- Miriam Sitz
Tucked away on the near-Southside, just across South Hackberry from the illustrious Little Red Barn, a specialty foods store opened its doors some three months ago: San Antonio’s Gourmet Olive Oils. Open from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends, SA’s Gourmet presents a tiny, beautiful island of high-quality oils in an unexpected location.
Owner Christine Arredondo retired from the Marine Corps a year and a half ago after a 15-year career that took her on two tours in Iraq. After returning to her hometown of San Antonio, she set out to educate her community about the benefits of cooking with high-quality ingredients.
SA’s Gourmet is a tasting room, with rows upon rows of empty bottles waiting to be filled with sweet and savory oils and vinegars; placards with descriptions and recommended preparations below every bottle; and tiny cups for sampling the goods. “People assume [olive oil] is too expensive, or they feel intimidated by the options,” said the South San High School graduate. But, starting out with a tasting of the popular garlic-infused EVOO and moving on to more adventurous options like the spicy red cayenne chili-infused oil, clients quickly come around. “I tell them, ‘You can use this instead of cooking oil that’s high in cholesterol and trans fats; you can use a very clean extra virgin olive oil with garlic, rosemary or basil and cook your food just the same way.’”
Arredondo sells 50 varieties of oil, including EVOOs and oils infused with ingredients like cilantro, blood orange, Persian lime and black and white truffles. San Antonio’s Gourmet also offers Italian balsamic vinegars aged between 12 and 18 years (particularly tasty is the artisanal Serrano honey vinegar) and other specialty items like a fragrant black truffle sea salt. All products are sourced from small estate mills across the globe, and the liquids are sold in 200-, 375-, and 750-milliliter bottles that cost between $9.95 and $25 on average, with the truffle oils running up to $69.95 for the largest bottle.
I asked Arredondo what she uses olive oil on. “Everything!” she exclaimed. “I use extra virgin olive oil on everything, every day. I use it to cook chicken and seafood, on salads and I don’t use dressing—I use balsamics. I pair them and create a marinade for meats.”
Arredondo’s favorite combination is a concoction of two parts Coratina EVOO from Peru and one part raspberry balsamic, used on chicken and vegetable stir fry. Coratina, she says, is among the oils highest in polyphenols—a type of antioxidant that may have also have anti-inflammatory properties. She also recommends that consumers check the date on oils in their kitchen (“You don’t want olive oil to sit on the shelf for more than a year”) and store bottles in cool, dark places to prevent spoilage.
San Antonio’s Gourmet Olive Oils
1913 S Hackberry