Extra virgin, an olive ovation

Watching Marianne Prey explain the origins,various applications and flavor profiles of extravirgin olive oils, flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars is like watching an expert sommelier describe wine. She knows the artisan producers she works with by name, what ingredients they use and how they grow and harvest olives. For the past six years Prey has shared this extensive reserve of knowledge – and inventory – of oils, vinegars and specialty products with customers at her shop, Extra Virgin, an Olive Ovation, which relocated from Clayton to Ladue in July. “I’ve always loved to cook, and I’ve always loved olives,” Prey says. “One of my first food memories, when I was four years old, was eating green olives. It seems like it’s a natural fit.” The new store offers 400-square-feet more space than the old, including a 20-person event area, and offers more room for inventory.

Prey says she built the entire space from scratch, with the intention to recreate the Mediterranean feel of the former store. Warm Tuscan colors wrap the shop, with lovely accent painting done by Prey herself. At the center of the new space is a large tasting bar where customers can sample the extensive selection of oils and vinegars. At any given time Extra Virgin features an inventory of 30 to 40 extra virgin olive oils – including a handful on tap – as well as flavored oils, flavored wine vinegars and balsamic and flavored vinegars, and a huge selection of artisan dips, spreads, pastas, sauces and condiments. “The most rewarding part has always been introducing customers to new things,” Prey says. “To products they can’t find anywhere else in St. Louis and showing them what good olive oil really tastes like.” – L.M.8829 Ladue Road, Ladue, 314.727.6464 extravirginoo.com

Three Palate-Pleasing Products

| 1 | Robbins Family Farm balsamic vinegar, which Prey says is the shop’s most popular bottle. “It’s thick, it’s rich, it’s sweet,” she says. “It has a very distinctive grape flavor.”

Organic Sundried Garlic Spread (7.05 ounce)

| 2 | Prey describes this sundried garlic spread from Tunisia as a versatile specialty item. “It’s roasted garlic in extra virgin olive oil,” she says. “The cloves are very soft and spreadable; it just has a tremendous flavor. It’s an all-purpose condiment.”

| 3 | Extra Virgin, an Olive Ovation’s private label of extra virgin olive oil. “We get this from a small family olive grove in Northern California,” she says. ”They grow one particular olive called arbequina, and make award-winning oil for us. It has enough flavors so you can use it as finishing oil, but it’s mild enough to use for all purpose.”