Penelope Pankow started her second career in 2009, after graduating from Cornell with a Masters Degree in Hospitality Management a few years prior. That’s when plans began for F. Oliver’s, a store that would carry ultra-premium quality, really fresh olive oils.
“I walked into the concept store Traverse City, Michigan and just felt it come over me.” – Penelope Pankow
“It was 2008 and the recession had just hit. People were finding themselves eating in more but looking to cook with quality ingredients,” Pankow said. After visiting a store similar in Traverse City, Michigan owned by a friend, she knew she had to do her own thing and that this was the thing.
The first F. Oliver’s opened in Canandaigua in 2010 with additional stores opening up almost every year following: Rochester in 2011, Ithaca in 2012, a store in Pittsford with friends Flour City Pasta in 2013 and Skaneateles in 2014.
Walking into F. Oliver’s is a treat- you can taste everything, and you’re welcome to! “Tasting olive oil is similar to tasting wine,” Pankow shares. “Take the cup and cradle it in your hand, then warm it up. Just like a wine tasting you taste it, hold it on your tongue and swallow. Then I breathe out to taste for pungency.”
These are tips Penelope learned at The University of California, which is trying to educate growers and sellers of olive oils much in the way they did in the 1970’s for California wines, with much success. The 4-day sensory evaluation class gave her insight into how to learn what to taste for, including how to taste for defects. Is it fruity or bitter and pungent? Is it green fruit or ripe fruit? Is it ripe olives, nutty or buttery? The good news is, whether you take this course for yourself or not, the team at F. Oliver’s is trained to pass their knowledge of olive oil onto you.
“Lots of stuff on the shelf has a use by date but you don’t know when it’s pressed. That’s why we focus on the ingredients,” Pankow says.
F. Oliver’s guarantees that their olive oils are from wherever oil is the most fresh that season. In the winter and spring their oils come from California and Mediterranean countries, in summer from Australia, Chile, Argentina. In the fall they source out of countries in the southern hemisphere that have the opposite growing season. You can trace their oils right back to who produced it.
No matter where they are sourcing from that season, the olives are always picked early and within hours pressed and made into oil. This affects the health benefits and the quality of the oil.
In addition to their single varietals, F. Oliver’s is also known for their flavored oil and vinegar: from oregano to butter (which is vegan!), espresso to dark chocolate. While they don’t do the infusions themselves, the family-owned importer they work with oversees that process in California, using all-natural flavors and top-secret recipes.
Penelope herself is madly in love with the F. Oliver’s single varietal oils. Currently she’s hooked on a farro salad recipe with radishes, pistachios, arugula, grape tomatoes, faro, shaved Parmesan, lemon juice topped with a single varietal- a recipe she found in The New York Times. She also loves topping fresh tomatoes with basil oil and their special reserve balsamic and using the raspberry balsamic as a marinade.
Do you have a favorite F. Oliver’s recipe? We’d love to try it! Share your recipe with us in the comments below.
p.s. You can pick up F. Oliver’s oils and basalmic vinegar’s right here at Hart’s or have them delivered right to your door thanks to our RosieApp! We’re loving the 18 Yr Aged Balsamic, Bright Basil Evoo and Meyer Lemon Evoo this summer.