By Mira Reverente
A Torrance-based business has been attracting a loyal following at the Calabasas Farmers Market. “We were just here last month,” said Bjorn Paulssen, toting several bottles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar from Gourmet Blends. The Woodland Hills resident was shopping with his wife Panaya, a chef in her native Thailand. “We thought our stash would last for six months but we were wrong,” said Paulssen, who has taken a liking to the raspberry balsamic vinegar and basil olive oil.
The balsamic vinegars are barrel-aged by an artisan in Modena, Italy, according to employee Danielle Merrill. The intricate process of barrel aging produces a richer, sweeter and less acidic balsamic vinegar. Balsamic vinegar is akin to wine. “The older it is, the better it tastes,” said Merrill.
Aside from the Paulssens’ favorite raspberry variety, Gourmet Blends also carries five other flavors: traditional, vanilla fig, black currant, pomegranate and white, its newest addition. The traditional balsamic vinegar is popular in this market, said Merrill, who suggested drizzling it over ice cream or strawberries.
“We love using the olive oils at home and taking it to office parties,” said the Paulssens who divide their time between the US and Thailand. While the basil olive oil is their favorite, the couple has been slowly trying out the other flavors, which include lime, Meyer lemon, rosemary and blood orange. “All the olive oils sell really well,” said Merrill.
Though there are no hard and fast rules with pairings, the rosemary and blood orange olive oils seem to be paired quite frequently with the traditional balsamic vinegar.
There are dipping oils as well, which are good with crusty bread, as a salad dressing or as chicken marinade. Five variants will please even the most discriminating palates, including gourmet, chipotle chili, garlic basil parmesan, Asian and sun-dried tomato.
For holidays and gift-giving, Merrill suggests the Gourmet Blends gift pack composed of any six small bottles of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and dipping oil for $75. Individually, the 6-ounce bottles are $18 and the 12.7-ounce bottles are $30 each.
Gourmet Blends is in 15 farmers markets around Southern California. Online ordering is also available.
The Calabasas Farmers Market is open from 8 am to 1 pm every Saturday at 23504 Calabasas Road, across the street from the Sagebrush Cantina.