The Olive Groove: Extra virgin olive oil & more

GLOBAL CONSUMPTION OF OLIVE OIL has almost doubled over the past 25 years, largely driven by the health benefits. “From lowering the risk of heart disease to delivering cancer-fighting antioxidants, the health benefits associated with extra virgin olive oil continue to grow,” according to the California Olive Oil Council.

Our region is home to olive orchards, olive-oil producers, the prestigious UC Davis Olive Center, and some exceptional olive-oil merchants. One of them is based in downtown Grass Valley: The Olive Groove. Owned by longtime locals Christina and Jake West, it is a store for kitchen connoisseurs but also those who want to learn the health and culinary benefits of this ancient crop—in regular classes or from the knowledgeable owners.

The selection is among the biggest we’ve seen: 55 stainless-steel, Italian fustis line the walls of the attractive store, filled with dozens of types of extra virgin olive oil and infused olive oils (such as Meyer lemon, garlic or basil) or aged balsamic vinegars. The store also carries gourmet smoked salts, dry rubs, bread dipping sauces, loose-leaf teas and olive oil soaps.

The Wests buy olive oils from all over the world—California, Italy, Spain, Greece, but also Argentina and Chile in the southern hemisphere. “We follow the harvest, ensuring that we have the freshest olive oil,” says Christina.

Besides valuing freshness and proper storage, the Wests verify the olive oil is certified (as 100 percent extra virgin olive oil, for example) and tested for freshness. The guidelines are outlined by the UC Davis Olive Center, where the Wests have received training.

The balsamic vinegars (perfect for summer salads or desserts) are from Modena in Northern Italy, the world’s most famous region for the ancient grape product. The production method is overseen by a special certification agency. (Modina also is home to the world’s only Balsamic Vinegar Museum).

Balsamic vinegar has its own health benefits, such as antioxidants. The store’s loose leaf teas also promote health and wellness. “We think of ourselves as a health food store,” says Christina.

“It’s A Small World”
We admired Olive Groove’s handcrafted sign when we visited the store, and the Wests told us it was designed by Nevada City woodcarver Raymond Kinman. Raymond was a Walt Disney Co. artist for 23 years. His work is visible throughout Disneyland — at the Indiana Jones Outpost and Pooh Corner, for example. It’s a small world, after all.

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