In conjunction with our Foodie Issue and our reader essay contest, we've started a special blog series where we've asked staffers to share some of their favorite food experiences. Below, Account Executive Rory Kelly explains how one basic ingredient transformed the taste of her food.
Don’t let my last name, Kelly, fool you. Genetically, I’m a mutt. My family tree takes little bits of DNA code from Italy, France, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland and Scotland, and there are a few leaves on my tree with mysterious origins. Catherina Rastelli Reed, my grandmother and the matriarch of our family, came into this world by Emil and Helene Rastelli, a French pastry chef father from Italy, and an Italian, Swiss and German mother. While I have never met these foodie great grandparents, I believe they’re why our family evolved into food-obsessed kitchen dwellers serving the finest food on our dining room tables to family and friends.
Naturally, my grandmother’s culinary influences became lodged in our blood and became more of who I am than any of the other mutt persuasions, which led me to study abroad in Italy for a summer. Speaking of blood, I’m pretty sure that my blood is made of olive oil from the Italian DNA and made of pure butter on my French side. Although butter is still extremely relevant in her kitchen, my mother, Catherine Kelly, started using a bit more olive oil in her cooking in the 1990s, citing her own view of the news, “It’s good for you!”
Fast forward nearly 20 years, and I find it quite easy to pull together a meal and, of course, use olive oil as a main ingredient. On the grocery shelves, you find olive oil in two flavors: virgin and extra-virgin. Glenda Keenan and Kasey Zucchino, the owners of Blue Sky Oil and Vinegar, located in The Galleria on Elliott Road, define the flavors of olive oil a little differently that I do.
I thought I understood olive oil, but clearly, I did not. Keenan and Zucchino purchase small batches of extra virgin olive oil made all over the world. Many of these olive oils are infused with fruit, nuts and herbs. The store has about 20 different varietals, which can seem overwhelming at first. The staff is extremely knowledgeable and will help you whittle down exactly what you need for your upcoming meal by letting you taste different combinations with their 18-year aged balsamic vinegars, wine vinegars and truffle oils.
These oils and vinegars transformed my cooking. While I previously used a lemon to flavor my fish, I now use lemon olive oil, which actually, in a subtle way, tastes better. For a nutty taste in summer green beans, I use walnut olive oil, which makes the fresh flavors pop. There are so many ideas beyond salad dressing for these oils and vinegars. (But if you do need salad dressing, try mixing Herbs de Provence and the aged 18 years balsamic vinegar to create the perfect mix for a dinner salad.)
I chose four oils and vinegars for $26 to take home to mix and match, and I plan to buy several delicious bottles for the aspiring chefs in my family for the holidays.
Their website is still under construction, but stop by for a tasting today!