Since opening in July, The Olive Tree has become the go-to place for an extensive selection of imported natural and organic extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Located in the heart of Huntington Village at 307 Main Street (631.683.4880), the shop also offers a wide variety of organic and gourmet seasonings and food items, as well as a line of beauty products made with 100% virgin olive oil. Any of these items can be incorporated into an attractive custom gift basket for any occasion. Customers are invited to stop by for a free tasting from among the more than 50 specialty and infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars. The shop is open Monday through Thursday, 10AM-6PM, Friday and Saturday, 10AM-10PM, and Sunday, 10AM-6PM, with extended hours for the holiday season.
The Olive Tree is a family business owned and managed by George and his wife, Mary, along with their son, Michael, who organizes the special events and demonstrations. George grew up in an entrepreneurial family that owned a retail food business. He helped his father in the family store and later owned two delicatessens of his own. So, opening a specialty food shop came naturally for him.
According to George, choosing Huntington Village as the location for the shop was a no-brainer. “We liked the active downtown atmosphere, and the people who live and visit here seemed friendly and interesting.” Father and son renovated the empty storefront themselves, transforming it into a welcoming, bright and open space with a rustic contemporary European feel, the perfect home for the many fine olive oils and balsamic vinegars imported from Italy and Greece. “A visually appealing store, along with quality product and cleanliness, is the foundation for The Olive Tree’s success, ” George said.
Whether you’re knowledgeable about virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars or just discovering them, there is much to appreciate about The Olive Tree’s offerings. Here you will find a wide variety of extra virgin, infused, and specialty olive oils, as well as infused balsamic vinegars, which, individually or in combination, are excellent for dipping, cooking, marinating, dressing salads, and even as unexpected ingredients in milkshakes and cocktails. Most are either natural or certified organic, and bottles are priced at $8.99 to $16.99.
Among the varieties of imported extra virgin olive oils are Spanish Hojiblanca, Chilean Leccino, Italian Umbria, and Greek Koroneiki. Each has a unique flavor, ranging from smooth and velvety with mild fruitiness (Chilean Leccino) to rich and full with a peppery finish (Greek Koroneiki). There is a substantial selection of infused extra virgin olive oils, including citrus (Blood Orange,Lemon, and Lime) and herb (Basil, Garlic, Rosemary, and Tuscan) flavors. My personal favorites are Blood Orange, which is smooth and sweet, and Tuscan Herb, which is a unique blend of basil, rosemary, marjoram, flat leaf parsley, sun-dried tomatoes, and garlic. Specialty oils include sesame, almond, and avocado.
The Olive Tree’s menu of balsamic vinegars includes a large selection of infused varieties ranging from fruit flavors (Apricot, Mango, Pomegranate, and Mandarin Orange) to the more exotic, namely Almond Creme, Black Truffle, Espresso Bean, and Honey with Serrano Chile. Perfect for the season are the Cranberry Walnut, Pumpkin Spice Pie, Maple, and Green Apple varieties, the latter being especially popular. Pumpkin Spice Pie balsamic vinegar adds zing, whether drizzled on pancakes or winter squash, or used in a milkshake or a martini.
On my recent visit to The Olive Tree, I took the opportunity to indulge in tasting a number of paired varieties of olive oils and balsamic vinegars. When asked about the most highly recommended pairings, George told me that “recommended” combinations are based largely on personal taste and the purpose for which they are to be used. Mary is partial to pairing Red Apple balsamic vinegar with Italian Umbria olive oil over tossed salads made with apples, cranberries, and walnuts. I love oranges and chocolate, so George offered me a piece of Italian bread to dip into the blood orange infused olive oil followed by the chocolate balsamic vinegar (no dairy in the chocolate balsamic, by the way). It was even more delicious than I imagined. “Now,” he said, “imagine dipping a strawberry instead of a piece of bread!”
Shops specializing in healthful products, such as The Olive Tree, are a growing trend, and the health benefits of olive oil are not to be underestimated. An excellent source of vitamins (E and K) and minerals (iron, calcium, potassium, and sodium), it is used in cosmetics, medicine, soaps, and cooking. Studies show that people who regularly consume olive oil are much less likely to experience high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and stroke, and are at lower risk for developing blood clots. Those with Type 2 diabetes benefit from better insulin levels and blood sugar control. Olive oil is beneficial for skin and nails as well. Its natural characteristics provide a deep cleansing of the skin without causing irritation or clogging pores, and it can be used straight-up as an eye-makeup remover or for shaving. The Olive Tree carries a select line of beauty products made with 100% virgin olive oil–some infused with lavender or pumpkin– including skin and body cleansers, hand creams, and shampoos and conditioners.
Who among us doesn’t enjoy receiving a surprise basket full of healthful and delicious edibles or natural beauty products? They make great gifts, and The Olive Tree offers its own unique creations. There are a number of ready-made themed baskets, and if you can’t find exactly what you have in mind, you can have a basket designed to your liking. To make your basket truly special, George recommends bringing in a sentimental or other type of personally meaningful item, and it will be included. He and Mary are available to help with custom orders for special occasions and events, both large and small.
For a fun night out, check out the monthly special events at The Olive Tree. Huntington locals and visitors can bring their friends and family to join in a leisure activity, attend an educational seminar, or observe a food demonstration while sampling the shop’s flavorful olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Among recently held events was a Dip and Paint Nite, where guests painted a colorful autumn theme on a pair of wine glasses. Another recent program included a chef’s demonstration of the uses and pairings of olive oils and balsamic vinegars for cooking and preparing foods. An upcoming event features a seminar presented by financial advisors, followed by an informational talk about olive oils and balsamic vinegars (accompanied by a tasting, of course). Future events are in the planning stages.
George rightfully prides himself on the variety and quality of the products he painstakingly selects, the baskets he and Mary thoughtfully design, and the special events that Michael organizes, but he told me that he is most proud of the high level of personalized service customers receive in their shop. Friendly and helpful, George is a good listener who clearly values his customers. “I want to make sure that our customers always walk out the door happy,” he said.
Whether you are looking for something for yourself, want to purchase a special gift for your Thanksgiving host or someone on your holiday list, or are just curious, you won’t be disappointed at The Olive Tree. Just make sure to allow yourself enough time to shop, because, with so many options, you may find it difficult to make up your mind. Don’t worry, though. Even if your schedule is jam-packed, and you don’t have a lot of time to browse, there are always gift certificates available. Products can be purchased at the shop, by phone, or on The Olive Tree website at www.olivetreelongisland.com.