Q: What is extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)?A: The “extra” in EVOO represents the absolute highest rating for olive oil – the best you can buy, according to dieticians, government regulators, olive producers, and the scores of international chefs and other food-conscious consumers that swear by its health benefits. Virgin oil is classified “extra” when it has less than 1% free fatty acid and is free of any adulteration or sensory defects. Gustare sources its EVOO varietals from several countries and California, exclusively from producers that adhere to the highest quality standards. Each of our olive oils meet U.S. and international requirements to be labeled extra virgin, but rather than meeting bare minimum chemistry requirements, most of our products exceed those thresholds.
Q: What does “cold pressed” or “first press” really mean?A: This is a misleading phrase, often used for marketing purposes rather than as a guarantee of quality. The best olive oils are those extracted simply, under a controlled temperature, usually by a method called “cold pressing” where the oil is crushed out of the olive fruit. Cold/first press oils are not processed or heated in any other way, nor are they adulterated with any chemicals or preservatives.
Q: How should I store my Gustare olive oil?A: Olive oil should be stored in a cool, dark place. Light and heat have a degenerative effect on EVOO. Packaging in dark bottles or opaque containers is also crucial in protecting olive oil from UV rays and light. Only seed and nut oils require refrigeration to insure freshness.
Q: How long does my extra virgin olive oil stay fresh?A: Unlike wine, EVOO will not age gracefully. Freshness provides key flavor and aroma attributes, in addition to greater health benefits. For example, vitamin E content will begin to naturally diminish after that first year of use. EVOO should be consumed within two years of the crush date. Another rule of thumb is to aim to use Gustare EVOO within one year of your purchase. If you aren’t clear on the crush date, you might be buying fraudulent EVOO. All Gustare EVOO varietals are marked with a crush date and country of origin. Our supplier uses fresh EVOO every six months, sourcing the freshest oils from both northern and southern hemispheres, so Gustare non-varietal (flavor infused) oils have a similar shelf life. Olive oil is also more resistant to oxidation, so it stays fresh longer than vegetable oils.
Q: What are the nutritional components of EVOO?A: A tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil contains 120 calories, 14 grams of fat, and no cholesterol, according to the nutritional overview. Nearly all of the fat is monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. When substituted for saturated fats, monounsaturated fat has the power to lower blood cholesterol, especially the “harmful” low density lipoproteins (LDL) while protecting the “good” high density lipoproteins (HDL).
Q: What are the nutritional components of balsamic vinegar?A: Neither Gustare dark (traditional) or white balsamic vinegars contain any fat of any type. There are only 3 grams of natural sugar and total carbohydrates per serving size.
Q: What are the primary health benefits of EVOO?A: There are many, beginning with healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) that improve good cholesterol and reduce bad cholesterol. According to researchers and various 2015 studies and reports, consumption of EVOO decreases the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, lipid disorders, cancer (in general, breast, colon, gastrointestinal, skin, prostate), osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease (and other cognitive function issues).
Q: What are the primary health benefits of balsamic vinegar?A: Balsamic vinegar, when produced responsibly and aged traditionally under strict Italian consortium regulations, contains disease-fighting polyphenols and antioxidants. It is credited with reducing cholesterol and regulating insulin levels, in addition to providing a natural digestive aid for optimal probiotic gut health.
Q: How can I best use extra virgin olive oil in my kitchen?A: EVOO is suitable for sautés, sauces, and marinades, vinaigrettes, in addition to being preferred for finishing or simply enjoyed with a baguette. You can bake with it, glaze with it — the possibilities are really limitless. Visit Gustare’s recipes page for some fresh ideas. However, olive oil at very high heat has the capacity to burn, so be careful to not leave a heated sauté pan unattended on your stovetop. One 2015 study revealed that pan frying vegetables with EVOO, rather than boiling, retains more of the olive oil’s nutritional value.
Q: Why are extra virgin olive oils preferred over other oils?A: Flavor is the most obvious difference between EVOO and vegetable oils. Vegetable oils are neutral in flavor and merely add fats without adding flavor. EVOO adds a unique, fresh flavor that makes it a great replacement for butter and margarine.
Q: How can I convert recipes to best use my Gustare extra virgin olive oils?A: Please refer to Gustare’s simple conversion guidelines in the recipes section. You can easily convert your favorite recipes and expand your use of EVOO to get away from saturated or hydrogenated fats.
Q: What is the real story about “aged” balsamic vinegars?A: Gustare offers only certifiably, traditionally sourced balsamic vinegars from Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy. Our most popular product, the 18-year Traditional Balsamic, is fermented then aged according to traditional regional standards with no vacuum evaporation, caramel color, refined sugars or thickeners. Take care not to fall prey to false claims about 25- or 50-year-old balsamics, because they rarely exist and Italian regulations prevent producers from making any specific age claims on their labels.
Q: What is the world’s highest standard for balsamic vinegar?A: The sweet Trebbiano grape, grown in specific environmental conditions in northern Italy near Modena, form the base of the world’s only true balsamic vinegars. The quality of the grapes at harvest, specifically late harvest, is when they develop their true complexities with less water and more flavor, play a far more significant role in the final product than old age. In fact, those claims don’t make sense due to evaporation rates. The grapes ripen on the vine for as long as possible to develop their sugar. The grape “must” or mosto cotto (cooked grape juice) is boiled down in large, open kettles. The juice is simmered for 24-42 hours. Then the vinegar production and aging process begins, initially in wood kegs. Over the years it graduates to smaller and smaller kegs made of chestnut, cherry wood, ash, mulberry, and juniper until it is ready for bottling. These woods progressively add a unique character to the classically produced balsamic vinegars of Modena.
Q: How should I store my Gustare balsamic vinegars at home?A: It’s similar to olive oil. Balsamic vinegar’s enemies are light and heat. Cool and dark storage spaces are the best to maintain freshness. We recommend consuming our balsamic vinegars within two years of your purchase.
Q: Should I use dark and white balsamic vinegars differently?A: Not necessarily. It is a matter of personal taste. Dark balsamics tend to be more popular and versatile, but some recipes call for the crisp, clean freshness of lighter white balsamic. All light balsamic vinegar is subject to oxidation. Over time, this natural process leads to a darkening of the vinegar from a light gold to a deep amber color, though it does not affect the flavor of the vinegar.
Q: What is the Gustare Rewards Program?
A: The Gustare Rewards Program enables guests to earn points for each bottle purchased and receive a complimentary $20 gift card reward or account credit after accruing 12 points.
Bottle purchase point system:
200ml or 375ml = 1 point per bottle750ml = 2 points per bottle
Earned gift card rewards can be used for future purchases or gifting. Rewards will be presented to in-store guests or mailed along with phone or online orders. Register at any Gustare shop, via email or by phone at 508-945-4505.
Q: When does Gustare offer free shipping?A: Gustare offers free shipping for all orders purchased online or phone that exceed $75, when shipped to one location per order. Contact Gustare to confirm the best options to send gifts to multiple locations.
Q: Are your products gluten free? Are they fit for vegan diets?A: Yes and yes, absolutely. All of our extra virgin olive oils, balsamic vinegars and other oils and vinegars are gluten free and completely free of any animal product. Gluten is based on wheat or wheat germ, and there is no wheat alteration of our products. The juice of raw, fresh olives (EVOO) and grapes (balsamic vinegar) are the only ingredients in our products unless other natural ingredients are added.