|Oils at Secolari in the Columbia Mall|
The new Secolari store in the Columbia Mall is a deceptively simple-looking place.
A large store with containers on two walls. They sell olive oils, vinegars and pastas. That could sound ridiculously simple except that Secolari's offerings are creatively complex.
Walk the store and taste everything. Pure olive oils at the front that show off the range of natural flavors -- from mild to peppery. Flavored olive oils along both walls -- ranging from fruits like lemon or lime to herbs like basil, garlic or rosemary to "spice mixes" like tandoori masala. Then vinegars -- both white and red -- with flavors than run from fruits through exotics like spicy peppers.
Taste everything. The Secolari folks are proud of their products. They're also charging more than $20 per bottle. So you can taste anything by pouring a dash in a plastic container, and they have water and bread to clean your palate. Mix and match. Try a dash of the lime oil and a dash of the hot pepper vinegar. Try that same lime oil with a blackberry vinegar.
On the one hand, Secolari offers products for serious cooks. They can try all these flavor combinations and come up with great ideas. On the other hand, flavored oils and vinegars are a wonderfully simple tool for people who don't have great time for cooking. Secolari has recipes, and those flavor pairs make really simple marinades or salad dressings even if you just mix a pair that you like. By just shaking them together, you could jazz up salads, roasted vegetables, chicken, fish and so much more.
Again, it's more than $20 a bottle. That even slowed me down. I bought one of each, and I marinated fish Sunday night for fish tacos. I'm a huge believer that great flavor takes time. That's why I think you can great value from ingredients where someone else has already invested great effort -- like sausages, olives, sauces and oils or vinegars like these. A few years ago, I discovered that an expensive bottle of balsamic vinegar was worth the investment because a few teaspoons transformed a plate of sautéed chard. That has been a staple for me, and I could imagine these Secolari oils and vinegars filling similar roles.
Secolari has a working display kitchen in the back. I assume they'll do demonstrations or classes. My one tip: Don't drink the oil or vinegar. Push a dash in the plastic cup and then just touch the mixture with your tongue. We tried almost two dozen different items, and it would have been too much if we had actually drank a shot of each.
1300 Little Patuxent Parkway
Columbia, MD 21044
NEAR: Secolari is in the new "outdoor" section of the mall. This is a long outdoor corridor that connects the parking lot between Sears and the movies with the second floor of the mall near Lululemon and J Crew.