The Hippo


May 28, 2020








Sample olive oils at stores like Cava de Vino in Nashua. Emelia Attridge photo.

Olive oil specialty stores

Cava de Vino (14 Canal St., Nashua, 718-1086,
Celeste Oliva (75 S. Main St., Concord, 225-3866,
Cucina Aurora (9 Delaware Drive, Suite 1, Salem, 458-6159,

Oil up your holiday cooking
Granite State stores offer olive oil education


 Charla and Clark Mayotte say they learned the truth about olive oil after years of using “fake,” low-quality olive oils. It prompted the husband-and-wife team to open Celeste Oliva, an olive oil and balsamic vinegar specialty shop, in downtown Concord this summer. 

The Mayottes say there are a lot of phony olive oils on the market, masquerading as pure extra virgin olive oils; they tend to be oils like cottonseed or soybean, with a little extra virgin olive oil added in.
“A true olive oil has a peppery kick at the back of it, and that’s the antioxidants. If you don’t feel that at the back of your throat, even a little bit, then it’s not a real olive oil,” Charla Mayotte said.
True extra virgin olive oil can be found in retailers and specialty markets in the Granite State, like Celeste Oliva, Cava de Vino in Nashua and Cucina Aurora in Salem.
“It’s definitely trending right now,” Dawn Hunt, owner of Cucina Aurora, said. “There’s so many different types of olive oil.”
The real deal
There are a few clues to whether your go-to olive oil is fake. 
“One of the best ways is to taste it; you’ll taste the difference,” said Sharie Webber, co-owner of Cava de Vino in Nashua.
Also, extra virgin olive oil should have a natural green tinge. 
“Sometimes when you look at an extra virgin olive oil, it almost looks garishly green. That’s because they’re actually adding chlorophyll in to make it look green,” Webber said.
Mayotte said that the manufacturer that presses the olives at Celeste Oliva goes to the countries where the olives are picked and makes sure the olives are green, are picked correctly and are crushed within two to four hours of picking.
Mayotte also recommends looking at the bottle. A clear bottle will allow light to get through, which isn’t good for the oil, so look for dark bottles. There shouldn’t be an expiration date on the bottle either (there’s a crush date on the bottles at Celeste Oliva). 
“Extra virgin olive oil is the best oil you can use,” Mayotte said. “Once you taste the extra virgin olive oil, how it’s supposed to taste, you never go back.”
Mayotte starts customers off with a mild olive oil (there’s also medium and robust) when she does tastings. There are seven premium extra virgin olive oils at Celeste Oliva, as well as fused and infused extra virgin olive oils, like garlic, Tuscan herb and blood orange.
Cava de Vino carries 25 to 30 flavors of olive oils infused with herbs and spices, which change seasonally. Flavors that are currently in season include wild mushroom and sage (which Webber recommends for holiday stuffing), rosemary basil and white truffle, and butternut squash seed oil, which has a nutty flavor.
Smart gifts, smart flavors 
Webber said that olive oils make perfect hostess, teacher, Yankee swap and stocking stuffer gifts because they’re simple, small and inexpensive but still high in quality. 
“It’s nice when you’re giving a gift to not have to spend a lot of money and have something that’s going to be used and appreciated,” she said.
It’s also a health-conscious gift. Olive oil has good cholesterol, is naturally lower in calories and has antioxidants and good fats. Balsamic vinegar, olive oil’s pairing partner, is naturally fat-free and calorie-free.
Webber said it’s fun to explore and try various flavors.
“It just really depends on the mood and the food,” she said.
Get cooking
Olive oils aren’t just for dipping; they can be used to season and flavor your cooking, too. That’s what Cucina Aurora’s oils specialize in. 
“I think we get a lot of people who don’t know you can cook with it. They’ll say, ‘I don’t eat a lot of bread’ or ‘I have a gluten allergy,’” Hunt said. “Our whole line of olive oils is to help people cook. It’s designed to take the guesswork out of cooking.”
Hunt imports the olive oil from Italy and creates infusions here in New Hampshire. The infusion, bottling and labeling are done in Salem.
“We take granulated garlic and let the flavor set,” she said. “We use time as our tool to enhance the flavor of these oils.”
Cucina Aurora’s infused olive oils include roasted garlic, rosemary and oregano, peppercorn and sage, sun-dried tomato and basil and hot pepper.
“The garlic is our absolute number one bestseller, and just on the heels of that is the rosemary and oregano,” Hunt said. “Rosemary is wonderful for anything you’re roasting, so it’s great for chicken, lamb, pork. It’s great for roasting a turkey for the holidays.”
Webber recommends using flavors like Persian lime olive oil with coconut balsamic for shrimp, or pairing together cranberry pear balsamic with basil, walnut, almond or traditional olive oil.
“It depends on what you’re making,” Webber said. “Olive oils tend to be best for lightly sauteing or for finishing.”
“The key to being an olive oil connieursour is to try everything,” Hunt said. “See what you like.” 
As seen in the December 4, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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