Introduction to Secolari® Olive Oils and Vinegar
Secolari®, which is Italian for “Age Old,” is an artisan olive oil and vinegar tasting room in Columbia, Maryland. The name was adopted in honor and in tribute of the ancient olive tree, which can live for 3 to 4 thousand years.
Secolari® Extra Virgin and flavored olive oils are sourced exclusively form California producers. Our Extra Virgin Olive Oils are certified by the California Olive Oil Council and include a number of single varietal oils as well as proprietary blends – ranging from oils with a mild and grassy to robust and peppery. Secolari® flavored oils include an award-winning basil-flavored oil, as well as fused olive oils flavored with organic herbs, citrus, and spices. Unlike typical infused oils – when the fruit or herb is added only after bottling – our oils are flavored at the time of the first olive cold pressing, creating an unique oil that is fully embedded with the fresh flavor of the particular herb, pepper or fruit.
Secolari® vinegar and balsamic are truly exceptional and unique. These vinegar and balsamic are not found in any other retail establishment within the immediate Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area. Produced by an organic farmer in the Central Coast region of California, Secolari®vinegar include Pacific Spice, Champagne Mimosa, Blackberry with Roasted Pepper, and an award-winning Blackberry Balsamic. These vinegar and balsamic are not only for salad dressings, but are recommended for use as marinades, reductions, glazes, and finishing sauces. They also may be combined with Secolari® brand olive oils to create that extraordinary taste experience for the most discriminating palate.
Situated in a warm and welcoming old-world Tuscan farm house environment, the store specializes in the sale of Extra Virgin and flavored olive oils, vinegar and balsamic. In addition, Secolari® offers an array of pastas, salts, spices, mustard, spreads, tapenades, honeys, and art work from the ancient olive tree and from local artists. We also offer a special section dedicated to the sale of organic bath and beauty products made with olive oil. It is our goal to take the mundane, and make it exceptional by enhancing one’s life with the overall benefits of the Age Old Mediterranean Lifestyle through the introduction of exceptional foods and works of art.
Each of our products is sourced only after a personal visit to the particular producer by Bart and Mary deRosa, owners of Secolari®, to assure that we offer only those of the highest possible quality in terms of taste and presentation, and an extraordinary culinary experience.
Who We Are?
I am a native Washingtonian and this is our story. It was a cold Sunday afternoon in February 2011. I was sitting in our sun room relaxing and contemplating life. My thoughts were taking me back to 2008 when Mary, my wife, and I traveled to Umbria, Italy and spent a spectacular week at an Italian farmhouse.
Our Mission Statement
Secolari® mission is to take the mundane and make it exceptional. We do this by enhancing one’s health, body, spirit, mind, soul, and surroundings through an introduction and exposure to the well-established benefits of the Age Old Mediterranean Lifestyle. The patron’s retail experience occurs in a warm and welcoming old-world Tuscan farm house environment, adorned with late 19th Century antiques.
The Secolari® promise is achieved through an educated tasting and personal presentation of products that are truly and uniquely exceptional in taste, quality, and presentation. And which, most importantly, are not otherwise immediately available to the individual and surrounding community. Such products shall include the freshest extra virgin olive oil available, exquisite vinegar and balsamic, and an array of pastas, sauces, tapenades, salts, spices, rubs, mustards, spreads, honey, and works of art from the ancient olive tree and from local artists.
Whenever possible, Secolari® shall participate and support community related events, and charities, most notably the Wounded Warriors EOD Foundation. Through all actions, Secolari® shall maintain an environmental consciousness through use of recyclable materials and environmentally friendly products.
Cooking Olive Oils & The Mediterranean Lifestyle
Simply put, olive oil is the foundation for the foods of a Mediterranean lifestyle, and it is the cornerstone to the “Age Old” lifestyle of Secolari®. Throughout the ages, olive oil has played an integral part in Mediterranean history. As “liquid gold,” it was not uncommon to find olive oil traded as currency, and its role in religious ceremony is legendary. The economies of ancient empires rose and fell on the olive trade. It lit the torches of exploit and the lamps of romance. It was used as a medical elixir and was the answer to most medical ailments. Most of all, it was used, like today, in every aspect of Mediterranean cooking. There is perhaps no other substance or ingredient that can add such complexity and character to a particular dish, and at the same time, help improve one’s health.
Like wine, the quality and taste of any olive oil is influenced by a number of factors. No two oils will taste the same. Soil content, weather, climate, times of harvest, and pressing all contribute to an oil’s unique character. Highly prized oils are typically pressed early in the season. For the Northern hemisphere, that usually means late October or early November. These highly prized oils tend to be fruitier, more robust, and more peppery in taste. In contrast, olives harvested in December and January are more ripe, and will be characterized by a more mild and softer flavor — often described by some as “buttery.”
From the moment an olive is picked, it begins to deteriorate in terms of flavor, complexity and character. At this point, it becomes absolutely critical to press the olives into oil within 48 hours. Premium or “Extra Virgin” oils are the product of the first actual “cold pressing”of the olive. In other words, the initial secretion of the olive oil when it is first pressed. While few olive mills today turn the olive stone by donkey, it is not uncommon to find many mills using granite stones or other mechanical means in the pressing of olives. Within the trade, “cold pressing” has come to mean oil extraction by mechanical means in contrast to extraction principally by heat or chemicals.
Only oils derived from the initial pressing by mechanical means may qualify for certification as Extra Virgin. Yet even that may not be enough. Depending on the relevant jurisdiction, oils from the first cold pressing must still meet certain objective acidity levels and phenol content, as well as a subjective taste test by a panel of olive oil experts.
Falling below the “Extra Virgin” ranking, are other grades of oil giving credence to the caveat, “buyer beware.” These oils are significantly less flavorful and have higher levels of free acidity. They are commonly denoted as Virgin or “pure” olive oil, and represent the lowest edible grade of oil available. “Pomace” oil, non-edible, is typically used for soap making and in oil lamps. Unfortunately, through modern technology, it doesn’t take much to take low-grade oil, essentially flavorless, and treat it with chemicals to reduce the acidity level to make it technically qualify as “Extra Virgin” and label it as such. A recent study by the University of California at Berkley reported, for example, that over 69% of the commercially available imported “Extra Virgin” oils tested actually failed to meet the standards for Extra Virgin as established by the California Olive Oil Council, a non-profit certifying organization. Few people realize there is no federal governmental body within the United States that has the authority to regulate and prevent such practices. Such oils are mass produced and are offered to the perhaps unwitting public. Just read the back label of many mass produced and imported products to find the addition of “canola oil,” “coconut oil,” or “vegetable oil” or a cheap price to alert you of these potentially altered or lesser grade products.
At Secolari®, we provide only the freshest olive oils available produced by artisans, and only after we have personally visited the olive grove, met with the owner and sampled their product. Only after it meets our personal guidelines, will we then offer it, to you, our customer. Only through this process, can we assure you of the highest quality Extra Virgin oils. Indeed, at present, we are offering only olive oils sourced from estate producers located within select regions of California — oil from producers that Mary and I have personally visited. We have no doubt that once tasted, there will be no going back to your local grocery store. No longer will you view olive oil as a mere commodity; rather, you will view it as the natural gift for which it was intended. You will be hooked on embellishing your meals quickly with the single varietals, blends, and flavored oils we have to offer.
Do yourself a favor, and dare to live the “Age Old” Mediterranean lifestyle of Secolari®. Come visit us, and experience through an educated tasting, the exquisite difference of our hand-selected olive oils, vinegar, and balsamic.