Most home cooks know that a shot of high-quality finishing oil can really make the flavors of a dish pop. But many of us still turn to cheap supermarket oil for cooking. That is changing, however, as is evident in the success of local business Alfonso Gourmet Olive Oils and Balsamics, with its flagship location in St. Philip’s Plaza. Because of the growing demand for fresh oil and quality vinegars, in February, Alfonso opened a new store on North Oracle Road, at Magee Road.
If you haven’t yet been convinced that fresh olive oil deserves a place in your pantry, stop into Alfonso to give it a whirl. Yes, it may be a splurge, but aside from the vast taste difference, customers can also justify the extra cash because of the health benefits. Olive oil is loaded with polyphenols and antioxidants, but since there’s no telling when supermarket olive oils were made, nor how long they’ve been on the shelves, they likely have far fewer nutrients than their fresh counterparts, and may even be rancid. Oil stored in clear bottles under fluorescent lights oxidizes rapidly and loses nutrients. Alfonso’s oils are stored in dark bottles, and are clearly marked with recent “crush dates.” “We have a lot of doctors and nutritionists recommending fresh oils,” said Tom Alfonso, the owner. “It’s been really well-received, and we have a large regular customer base.”
Alfonso rotates import locations every six months to ensure extreme freshness—in the winter, Southern Hemisphere oils hail from Chile, Argentina, and Peru, while Northern Hemisphere oils come from Italy, Spain, Greece, and Portugal in the summer. While not local, of course, those whose exports reach Alfonso are selected based on their ethical practices and close relationship with farmers and producers in those countries of origin.
Of course, flavor reigns as the ultimate raison d’être. Customers can sample the wide selection of both oils and vinegars. “Oil should taste like olive juice,” said Alfonso. “It should have a nice, fruity green olive-y taste with a peppery finish.”
And for those who are wary of cooking with olive oil because of toxins, Alfonso says this is a myth that applies only to low-quality oil. “Because they are fresh, you can cook with our olive oils up to 450º. Supermarket olive oils have a very low smoke point, so they can become toxic when heated to a certain temperature.”
Alfonso also carries specialty oils such as truffle, sesame, and walnut, as well as an extensive line of natural gourmet balsamic vinegars, from a stellar white to fig or cranberry-pear. They’ve all been aged in Italy for 18 years. Alfonso regulars receive perks of the “recycle rewards program,” wherein customers receive a free 200 milliliter bottle or $10 off coupon when they return 10 used bottles. Regular prices are: $10 for 200 mL, $15 for 375 mL and $28 for 750 mL.
AlfonsoOliveOil.com. 4320 N. Campbell Ave., Suite 40. 520.441.9081.