Dozens of samples of olive oil and balsamic vinegar line the “Wall of Flavor” at A Bit of Taste on Wednesday, June 12, 2024, in Snohomish, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Dozens of samples of olive oil and balsamic vinegar line the “Wall of Flavor” at A Bit of Taste on Wednesday, June 12, 2024, in Snohomish, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Oil and vinegar mix at this Snohomish store

A Bit of Taste offers gourmet olive oil and balsamic vinegar: Just add salad or a dash atop your avocado toast.

SNOHOMISH — Hoping to coax your kids (and maybe yourself) to eat more vegetables?

A visit to A Bit of Taste, an olive oil company in Snohomish, might be just the thing.

One customer’s 8-year-old son will only eat carrots with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Another customer’s toddler has to dip each leaf of lettuce in a fig flavored balsamic vinegar before taking a bite, said store owner Debe Franz.

And avocado toast isn’t quite as tasty without a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, Franz said.

At a tiny store in Bellingham twelve years ago, Franz discovered the flavors of gourmet olive oil and traditional balsamic vinegar.

The taste lingered.

The Lake Stevens resident and Everett Community College instructor began wishing there was a store closer to home.

It didn’t take long for Franz, who’d run a bookkeeping business for decades, to take the plunge into oil and vinegar.

She planned to open a store in Snohomish, but when Franz learned the Queen Anne Olive Oil Co. in Seattle was up for sale in 2019, she bought the business.

When the lease expired two years ago, she renewed her search for a Snohomish location.

A Bit of Taste is celebrating its second year at 1301 First St.

The store offers 70 olive oils and balsamic vinegars.

“We usually have about eight to 10 unflavored extra virgin olive oils and 15 flavored olive oils on display,” Franz said. “Another 12 rotate through the year.”

The shop carries about 20 flavors of balsamic vinegar, with another 25 on rotation, she said.

It’s a small store, just 850 square feet, but “all are in stock even if you don’t see them on display,” Franz said.

Also on the shelf, chocolates from France, olive-oil based baking mixes and locally-made goodies, including San Juan Island Sea Salt products and POSHI Bites artichoke snacks, a Seattle company.

“I could tell you a little story behind every one of these products,” Franz said, reaching for a snack-size bag of Pacific Popcorn, made by a Monroe company. “I was introduced to them at a food show in Seattle.”

Everything is meant to be tasted and savored.

Tiny paper sample cups dot the cheery store whose back porch has one of the best views of the Snohomish River.

“Customers can taste the products and know what they’re getting,” said Franz, whose monthly newsletter includes tips, recipes and customer favorites.

Maygen Hetherington, executive director of the Historic Downtown Snohomish Association and a member of the Snohomish City Council, got her first taste two years ago.

“I had just started my job, and she was one of the first businesses I welcomed,” Hetherington said.

At the ribbon-cutting, Franz served shrubs. Hetherington had no idea what those were.

“I was looking for a small plant,” she quipped.

Shrubs combine seltzer water with balsamic vinegar for a sweet but tangy drink.

“She served me one and I was hooked!” Hetherington said.

Shrubs were “the absolute rage in colonial America,” according to a Royal Coffee report, which called them “basically the first energy drink.”

“Water keeps people hydrated, and vinegar stimulates salivation which helps quench thirst and aids in digestion,” the report continues.

Start with a teaspoon or tablespoon of balsamic per eight ounces of seltzer. Hetherington’s go-to combo: Seltzer, Honey Ginger White Balsamic and a splash of Peach White Balsamic.

“She offers so many creative ways to use food,” she said. Another favorite: Persian Lime Olive Oil over popcorn with a dash of chili powder.

What is premium olive oil?

A Bit of Taste offers “ultra premium olive oils,” a trademark variety supplied by Veronica Foods, an Oakland-based company.

For an olive oil to be considered extra virgin it has to taste like olive oil, Franz said. At some stores, you’ll find some that are so refined they don’t taste like olive oil.

Olive oil is sourced from small producers around the world.

“Every six months we get an infusion of olive oil,” Franz said. “That’s the difference here — we know when it was crushed.”

That’s typically May or June for olives harvested in the southern hemisphere and mid-October for northern hemisphere varieties.

“Olive oil is the fruit juice of the olive,” Franz explained. “The fat keeps it more stable but it’s going to oxidize over time. So you want to use your olive oil within 18 to 24 months of when it was crushed.”

Store displays describe where the olives were crushed, their type and tasting notes from an olive oil sommelier. A bottle of Manzanillo Extra Virgin, for example, features “notes of unripe berries, melon and green banana. Balanced and a tad savory with a slight pepper finish.”

What is traditional balsamic vinegar?

Like how true champagne is only produced in Champagne, France, balsamic vinegar is authentic only if it’s produced in the Modena region of Italy.

Traditional balsamic vinegars must be aged a minimum of 12 years and have no ingredients other than grape must, the freshly crushed fruit juice. A Bit of Taste carries only traditional balsamic, which does not contain added sugar, sulfites, preservatives or red wine vinegar.

White balsamic vinegars are aged 12 years or more in white oak barrels. “The sweetness comes from letting those grapes ripen as long as possible, like a dessert wine,” Franz said.

Dark balsamics are aged for up to 18 years in chestnut, oak, mulberry and ash barrels.

Both varieties can be used for salad dressings, marinades for meat, poultry and fish or drizzled over fruit and vegetables and used for bread dipping.

For summer salads, Franz recommends Milanese Gremolata Olive Oil and Cranberry Pear White Balsamic: two-thirds olive oil to one-third balsamic and a little salt and pepper. For a creamy salad dressing, add a little mustard. For a steak marinade, try Chipotle Olive Oil and Serrano Honey Vinegar.

Or, Franz suggested, get creative and drizzle balsamic vinegar over yogurt, ice cream or avocado toast.

A Bit of Taste – Snohomish Olive Oil Co.

1301 First Street, Snohomish

Hours:

Tuesday to Friday : 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Saturday: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Sunday: Noon to 4 p.m.

Janice Podsada: 425-339-3097; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @JanicePods.

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