Olive Oils with Nuance
The Crescent Olive invigorates the palate with its fresh olives and vinegar ice-cream sauce
By HELEN MITTERNIGHT » Photos by ASHLEY WALKER
Almost any kid will say yes to an outing that includes ice cream, but the discerning child will hold out for ice cream and vinegar.
Sounds crazy, but the Crescent Olive in Mt. Pleasant gets children as well as adults, who come in and ask for their ice cream and vinegar tastings. The tasting starts with a sample-size cup of vanilla ice cream and a plastic spoon. The taster puts a dollop of ice cream on the tip of the spoon and then adds a drop or two of the flavored Balsamic vinegars from a stainless steel jug to the back of the spoon. The two flavors marry in the mouth, the sweet from the ice cream hitting one part of the tongue and the tart from the vinegar hitting another part of the tongue to create a taste unlike almost anything else. The balsamic vinegars range from the whites, aged up to 12 years, to the darks, aged up to 18 years, and include flavors like orange and vanilla; honey-ginger; peach; black cherry; blackberry-ginger; fig; espresso; maple; red apple; lavender; and dark chocolate.
For those who question adding salad fixings to dessert, the Crescent Olive offers brownies made with blood orange olive oil instead of vegetable oil. The orange-chocolate brownies tend to make converts out of the most skeptical.
“You make these and it makes you look like a gourmet chef,” says Mike Easler, who opened the Mt. Pleasant store with his wife, Charlotte, about a year ago.
Mt. Pleasant is one of two Crescent Olive locations, the other being in Columbia, SC.
“The vinegars are very popular because it’s zero Weight Watchers points,” Easler says. “There are no added sugars or calories. It’s a great way to add flavor to our diet, great for salads, dressings, fruit.”
Despite the popularity of the ice cream tastings and the vinegars, it’s the olive oil that is the foundation of the stores.
Armed with a container of tiny bread chunks, customers can dunk into samples of olive oils that have top-notes like a fine wine. One tastes of green almond and artichoke, another like green apple and cut grass.
“It’s amazing. We ask people where they typically get their olive oil. If it’s the grocery store, they taste ours and say they didn’t know this is how olive oil is supposed to taste,” Easler says. “People are just amazed that olive oil doesn’t just taste like oil. They’re used to not having nuance or intensity. They think they just want an Italian olive oil, but we teach them they could get an oil from South America or Australia that tastes the same or even better.”
Every six months, the store changes its olive sources between northern and southern hemispheres, depending on the growing season.
The Easlers believe the fact that they use olive oil that is graded Ultra Premium (the industry’s certification for the world’s highest standard for extra virgin olive oil) sets them apart. The UP label trumps the organic label, they say. Their olives are crushed within six hours of harvest and are certified Ultra Premium 14 months from the crush date. In fact, all of the olive oils in the store have a “crush date” on them to prove how fresh they are.
“If you go to other places that have olive oil that is not certified, you don’t know what you’re getting in terms of the age of the oil,” Charlotte says.
In addition to a variety of olive oils, the Crescent Olive offers a number of flavored olive oils such as wild mushroom and sage; rosemary; basil; butter; garlic; and cilantro and roasted onion.
“Without a doubt, our flavored Tuscan herb is everyone’s favorite,” Charlotte says. “It outsells everything else in the store, bar none. The Tuscan herb fits everyone’s palate. You just can’t go wrong with it.”
Most of the store’s customers are women from 25 to 70 years of age, but Mike says a significant number of males come in looking to spruce up their grilling.
“Women will come in and bring their husbands back, and their husbands wind up buying more than the wife did the first time,” Charlotte says.
The Crescent Olive products are also sold online and at several local farmers’ markets and community events.
“Every customer who comes in the store, we want to educate them, and we want them to know what they’re putting in their body,” Charlotte says. “We feel that the flavors are going to sell the oils, but we (also) want them to understand why it’s good for them.” 843-388-0975, thecrescentolive.com