An oil for any occaision

Take a tasting tour of Olive Lucy’s dozens of ultra-premium olive oils, balsamic vinegar and more.                                                                                                                                                                                                      If you’ve only ever bought olive oil in a supermarket, a trip to Olive Lucy’s could be a little overwhelming.

Nestled in a cozy cluster of shops on Huntingdon Pike, the boutique specializes in more than 70 ultra-premium, flavor-infused olive oils and vinegars. They’re bottled like fine wines and available for sampling in frusties, large metal calendars.

Some, like the line that tastes like butter and goes on the staff’s popcorn, tastes uncannily like the real thing. Similarly, the blood orange olive oil and chocolate balsamic vinegars work well as substitute ingredients or garnish, respectively, for treats like brownies. And for dinners or dipping, the flavors range from cayenne pepper to wild mushroom and sage.

Not all the products are so far removed from what people usually expect olive oil to taste like. However, the tastes seem more pure or complex, especially when additional ingredients like basil, garlic or tuscan oils are strong and very distinct.

“There is a lot of consumer awareness,” said Olive Lucy owner Harold Kaytes. “As people experience the taste and quality of these products, they realize just how different it is from what’s normally stocked in stores.”

But it’s still just olive oil, combined with other plants to achieve the taste without the calories or cholesterol. It’s a part of a growing trend toward higher-quality, artisan foods. And, it’s that enthusiasm that Kaytes tapped into when he opened the store a few years ago.

“I got pretty creative with cooking, and realized the quality of a good olive oil and balsamic vinegar,” he said. “When company would come for dinner, they’d say I should open a restaurant.”

Kaytes wasn’t about to take on a project that big. “This was the next-best thing,” he noted. “It’s neat to have a store where you can come in and taste them all.”

And, his creativity matches the imagination behind the many flavors of oils the store sells. Kaytes said it’s fun for him to create all the little extras in the store, like gift packages, and gourmet pastas and chocolate bars to go with the different flavors.

Soon, Olive Lucy will also carry maple syrup from New Hampshire and exotic teas and soap and hair products made with olive oil and jellies and jams with balsamic vinegars.

“We want to keep the store interesting for people,” explained Kaytes. “It’s not just oil and vinegar.”

But those items are still at the heart of the business. And, it takes more than just stocking and selling to keep up with them. Ultra-premium olive oils come in seasons, as plants from different parts of the world become ready for harvest.

This month, for instance, will see the arrival of oils made from koroneiki olives from places such as Chile, South Africa, Australia and Peru. They’ll taste different from the ones currently in stock that come from Greece, California or Spain.

“It’s like grapes for wine,” Kaytes explained. “The climate, humidity and growing seasons affect the olives.”

It’s a lot of work to keep up on it all, but Kayes feels it’s worth the effort — and his handpicked staff agrees.

“It was important to me to find people who could work the same way I would,” he explained. “We joke around a lot, but we’re also very serious about what they sell.”

It all adds up to a friendly, relaxed atmosphere that’s already garnered regulars who keep coming in to try to buy new flavors. “It’s not unusual for a first-time visitor to spend an hour and a half here,” noted Kaytes.

It’s also not unusual for those first-time visitors, once they become familiar with what the shop has to offer to come back often — and even make their own contributions.

“We get a lot of information from customers who tell us about different recipes,” said Kaytes. The oil that tastes like butter has become popular with local bakers, for instance, and others have used the products in lemon lime pies and other concoctions.

“We encourage the customers to share them with us, and we print their recipes and offer them in the store.”

It adds up to a community vibe, one that’s also present in the many after-hours events the store holds. Since its inception, Olive Lucy has held tastings that often double as events for local nonprofits.

Recently, that’s extended even to nearby schools, where religion classes have come in to learn about how olive oil comes up in the New Testament when it comes to bartering and rituals.

“We always try to be involved in the community,” said Kaytes.  

Olive Lucy is located at 2531 Huntingdon Pike in Huntingdon Valley. For information, call (267) 722-8251 or visit http://www.olive-lucy.com.

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