After dropping in to the unusual (and delicious) Olive Orchard Tasting Room in First Street Station, you would think that this was the very first store that specialized in unusual balsamic vinegars and infused olive oils. But Laura Hannu-Eckrote and her husband Roy are not oil and vinegar pioneers (well, maybe in Rehoboth Beach they are…). They got the idea from a little store in Bar Harbor, Maine that specialized in quality olive oils. An idea was born.
Laura, an Air Force veteran (2 tours in Iraq!) who still works as a trauma nurse at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, is quick to correct you if you call it a store. Actually it's a tasting room. Roy chimes in to expound on the fact that their oils are all from real olives (as opposed to some of the cheaper bottled product out there). In fact, some of their oils were pressed barely an hour after the olives were harvested. Now that's fresh.
Stainless steel casks called fustis line the walls and the center aisle. Small plastic tasting cups are available at each fusti which is clearly marked with the contents. And trust me, the flavors are strong, so a tiny bit in the cup will do. Keep in mind, these are intense vinegars and delicately flavored oils. This weekend I had the pleasure of conducting an EatingRehoboth.com walking food tour where the Olive Orchard was the specialty store stop. The 16 people on the tour really got into the swing of things, buying bottles of their preferred tastes for $11, $17 and $21, depending on size. I did a lot of tasting myself, and some of my favorites include the cinnamon-pear balsamic (an amazing taste), the cranberry-pear balsamic, the white balsamic infused with jalapeño (a very soothing warmth that centers in the back of the throat), the Thai Lemongrass Mint white balsamic, and for those who like things a bit sweeter, the Cara-Cara Orange/Vanilla white balsamic. There was a line of tasters waiting for a bit of the dark chocolate balsamic mixed with the espresso balsamic.
It will be hard to go in there, taste around, and not buy something. I was back there today and I tried the pumpkin white balsamic. Amazing, with just the slightest hint of softly sweet pumpkin. You'll go out of your gourd for this one. By the way, the garlic-infused olive oil at Olive Orchard would be perfect on a plate, sprinkled with a bit of grated, aged parm, a pinch of sea salt and a dusting of chili flakes. Dip your favorite Italian bread in there and all is well with the world.
Olive Orchard Tasting Room is located in First St. Station in Rehoboth Beach at 70 Rehoboth Avenue and is open 10 a.m. ’til 9 p.m. every day in season. They are working closely with Spice & Tea Exchange to make sure your condiment-shopping experience is a tasty one. Go check it out. It will give you a whole now perspective on salad, sauces and marinades! Take a look at their rather austere website here. Feel free to call them at 302-824-3012.