Five Reasons I Don't Like Stuck-Up Bulk Olive Oil Bars

Flickr user agatheb

There's been an explosion of olive oil bars lately in Orange County, and I don't get it.

If you've never seen one, they tend to feature long rows of shiny silver canisters filled with bulk olive oil from different regions of the world. They also tend to be extremely expensive, and while I don't mind paying for quality, the quality isn't always evident. There are exceptions, of course--great olive oil stores do exist--but the following list of five sins is shockingly pervasive.
5. Too much focus on infused oil

Flickr user pucciphoto
Clean herbs. Insert into olive oil. Wait. Why would anyone pay for this?

Every trip into one of these stores starts with a tour from the person behind the counter. More than half the time, they do a general wave at the first set of canisters with, "This is regular oil," then head toward the back and wax poetic about the tangerine-infused oil, the Meyer lemon-infused oil, the garlic oil, etc. I can infuse oils myself; I am a relatively accomplished home cook. Yet when I demur, they look hurt. We won't even get into the so-called "balsamic" vinegars that have never been within a hundred feet of anything made of balsam fir.

4. Plastic cups

Flickr user mariusm

This is a general complaint, and a pretty stuck-up one besides, but it's true: you don't go to a dégustation at a winery and get served good wine in a plastic cup, yet every olive oil place I've been to--including, increasingly, in France--has these awful little plastic cups that lend a plastic taste to the oil. There are never spoons or glass or metal dishes, only plastic. Sopping mushy white bread into the oil doesn't help the matter, either.

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