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Guide to Gourmet Oils and Vinegars

By September 1, 2017June 10th, 2021Industry News
Oils and Vinegars PacGourmet

Oils and Vinegars Deliver Unforgettable Flavors

Quality oils and vinegars have the potential to elevate even the simplest dish. Diners who have only experienced mass-produced products are often surprised by the subtle flavors and textures available and how the right oil or vinegar can transform a dish from good to unforgettable.

Our Frescobaldi Laudemio Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for example, won the Gold Medal at the 2017 New York International Olive Oil Competition (and a Bronze Medal at the LA international competition). It’s a Tuscan beauty that has been called “a quintessential finishing oil.” Chefs recommend using it “over a creamy bowl of cannellini beans, steamed dark greens or Romanesco broccoli, puntarelle, and always slice ripe tomatoes in season.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is inarguably the king of gourmet oils, with production dating back thousands of years. Olive oil is the liquid fat rendered by pressing fresh olives. Extra virgin olive offers the highest quality oil because it comes from the first pressing and is considered free of any defects. Extra virgin olive oil is the only cooking oil that is made without the use of chemicals, heat, or industrial refining. Olives for the best extra virgin oils are picked by hand from a single orchard, milled within hours, and crushed by a simple hydraulic press or centrifuge.

Mass produced olive oils are blends of millions of gallons of oil from multiple orchards. Individual orchards, like vineyards, offer unique flavors, and the flavors vary from year to year, creating new opportunities with each vintage. We carry the finest extra virgin olive oils, and can help you find the right flavor for your dish.

Vegetable, Nut and Seed Oils

Vegetable oil is a broad category that refers to any plant-based oil, which can include soybean, sunflower or safflower oil. Most vegetable oils have a high “smoke point”–the point at which the oil burns–and neutral flavors, which make them great for baking.

Canola is the most commonly used seed oil, popular for its versatility, especially for high temperature cooking like frying and baking. Canola and other seed oils also have a high smoke point. We offer GMO-free Canola oil, Grapeseed and a Sesame oil from one Japan’s finest producers.

Nut oils also have high smoke points and flavors distinct from Olive oil. We offer the finest Almond, Pecan, Peanut, Hazelnut, Walnut, Pistachio oils and more. Coconut oil is popular right now as a darling of vegan cooks, who use it as a replacement for butter in baking. It has a sweetness that makes it ideal for use for sweet dishes. We carry two organic Coconut oils.


There are as many kinds of vinegars, as there are oils, and the category is expanding rapidly. Red wine vinegar is the most common vinegar, with a sharp taste and rosy color that makes it great for salad dressings. White wine and Champagne vinegars tend to have softer flavors.

Sherry vinegar is another wine vinegar that has some of the most complex flavors in the world. Sherry vinegar is aged in oak barrels for at least 6 months. We offer Sherry vinegars that have been aged “in solera” as long as 50 years.

Authentic balsamic vinegars are made in Italy. There are three types of authentic balsamic vinegars that are protected under European Union regulations: “Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena” (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena), “Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia” (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of the Emilia Region), and “Aceto Balsamico di Modena” (Balsamic Vinegar of Modena).  The two traditional balsamic vinegars are made from pressed Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes that are reduced to a must by slow boiling.The fermented must is aged as the volume decreases from natural evaporation in increasingly smaller barrels of various and specific wood types. The acetified must grows sweeter and more complex over time. The less expensive Modena vinegars are made with grape must but blended with a quantity of wine vinegar.

The Leonardi family makes some of the best balsamic vinegars in the world. Since 1871 and after four generations, the famiglia Leonardi, with Giovanni as the artist and his son Francesco in marketing, embody what we at Pacific Gourmet believe to be one of the most perfect producers of its kind. Their 30-year old Leonardi Il Patriarca (The Patriarch) can be tasted like a wine or served with food. It is thick and syrupy with aromas of apple and pear tart with a deep caramel undertone along with a well-balanced hint of chestnut honey and cane molasses. Enjoy by the spoonful as a digestif at the end of the meal along with some dry fruit and nuts. Add exceptional richness to simple entrees and desserts by drizzling grilled meats, fish or strawberries and/or ice cream with a soupçon of Il Patriarca.

The generic term “aceto balsamico” (balsamic vinegar)  is unregulated taking basic wine vinegar from anywhere and doctoring it with caramel and coloring to approximate the look and taste of the real thing. These cheap versions are many people’s only exposure to balsamic vinegar. These counterfeits are usually artificially sweetened by the addition of sugar or prune juice.

We offer traditional balsamic vinegars from Italy, some that have been aged for 100 years,  as well as gourmet balsamic vinegars from Spain that have been made with using traditional practices. Spain has been making balsamic vinegar for hundreds of years.

We also offer Rice, Fig, Cucumber, Apple Cider, Raspberry, Pomegranate vinegars to name but a few. Some of our more unusual flavors come from Austria where the brilliant and eccentric Erwin Gegenbauer produces absolutely phenomenal grape and fruit vinegars. If you want us to elaborate on the qualities of any of our vinegars, please give us a call.