Fiore Artisan Olive Oils & Vinegars will open its third store and tasting room Nov. 21 in Freeport, giving southern Maine cooks easy access to its unfiltered olive oils infused with flavors like blood orange, chipotle, Baklouti green chili and Persian lime.
Fiore – an importer of ultra-premium extra-virgin olive oils, aged balsamic vinegars, sea salts and other specialty food products – has stores in Bar Harbor and Rockland, as well as year-round tasting rooms in Bangor and Lewiston and seasonal tasting rooms in Vinalhaven, North Haven and Northeast Harbor.
The Fiore at 58 Main St. in Freeport will be open daily and carry vinegars and more than 50 varieties of oils, according to Nancy O’Brien, who founded the company in 2009. She’ll be hiring six to eight new employees.
O’Brien, who won the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2013 Woman-Owned Business of the Year Award for Maine, said she hasn’t ruled out opening tasting rooms in the Portland area similar to the ones in Bangor and Lewiston, which are located inside specialty wine and craft beer shops.
“That seems to be a really good fit for a tasting bar,” she said. “The other collaboration is we probably have 25 restaurants up and down the coast that either put our bottles of oil and balsamic out on the table for people to use with their bread, with their salad. But they also use it cooking and baking.”
Fiore’s olive oils are imported from all over the world. They are unfiltered, first-press, cold-pressed oils rich in polyphenols, antioxidants that promote health and fight disease. Its traditionally aged balsamic vinegars are produced in Modena, Italy, and come in flavors such as tangerine, fig, espresso and blackberry ginger.
Fiore, which is Italian for “blossoming flower,” buys the freshest olive oil by “chasing the crush.”
“Right now we have the most recent harvests of extra-virgin olive oils in the store,” O’Brien said. “They are from the Southern Hemisphere, so they’re from Chile, Australia, Peru, South Africa. Right now in the Northern Hemisphere they’re starting to crush the olives, so within six weeks of the harvest we will start to bring in the Northern Hemisphere, which is Sicily in Italy, Northern California, Portugal, Greece.”
O’Brien said consumers have grown much more knowledgeable in recent years about olive oils and their health benefits. Often her customers choose their purchases not by taste, but by antioxidant level.
“They’ll point to the one with the highest polyphenol count,” she said. “You ask them, ‘Do you want to taste it?’ And they say ‘No thanks, that’s the one I want.’ It’s because they know that’s the best one for them from a health perspective. It’s amazing.”
For Dana Moos, a bed-and-breakfast broker and cookbook author, it’s all about taste.
Moos estimates she already owns at least 30 bottles of Fiore products – including garlic, chipotle, Tuscan, herbes de provence and harissa-flavored olive oils – and she always tastes any new product when she visits one of the stores.
“I have an entire corner cabinet full,” she said.
Moos said the Fiore oils don’t have the “fake” taste some flavored olive oils have, and she likes that she can still taste the olive oil itself. She uses the products every day. Even if she’s just cooking eggs, she’ll begin with a little Fiore chipotle oil.
To dress a Caesar salad, she uses a medium-intensity Fiore olive oil, the garlic-infused oil and fresh garlic. Moos also uses the olive oils as finishing oils to top off certain dishes, and serves them with bread for dipping.
She drizzles the chocolate balsamic vinegar on strawberries with whipped cream. The pomegranate balsamic gets poured over poached pears in a creamy vanilla sauce.
Moos also likes combining different flavors. She pairs Fiore’s orange olive oil with a vanilla balsamic and drizzles the mixture over beets and goat cheese. The jalapeno-infused olive oil goes well with the grapefruit white basalmic vinegar, she said, and the organic Persian lime-flavored olive oil tastes great with the chocolate balsamic vinegar.
Moos suggests asking the staff at the store for suggestions.
“Don’t just taste them,” she said. “Ask them about tasting combinations because that will give you an idea of what to do at home.”
The hours at the new Freeport store will be 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: