One can only wish that olive trees could be grown in the Blue Ridge. However, the Theros family has grown a fine business in Asheville, importing organic olive oil from their own 400-year old trees in Greece that the family has tended for generations.
Theros Extra Virgin Olive Oil is really special. We dipped some crusty bread into a bowlful, and soon were slurping it up.
I loved its taste - pure, full of fragrance, with a bit of a peppery taste. Some of that flavor can be attributed to the salty Mediterranean Sea air, and to its lower acidity - about half that of standard olive oils, so the website claims. It's not co-mingled with oils from other regions, making it pure Greek. That's a big plus, says Spero Theros.
Spero Theros, who immigrated from Messinia, Greece, arrived in Asheville via Minnesotta, where he landed as a boy. His son, Nick Theros, a co-owner, now spends half the year in Greece, tending to the 1,300 trees, harvesting the olives, and seeing to the cold pressing at an olive crushing plant. He even takes friends and family from Western North Carolina to help out.
The oil is then shipped to Asheville, where it's bottled at the Blue Ridge Food Ventures facility. Several local restaurants use and serve Theros, and it's also available at EarthFare Groceries across the state. I bought my bottle at the Manna Cabana in Saluda, NC, and also found some at the EarthFare in Raleigh.
You may also order at the website, by the bottle or case and get it at a much better price.
VIRGINIA VINEGAR WORKS
In the real mountain hometown of the fictional Walton's, in Schuyler, VA, a couple is converting wine into vinegar. I know I've tasted some wines that tasted a bit like vinegar, but that's not the case here.
Finely crafted vinegars are smooth and redolent of the flavor from which they were made. You can almost sip them. This is the quality that Virginia Vinegar Works shoots for. And they are locavores, too, using local wine varietals, the Petit Mansang or Viognier, among others that do well in Virginia's Central and Southwestern wine regions.
Owners Jay and Steph Rostow are also glass-blowers, who wondered what to do with the gorgeous bottles they were creating. Now they know.
They make the vinegars in small-batches, using a traditional method that dates back to 1616 in Orleans, France. It takes three months to convert the wine into vinegar, and another six months to age in oak barrels, which helps to impart the terroir of the grape variety. Then it's filtered before bottling.
Order from the website: www.virginiavinegarworks.com