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Upping your salad game with olive oil and balsamic vinegar combos

Our family loves salads – sometimes my kids will even beg me to make them salad for a school lunch.

Most times I like to press the “easy” button and use bottled salad dressing from the grocery store. I love homemade salad dressing, but I can’t always find the time to make it from scratch.

Enter: flavor-infused olive oil and balsamic vinegar. These combos are taking my summer salads to a whole new level, you guys! It just can’t get any easier.

Visit an olive oil and vinegar tasting bar to explore new flavors

Blue door store counter

Blue Door is an olive oil and vinegar tasting bar in Calgary and it just opened its second location in Marda Loop. It carries about 75 different varieties of extra virgin olive oils as well as infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars.

Have you ever just sipped olive oil? Neither did I, so I decided to give it a try.

pouring olive oil from jug

It’s actually very similar to wine tasting – first, you warm up the oil in your hands, swirl it in the cup, give it a sniff and slurp it back, coating your entire palate.

Just like wine, olive oil has a front, middle and end taste. At first, it can taste kind of creamy and nutty. Sometimes it can even taste a little grassy. And then, it can even make you cough! According to store owner Bruce Gillis, that’s a good thing.

olive oil containers

“If it’s fresh and a real olive oil you get that little catch (at the back of your throat) and it’s the natural antioxidants and anti-inflammatories and a sign the olive oil is still alive and you’re getting all the health benefits,” says Gillis.

Many health benefits of olive oil

We’ve all heard of the Mediterranean diet and olive oil plays a huge role in this eating style — in addition to tons of fresh veggies and fish, they use a lot of olive oil because of its healthy monosaturated fatty acids. Olive oil has been linked to longer life expectancy, lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. (Source: Mayo Clinic) Basically, this is the kind of fat we want more of!

“In the 90s everything was low fat and no fat and I still see a lot of people who are so driven by that. They still haven’t quite grasped the concept of how healthy the right fats can be,” says Gillis.

To me, it’s a no-brainer –  a simple olive oil and balsamic vinegar combo is going to be way healthier than a highly processed bottled salad dressing with saturated fat and preservatives.

Interesting facts about olive oil:

  • color means nothing. You can have a dark olive oil that’s terrible, and a light straw-colored olive oil that is extremely rich in flavor
  • most grocery store olive oil is poor quality and is sometimes  diluted and mixed with other oils
  • extra virgin refers to oil that comes from the first press of the olives
  • yes, you can cook with extra virgin olive oil! While it does have a lower smoke point than some other oils, it’s great for sauteeing and frying. It’s not good for deep-frying. 

pouring oil on green salad

Seriously, if you just drizzle some olive oil and pair it with a flavored balsamic vinegar, you don’t need to do anything else.  My kids love a green salad served this way.

If you want to get a little fancier, Blue Door has tons of recipes for different dressings, marinades and barbecue sauces.  One of Bruce’s favorites is a dark chocolate balsamic vinegar used in chili or for a steak marinade – yum!!

 Two of my favorite combos are the blood orange olive oil with cranberry pear white balsamic vinegar. The other was basil-infused olive oil with a raspberry balsamic vinegar. When I tasted these, it was a flavor explosion in my mouth! You can buy these online here. 

If you like spicy foods, here is a great recipe for the Blue Door Grilled Corn Salad using the Mexican-infused olive oil. My family really enjoyed this salad and I used bacon instead of Proscuitto.

roasted corn salad recipe

Your chance to win a free olive oil and balsamic vinegar pairing

When you have a chance, go check out the new 950-square foot store in The Shops at Garrison Gate (across from Safeway) in Marda Loop. It’s a beautiful store and Bruce is more than happy to help you find something you will love. He’s very passionate about what he does and you will learn so much from him.

bottles of olive oil

I have an olive oil and vinegar pairing to give away, compliments of Bruce at Blue Door (two 375 ml bottles, value $42). All you have to do is comment below with your favorite way to enjoy olive oil. Surprise me!


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