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As a cooking instructor, I am often asked, “What kind of oil should I use?” The answer can vary, depending on what you are making and what your health concerns are. But clearly one of the most beloved, and versatile, is olive oil. The differences between particular olive oils can be subtle or striking, depending on where the olives were grown, how the oil was pressed and whether it was infused with herbs or other flavorings.
Whatever kind of olive oil you use, it is delicious to cook with and is considered a ‘good fat,’ providing healthful antioxidants and vitamins.
For those who salivate at the thought of dipping a hunk of crusty bread into a dish of fine olive oil, a visit to one of the Carter and Cavero stores in Long Branch, Princeton, Summit or Red Bank (Sea Girt is scheduled to open in early June), is a bit like wandering into a candy store of treats.
“We are a tasting store where customers get a real sensory experience,” says partner Mercedes Wall, 37.
Wall, a former bilingual teacher in New Brunswick, and husband Chris, 43, an attorney, decided to open an olive oil company in New Jersey in partnership with Chris Ortiz, after traveling throughout Spain and becoming excited about “sharing the Mediterranean lifestyle.” (Carter and Cavero are family names.) All their oil is imported in bulk.
Ortiz, who is based in Spain, is responsible for all the importing. The Walls also met several Spanish olive experts in their travels. The partners include Sam Berg, who has an advertising background and markets and promotes the business, and Tom Fulton, who has an accounting background and handlesl the financial and business matters.
They opened the first store in Red Bank in 2007.
Customers are greeted by gleaming stainless steel dispensers full of extra-virgin olive oils from Spain, Greece, France, Chile, Australia and California. Knowledgeable staff are ready to provide an array of samples and bread for dipping. It almost feels like a wine tasting, but one where your server might say, ‘This lovely Hojiblanca varietal hails from southern Spain. It has a ripe, fruity aroma with a strong presence of grass and apple, a hint of almond, and a peppery aftertaste.’
After choices have been made, customers take home their purchases in custom-etched black bottles that can be returned for a dollar off the next purchase.
There are at least 35 varieties of oil, including flavors like basil, porcini, white truffle and Persian lime—and various balsamic vinegars, as well. Other products include salts and spices, jarred olives, capers, tomatoes, spreads, nuts, pastas and sauces, in addition, the stores offer olive wood serving bowls, terra-cotta cookware and olive oil soaps and lotions.
“We also supply ideas and recipes for ways to use each of our products,” says Wall. “People really get inspired. After all, it’s all about food and everybody loves food!”
PASTA WITH SPRING HERBS
from Mercedes Wall of Carter and Cavero
1/2 lb. dried Umbricelli pasta (substitute fusilli, rotini, bow-tie pasta)
1/2 cup roughly chopped mixed fresh herbs, such as
parsley, chervil, tarragon, dill, and basil
2 tablespoons C&C Nocellara del Belize Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon C&C Sicilian Lemon White Balsamic Vinegar
Peruvian Pink coarse sea salt to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Cook pasta according to package with a teaspoon of salt. Drain pasta. Place in a large serving bowl. Toss with mixed herbs, oil, balsamic vinegar and lemon zest, 1/4 teaspoon of Peruvian Pink salt, and the Parmesan cheese. Serve warm or cold.
SUZANNE ZIMMER LOWERY is a food writer, pastry chef and culinary instructor at a number of New Jersey cooking schools. Find out more about her at suzannelowery.com.