One of Edmonton’s best kept food secrets has to be Evoolution’s monthly tasting events. Though I had seen them advertised at the specialty oil and vinegar store itself, I hadn’t read much about the tastings online. Perhaps there is a good reason for that – given only a dozen people can be accommodated at each of the two sessions offered per month, if the word gets out, I’m sure they would fill up even faster!
While picking up some product at the store in March, I inquired about the date of the next public tasting (private tastings can be organized for a fee). I was told the information would be up online (generally posted at the start of the month), and registrations would be completed directly on the website. I was able to reserve spaces for myself, my sister and my Mum, and last night, we met up at Evoolution for the tasting.
The high table at the rear of the store had been cleared of product, with bar stools arranged around it. A smaller table off to the side contained additional seats. Given all we were expecting was some bread to accompany the oil and vinegars, we were curious as to the need for place settings.
Felicia and Mum ready to taste!
It turned out that one of Evoolution’s goals this year was to revamp their tasting program. While their previous tastings involved a stand-up session, where patrons were escorted around the store and introduced to the range of products offered, store owners Curtis Savage, Mark McRae and Sean Murphy wanted to make the event more relaxed, and answer the question they are asked most often, “How do you cook with the oils and vinegars?”
To accomplish this, they shifted the event to a sit-down affair, and asked members of their staff (two of whom are trained chefs) to prepare dishes that would highlight different oils and vinegars. As Evoolution isn’t equipped with a full kitchen, most of the dishes were cold appetizer-style bites and plates to be shared.
Caprese crostini with a fig balsamic reduction
Pineapple dipped in mango white vinegar, wrapped in prosciutto
We were shocked at the sheer amount of food. Because the tasting was free, we thought the portion sizes were overly generous! Unbeknownst to us, Evoolution tastings meant platters bursting with meats, cheeses and breads, plus dips like a hummus made with a chipotle olive oil. To pair with the meats and cheeses, we were given a variety of flavoured oils and infused vinegars to splash over the deli items. This was probably my favourite part of the tasting, as it allowed us to play around with different combinations as it suited our individual palates. My Mum really took to the juniper berry vin, while Felicia and I couldn’t get enough of the roasted garlic and mushroom and sage oils. I never really thought about drizzling oil over charcuterie boards (we usually just think about sweet or savoury accompaniments), so it definitely got me thinking!
Meat and cheese platter
Interspersed with the food was a brief introduction to olive oil (did you know here are 700 varieties of olives?). We were advised that olive oil should be consumed within 12-18 months of the crush date, and learned that colour has little bearing on the quality of the oil. We only tasted two single variety oils in pure form. They were served to us in a blue tinted “tulip cup”, used at professional tasting competitions so the colour of the oil would not bias judges for or against the product. Many around the table were surprised at the aggressive peppery notes in the oil.
Tasting a California Arbequina
Vinegars were first introduced to us as an alternative to soda – two tablespoons of a flavoured vinegar had been added per one cup of club soda. The bubbly and tart drink has a significantly lower calorie count than a conventional soda, and would be a fun alternative to be served at a dinner party! We especially liked the cranberry pear flavour.
We learned that white vinegars are simmered at a much lower temperature and aged in new barrels, while dark vinegars are cooked at higher temperatures to promote caramelization, and aged in old, charred barrels. We tasted the 18 year balsamic vinegar in pure form, which, as expected, is sweet enough to drink on its own!
For dessert, we were treated to a blood orange chocolate mousse, made with blood orange olive oil, and a platter of fruit to be dipped in a variety of different balsamic vinegars. Similar to the meats and cheeses, it was fun to experiment with flavours!
Blood orange chocolate mousse
After the tasting concluded, we were all invited to browse the shop, with all purchases discounted 10%. Needless to say, Felicia and my Mum took advantage of the offer, loading up on three different kinds of vinegars and an olive oil. The tasting inspired my Mum straightaway, as she baked up a loaf of focaccia bread today, incorporating the mushroom and sage oil in the loaf.
Browsing the shop
Thanks to Evoolution for a wonderful night of learning and tastes! To sign up for their next public tasting, make sure to check back on their website.
10130 104 Street