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Art of Oil brings art to your tastebuds

Article Published: Jul. 15, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Art of Oil brings art to your tastebuds

Meredith Whitfield poses behind what will be the bar at the Art of Oil, an olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting gallery set to open next week.

Photo by Lauren K. Ohnesorge

A new store promises to change the way you think of olive oil.

It's the Art of Oil (222 Howard St. in downtown Boone), an olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting gallery, and it will have you mixing your way to culinary satisfaction.

The brainchild of Meredith Whitfield, the store celebrates the art of food.

Whitfield, who came across the idea in Denver last October, graduated from Appalachian State University in 2000, returning to the High Country in 2006 after a stint in Washington, D.C. The sudden addiction to oil surprised her.

"We love to cook, but we're not like olive oil connoisseurs," she said.

That's about to change, thanks to a wide selection of oils and vinegars soon arriving to the store, like "dark chocolate balsamic" and "dark truffle" oil.

"There's just so much you can do with it," she said.

And it's not what you would expect. Think 41 fustis (stainless steel containers with taps) and small plastic pill cups for tasting.

"The oil and vinegars taste great separately, but one of the fun things is coming up with new combinations of flavors," she said.

Take a "roasted walnut extra virgin olive oil" and add some "apple balsamic vinegar," and you've got a new taste sensation.

"They taste even better than when they're apart," Whitfield said.

And, if you've never been to a tasting gallery before, prepare to be surprised.

"There's actually a balsamic vinegar we have," she said. "It's an 18-year age that's so sweet you can drink it straight, and it tastes great on ice cream."

Blueberry balsamic might be more your style.

"It actually tastes good on pancakes and waffles," she said.

It's a far cry from the puckered lip look grocery store vinegars can create.

"One of the great things about these products is some of the flavors are so interesting that you find yourself using them in ways you wouldn't normally use an oil or a vinegar," Whitfield said. "Most people wouldn't put a vinegar on their breakfast, but this one's good enough that you'll want to."

The flavors can make dinner preparation a snap. Toss in pasta with herbs du Provence oil, mix in some feta cheese and fresh tomato, and you've created a gourmet meal. "You don't even have to worry about the sauce," Whitfield said.

In addition to oils, vinegar and cubed sampling bread, Whitfield is selling other products to compliment your satisfaction, including Stick Boy bread, Pasta Wench pasta, and wine, particularly from the Mediterranean region. "I'm trying to find wines from the same countries the olive oils come from," Whitfield said.

Eventually, she hopes to add a refrigeration unit to sell local cheese.

"Other than the wine, oil and vinegar, we want to focus on local products when we can," she said.

Culinary art isn't the only thing on the menu, though.

"We think there's an art to food, and my husband (Davis Whitfield) is an artist, so we really want to incorporate all the stuff we love, whether it's the art on the walls or the art in the food," she said.
Currently, the walls are decorated with Davis's landscapes. Whitfield plans to add more local art, and even sell Laura Fly-crafted jewelry.

The store should open sometime next week, Whitfield said. The grand opening celebration is set for Aug. 6 at 5 p.m. (just in time for the Downtown Boone Art Crawl), complete with olive oil cakes.

Expect the Art of Oil to be open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. For more information (and to check out the home of what will be the web store) check out

Beat It
Got restaurant news? E-mail editor Frank Ruggiero at ( , snail mail Mountain Times Publications, Attn: Frank Ruggiero, 474 Industrial Park Drive, Boone, N.C. 28607, or call (828) 264-NEWS and ask for Frank.

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