Art of Oil opens on King Street
Meredith and Davis Whitfield have their business down to an art.
Boone's only olive oil and vinegar tasting gallery, The Art of Oil, has outgrown its Howard Street home for a long-awaited move to King Street.
The new space, just across from the Watauga County Courthouse, boasts an additional 200 square feet of gallery space, plus a handful of rooms that will eventually be dedicated to wines and spices.
"Us Howard Street people have always kind of had King Street envy," said Meredith Whitfield, who opened the store with husband Davis in August 2010.
Well, that and the new space can accommodate Art of Oil's growing inventory, which Whitfield said could barely fit in the old location.
"This will let us get some more products," she said, mentioning new vinegars infused with pineapple and coconut, along with old favorites like Herbes de Provence. "In the short term, there are probably six or seven oils and vinegars we'll be able to bring back."
The store already features approximately 45 varieties, as well as spices, wines, local cheeses, local pasta and Italian deli meats. "If it exists, we're here to find it," Whitfield said.
The oil and vinegar primarily hail from Italy and Tunisia, and run the gamut of flavor to suit most tastes.
And tasting is what the gallery is about. Visitors are free to sample any oil and vinegar in the store, using bread crusts from Boone's Stick Boy Bread Company for dipping. "Trying everything makes all the difference," Whitfield said.
Whitfield recommends that newcomers start with traditional extra virgin olive oils, like Chilean Arbosana, with flavors of butter and asparagus ideal for bread-dipping or salad dressings.
"Although they're quote unquote plain, they all taste different," Whitfield said.
After one taste, Whitfield said, most customers move on to something a little bolder, like Japanese roasted sesame oil, made according to 270-year-old Japanese methods.
"We'll recommend combinations for people," she said. "Lots of things go great together."
The vinegars are also full of surprises, like a blueberry balsamic best paired with blood orange or lemon olive oils, or drizzled over fruit, cheese or ice cream.
At the very least, they've inspired family friend, associate and artist-in-residence Ciara McCaig.
"This is the most fun I've had cooking," she said. "It's made me much more inventive in the kitchen. I love it - and so does my boyfriend."
And the new space has allowed the Whitfields to be more inventive with their organization. Though not nearly as close-quartered, the store retains the same intimacy as its old location, while providing a roomy venue for artwork, tastings and special events, like this Friday's Downtown Boone Art Crawl, during which Art of Oil will celebrate its grand reopening with oil, vinegar and wine tastings and art from Davis Whitfield. The celebration lasts from 5 to 9 p.m.
Regular store hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and 12 to 5 p.m. Sunday.
The Art of Oil is located at 819 W. King St., between Vidalia and the soon-to-be Mellow Mushroom, in downtown Boone. For more information, call (828) 355-9313 or visit http://www.theartofoil.com.
Got restaurant news? E-mail editor Frank Ruggiero at (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call (828) 264-6397.