When it comes to olive oil and balsamic, Tom Alfonso believes in one thing - freshness.
Tom, who co-owns Alfonso Gourmet Olive Oil and Balsamics with his wife Nancy, opened their second store in Tucson on Feb. 13. The new location is on the southeast corner of Oracle and Magee roads.
In their store, 7854 N. Oracle Road, the couple excels at providing their customers a large and diverse variety of fresh olive oils and balsamics, as the name of the store would denote.
The store is filled with rows of fustis, the name of the stainless steel containers that hold eight single varieties of extra virgin olive oils. Within the fustis, the store has 15 fused and infused olive oils, six specialty olive oils, which rang from black and white truffle, walnut or almond, 15 dark balsamics, 19 white balsamics, to an assortment of wine vinegars.
Each fusti has a label telling the customer a description and when the oils and balsamics were made, along with some of the chemical components and levels.
For the inexperienced consumer, this variety might be a little overwhelming. But the staff at Alfonso is ready to help as you taste the healthy varieties.
“The whole concept is you come in, you taste, you select your oil or balsamic or both, and then we go ahead and bottle it for you,” Tom said.
For someone’s first time in the shop, Tom said they have them try a mild, a medium, and a more robust olive oil to see where their palate level is. As this goes on, staff informs the consumers how mild oils have a slight peppery finish, whereas the mediums and robust olive oils the peppery notes and a bitterness comes more into play with the flavors. Oils also have grassy or fruity notes. All which come into play with how you will be consuming the oil.
Recommending four tablespoons a day, Tom said people can use his olive oils for bread dipping, salad dressings, finishing oils, on beef, on pasta, in a marinade, used to sauté, or even on ice cream.
“We have customers who put the blood orange or lemon olive oil on their ice cream,” Tom said. “I use a single variety olive oil – it’s very good.”
The balsamics can be used in a variety of ways as well.
“The black cherry on watermelon is amazing, and our traditional 18-year-old balsamic, which is pretty much a plain balsamic, you can use it in just about anything fruit salads, dessert, cheesecakes, salmon, you can reduce it down and make a glaze for salmons.”
For those that occasionally or regularly use olive oils and balsamics, Tom encourages people to try them fresh.
“Once people taste our product, they usually are hooked.”
Bottles are 200 ml for $10, 375 ml for $15, and 750 ml bottles are $28.
The store also is home to Blu, a wine and cheese shop, which is set up within Alsonso.
Tana Fryer, who is the owner of Blu, offers cut-to-order cheese, accompaniments, and single format cured meats.
“We focus on all American artisan cheeses,” Fryer said. “Mostly farm-stead cheeses. So things that you can’t find in other places around the area.”
The cheeses are made in small batches with milk from animals that are pasture fed. The meats are from animals that don’t have any hormones, antibiotics or added nitrates.