Crystal Reibel and husband Chip opened Beyond the Olive three weeks ago at the epicenter of Old Pasadena, specializing in California extra virgin olive oil, California wine vinegars and balsamic vinegars that are primarily from Italy. No matter the bottle, jar or container, products are all in line with the couple’s motto: “celebrating food & living well.”
The Reibels wanted to expand the limited access to high quality olive oils while showcasing California’s oft overlooked bounty. Why Pasadena? “Mostly the demographics of the area,” said Crystal Reibel.” People like to cook and eat.” There’s also plenty of foot traffic in Old Town. The Reibels feature a blackboard out front that encourages passersby to “Say no to foreign (olive) oil.”
Sample any bottle in the store before you take it home to make sure you like it. If you’re looking for advice, Crystal Reibel said, “Usually with people who don’t know olive oil really well, I give them something lighter, then I move them to something more robust.” Then she finds a middle ground that suits your tastes. “Once you know you’re getting good quality, it’s a matter of preference, like wine,” she said.
For finishing or baking, Crystal Reibel recommends lighter oils like Berkeley Olive Grove 1913 reserve from Oroville. She defines “robust” as “flavors of bitterness and pungency, the pepperiness at the back of the throat.” Use these more aggressive oils on a steak or a big hearty pasta, including Regina from Napa.
We walked to the opposite wall, pouring Katz Late Harvest Vinegar agrodolce, which is good on salad, steamed vegetables, or as a marinade for pork or chicken. With balsamic, she started me with a tangy Sparrow Lane Balsamic, then filled plastic thimbles with B.R. Cohn 15-year-old and 25-year-old balsamics. “The longer it ages, the sweeter and less acidic.” She said the 25-year-old balsamic is sweet enough to drizzle over ice cream.
In back, you’ll find twin rows of metal containers with spouts. Buy a bottle for $5, then fill it as many times as you like with olive oil, flavored olive oil or vinegar.
A table in the center of the room holds a variety of jarred olives, including Kalamata pitted, lemon citrus pitted, late harvest mix and “mission homestyle.”
Beyond the Olive also features a hood, which will allow the Reibels to host tasting events and cooking classes in the future.