SILENCE HAS A NAME - Poetry Chapbook and CD, with Music by Mark Hanley

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Oil and Illy

April 24, 2010

Hardly a day goes by that I don't shop (and spend a small fortune) at Whole Foods in Edgewater. It's really not just the lovely walkway alongside the often breathtaking view of the GWB and NYC across the Hudson just outside the store that drives me to this location. It really is often the food inside -- and the wonderful wide aisles and displays -- that make me feel like a kid in a toy store. The diverse food bar, fresh cheeses and organic produce are enough to seduce any vegetarian, and on Saturdays, shopping is made that much more attractive by the sampling tables with all their delectable options.

We stopped by today and had the lovely surprise of sampling Leggio's Olive Oil and talking to owner/inventor Joe Leggio about his concoctions. There are three. Joe himself, who is tall and good-looking, Italian as they come, with the puffy combed back dark blond hair and blue eyes that hail to northern Italy, and large gesturing hands, says he ran a restaurant for 20 years before discovering his calling with olive oil. "My waiters kept coming into the kitchen, replacing butter with olive oil, until finally I decided I had to make some of my own.

"I put in all the spices and condiments I like -- basil, garlic, oregano, pepper, you know? -- until it tasted delicious." Chef Leggio designed and printed out his own label, placed his blend of spices and olive oil in small wine bottles, sent in cases by a friend, asked his wife to put a price tag of $14 on each bottle and set them at the front of his restaurant, and presto. It was virtually that easy.

Joe's wife thought he was a little crazy pricing olive oil so high, but in fact, the olive oil sold so fast, Joe couldn't keep up. He had to hire help. Then, in December of that year, he sold close to 6,000 bottles. "I'll never forget it," he said. Then Whole Foods came to visit, and now he has several outlets calling in orders. In about a year, Leggio's life has changed, thanks to olive oil.

"You can use the olive oil with seafood, chicken, pasta, just about anything," he said. I bought the Sundried Tomato and Basil Leggio's, and to tell you the truth, I'm already making a mental list of all the recipes I plan to use it on, starting with broccoli rabe!

Whole Foods is like a little village with something for everybody, and as we traipsed on through the store, we passed our favorite counters, sampling olives and cheeses. We bought an extraordinary gouda, then happened upon the elegant brand Illy's, which recently began marketing espresso -- in a can! I like the red script of the logo on the small, slender silver can, so I was eager to sample the new drink.

Gone the mess and trouble of making early morning espresso to pour into my thermos, filled with fresh squeezed orange juice and green tea to take to work. I now have Illy's in a can. Sweetened slightly with an organic substance (or so we were informed), it's just right, and not at all bitter, like the variety I usually pick up elsewhere. If it's not my fresh brewed espresso, it usually just won't cut it. But Illy's will do.

I'm an espresso lover, and enjoy a drink of the stuff practically every day. I was sold instantly by the fine quality of the drink I sampled. Today Illy's was on sale, two for $3, but be prepared to spend as much as you would at Starbuck's for this one. The only difference is, Illy's is well worth it.

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