written by: Mary Brown Malouf
Food is all about fat. The kind of fat used in cooking defines a cuisine— Mediterranean food is built around olive oil, northern European food is all about butter, Jewish Ashkenazi food relies on schmaltz or chicken fat. The Chinese stir-fry in soybean oil and season with sesame oil. Americans? We use it all, but right now we’re having a love affair with olive oil. If you want to know more, drop by We Olive in Trolley Square, where mother-son team Stephanie Ennis Garcia and Josh Garcia have opened a Salt Lake City version of the California chain.
Hold on. Did I say chain? Yes, I did and you’re right: I don’t usually write about chains. But We Olive is different and I am impressed. Josh Garcia is a trained chef; when his mother discovered We Olive in La Jolla, she convinced her son that he would be able to have enough creative input into the shop that he would enjoy it. So far, they’re having fun and running a great little lunch place as well.
The shop, designed by Stephanie, is small but airy, and one entire wall is lined with fusti—airtight olive oil dispensers that replace the oxygen as the oil is released to avoid rancidity. As customers enter the shop, a knowledgeable staff member invites them to taste the various olive oils—some are single-variety oils (made from one kind of olive), some are flavored, all are California-grown and Josh works directly with growers. And from what I’ve tasted, these are superlative flavored oils—not flavored with extracts, but from real ingredients. For example, the smoked extra-virgin olive oil comes from a grower that smokes the olives for 23 hours after harvest and presses them in hour 24. The back of the shop is taken up by a small wine bar, where you can order flights of wine and food—panini, stuffed peppadews, charcuterie—yes, Creminelli—olives, of course, and a tasting of olive oil. Josh has been given some leeway with the menu suggested by We Olive HQ. This has turned into one of our favorite lunch and after work places. It all goes to show that you really can’t stereotype.
When Stephanie Garcia tasted the stuffed peppadew peppers at We Olive in La Jolla, she thought of her son the chef, Josh. Together they opened a branch of We Olive in Trolley Square. Now you can pop a pepper.
602 E. 500 South (in Trolley Square), SLC, 801-448-7489