by Laura Modlin Correspondent Foodies have a new store to discover, and worlds of flavor to explore. Dash N Drizzle Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar Tasting Bar opened downtown on June 7. Friends Jeff Love and Jeff Stein, both from Fairfield, have partnered to bring a specialized world to their new shop nestled at 11 Unquowa Road, next to the now-closed Community Theater. There are 30 types of olive (and some grapeseed) oil from around the world and 20 types of Modena, Italy, balsamic vinegar to taste and purchase. This much choice should make a lot of people happy, according to Love. “Olive oil and balsamic vinegar are becoming more and more popular,” Love said. And this type of tasting bar is attracting interest. “It’s a growing niche in the food industry,” Stein said. Health benefits Thought to be an integral part of a healthy diet, olive oil is a staple in many people’s culinary arsenal. “We have a lot of health conscious people in the state,” Love said. The health benefits in olive oil are derived from its high polyphenol level. Polyphenols have antioxidant properties and are anti-inflammatory. Increasing the health of cells helps stave off degenerative diseases, and decreasing inflammation fights against cancer. These and other health benefits, believed to be tied to polyphenols, are directly proportionate to the age of the oil. The longer the oil sits after its press date, the lower the polyphenol level. “The standard is [olive oil] is best used by 18 months after it’s crushed,” Stein said. Suppliers can tell purchasers the press date of oil. Olive oil has other enemies, too, namely light and oxygen. “It’s why we use steel containers,” Stein said. And it’s why olive oil is typically packaged in dark bottles and should be stored away from the light. “Some people like to see the color [though],” Love said. So Dash N Drizzle offers small, clear sampler bottles. “People go through those swiftly,” Love said. The quality of the oil is not degraded in a short period of time in a clear bottle. However, some people could notice a difference in taste. “To the discerning palate, the taste can change,” Love said. Extra virgin “Extra virgin” is the highest grade an olive oil can receive, indicating that the oil was prepared using the best possible standards. According to the California Olive Oil Council, factors that can affect the quality of the oil include: • Weather • Picking methods • Storage/time between the picking and milling • The milling process • Exposure to heat, air and light • The color of the bottles • Time “Extra virgin olive oil has to have an acidity level of less than 0.8% and a [high] flavor profile,” Love said. Roberto Gelsomino, store manager, recently returned from a trip to a small, family-owned farm in Italy in search of oil for the store. “The quality [of the oil] Roberto sourced is high end,” Stein said. He was looking for a high polyphenol count, high vitamin E content and lots of flavor. The discerning palate Dash N Drizzle has so far gotten oil from Spain, Italy, Greece, Chile and California. The owners plan to continue searching for new and different sources to share with their customers. “There are many olive oil producing countries we don’t have here,” Gelsomino said. “Within the next year, we’ll have hundreds of types [of oil and vinegar] that will come through here,” Stein said. One of the next countries they are looking to source from is Israel. The store will have staples, seasonal offerings and continued varieties, and owners want people to keep finding new flavors. “We want to keep it fresh,” Stein said. “Change it up for people.” Gelsomino said those behind Dash N Drizzle want to educate their customers, whom he said come in two types. “There are those only interested in the infused flavor,” he said, “and others interested in high quality for health benefits.” High quality olive oil has a slightly bitter flavor, Gelsomino said. “It’s a matter of taste,” Stein said. Love said that people enter the store with varied preferences. “It’s just like [with] wine,” Love said. He said anyone can find a flavor profile that suits them in the store. “The nice thing about this concept is people have to come [in] and taste,” Stein said. People will also be able to order online soon from the store’s website, dashndrizzle.com. Offerings The store keeps its oil and vinegar in 15- and 20-liter stainless steel containers called fustis, and can fill and sell three different sized bottles to customers: 50-ml samplers are $4.99, 375-ml bottles are $15.99 and 750-ml bottles are $29.99. Some oils are priced slightly higher. If customers return the custom-designed bottles clean and dry for a refill, they can save 10%. “We made the bottle nice so people will reuse,” Stein said. There are no paper labels to degrade the look over time. Spices and olive oil-based skin care products are among the other offerings in Dash N Drizzle. More are on the way. The two Jeffs try to buy carefully with just enough for what they need and so they don’t have to store anything. That way the products are always fresh. “We want to bring things to Connecticut that no other stores in Connecticut will have,” Stein said. The store is open Monday through Wednesday from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m., Thursday through Saturday from 10 until 8 and Sunday from 11 until 8. Information is available at dashndrizzle.com or call 203-292-9815.