. Owners Chip and Crystal Reibel quickly learned that olive oil is a bit like wine—a different bottle, a different taste. And, certain flavors pair particularly well with certain foods.
Some people favor intense olive oils with a peppery punch or those with an acrid, bitter flavor. Others may like the more fruity oils or those that are described as “smooth and buttery.” The variety of the olive and the maturity of the fruit are what create a particular flavor. “Virgin” olive oils are organic fruit—picked, pressed, and washed with no synthetic intervention.
According to Crystal, “Making olive oil is a simple process. An olive that is well-cared for, undamaged, and just off the tree is chosen; all the olive oil mill needs to do is get the oil out of the olive without messing it up.” Like most things, this “simple” process does need some finesse. Time is of the essence when making high-quality olive oil. The minute the olive is plucked from the tree, it begins to deteriorate. The best olive oil is made with hours of harvest.
In addition to the alluring taste, the Reibels soon learned of the many health benefits that come with making this a part of one’s daily diet. Studies have found extra virgin olive oils to have anti-inflammatory benefits and consistent intake of these oils often result in a decreased risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, and a reduction of cholesterol levels. New studies site many anti-cancer benefits.
Crystal believes that “as opposed to other olive oil stores in Southern California, Beyond the Olive takes a slightly different approach” to selling this fruit of the Olea europaea. The store’s extra virgin olive oils and vinegars are almost exclusively produced and bottled in California—not imported from Europe, which is “unregulated.” With well over 600 producers in the state, it makes sense to offer “a better quality oil and to help the local economy,” explains Crystal.
The Reibels pride themselves on helping to educate anyone who walks through the door, ready to answer questions and offer suggestions. Beyond the Olive offers monthly cooking classes and private tastings, and the store’s website provides a number of easy-to-make recipes like Artichoke Mashed Potatoes. Grab a couple of Yukon Golds, warm milk, sea salt, freshly ground pepper, a bit of extra virgin olive oil, and Beyond the Olive’s Elki Artichoke Lemon Pesto, and it’s not only dinner, it’s comfort food.
Beyond the Olive has 80-100 different oils and vinegars available for tasting, ensuring that customers will find a product pleasing to their palate. The store also sells dips, olives, salad dressings, and dipping and flavored oils. Most of these products come from less than 35 miles away. Crystal also designs gift packs and baskets for special occasions and holiday gifts.
The store also makes an effort to be “green.” Customers may buy a refillable bottle (separately) and continue to use the same bottle over and over. And no, you don’t need to purchase the same oil every time—just wash out the bottle and it can be refilled with whatever suits your fancy.
“Old Town is an ideal location for Beyond the Olive,” Crystal says. “It’s a great mix of locals and tourists; it’s a walking environment and Pasadena is just full of foodies.” The store also sells its products at the Altadena Farmers’ Market the first Wednesday of every month and weekly at the Old Pasadena Farmers’ Market. A second Beyond the Olive is located in Riverside.
Beyond the Olive was voted the Best Specialty Food Store by Pasadena Magazine and One of the 10 Best Places in the World to buy extra virgin olive oil by the Olive Oil Times.
Beyond the Olive combines well-rounded knowledge and an interactive, relaxed, and informative atmosphere into a first-class shopping experience for the novice who seeks delicious, healthy food and the epicurean who seeks to enhance their cooking experience.
Beyond the Olive, 10 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena 91103. 626.844.3866. BeyondtheOlive.com.