June 2013

Manitoba Chamber of Commerce

Issue link: http://publications.winnipegfreepress.com/i/141831

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EASTERN Virginia McDonald (below left) and owner Bev Penner welcome customers to taste samples of oil and vinegar at the unique shop. Photos by Darcy Finley Manitoba's first oil and vinegar tasting room also carries 20 different balsamics. They can be consumed on their own or blended with the oils, which are made with monounsaturated fats (aka the good fats). "Because balsamic vinegar is made from grapes, you keep all the health properties of the grape," Penner says. Fruit-flavoured balsamic vinegar is most common, but in addition to black cherry, apple, blueberry, cinnamon-pear and coconut, there are vinegars infused with dark chocolate, espresso, maple syrup and even jalapeno. "When you watch shows and chefs talk about pouring balsamic on fruit or ice cream and you're like, 'What? Serious?' I totally get that now," Penner says. All it took was an epicurean tour of Portland, Ore., in October 2011. When Penner and her husband stumbled upon an oil and vinegar tasting room, they expected to see rows of bottles. Instead they found stainless steel containers resembling beer kegs. The owner then proceeded to hand them half-ounce cups of olive oil to sample. "We were looking at him like, you've gotta be kidding," Penner says. "Drinking oil doesn't seem very appetizing, but it blew my mind what fresh extra-virgin olive oil is supposed to taste like because that is not what we buy in our grocery stores. And their vinegars, being aged, that takes the acidity level out, which is why they taste so great. The experience blew me away." Raised on a dairy farm just outside of Steinbach, Penner is an avid cook who's always searching for high-quality ingredients. She returned home and immediately began researching the oil and vinegar biz. She discovered that while there were similar tasting rooms on Canada's east and west coasts, there was nothing like it in Manitoba. Her culinary adventure eventually led her to open Prairie Oils & Vinegars last November. With products distributed by Oakland, Calif.based Veronica Foods – which has its own mill in Tunisia, where olives are crushed and infused – the shop at 145 Main St. has steadily gathered a devout following of food aficionados, along with people seeking unique gifts. Penner recommends new customers plan to spend 30 minutes in the store to get the full tasting experience. They whet their palate with a mouthful of mild extra virgin olive oil before EASTERN BEAUSEJOUR & DISTRICT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE BLUE WATER CHAMBER OF COMMERCE CHAMBRE DE COMMERCE DE SAINT-PIERRE-JOLYS FALCON - WEST HAWK CHAMBER OF COMMERCE GRUNTHAL & DISTRICT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE LAC DU BONNET & DISTRICT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE LANDMARK & AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE NIVERVILLE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE PINAWA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE ST. MALO & DISTRICT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE STEINBACH CHAMBER OF COMMERCE moving on to the flavoured oils and vinegars, and, eventually, pairings. There are cheat sheets that suggest which oils and vinegars mix best, and Penner posts her favourite recipes on the store's website. "I make a custard sauce, being from the Mennonite background, and on waffles we drizzle the blueberry balsamic on top instead of maple syrup, which adds more sugar." Bottles are filled and sealed in the store, and range from small (200 mL for $10.95) to large (750 mL for $24.95). Penner will take off 50 cents if you bring in a fully washed and dried bottle for a refill. She also has prefilled bottles of the most popular products for customers on the go. "We like to go that extra mile and do what we can for our customers to make this a really good experience," she says. "It's not a store — we're a tasting room and we're an experience. It's kind of like wine tasting – except you don't need a DD." www.prairieoils.ca NEW & NOTEWORTHY >> Crystal Spring Colony member Jonathan Kleinsasser picked up a Manitoba Pork Industry Innovation Award in March. A prolific inventor, Kleinsasser has at least 35 patents in Canada for automated devices and equipment, including a wet-dry feeder that's revolutionized the way pigs are fed. He is managing director of Crystal Spring Hog Equipment. Manitoba Pork also honoured Henervic Farms with the Pork Industry Swine Steward Award for its contributions to agriculture, the community and the industry. >> The Lac du Bonnet & District Chamber of Commerce is supporting the Lions Club Canada Day Celebrations June 29 - 30. The two-day party includes a farmers' market, midway, specialty vendors, a slo-pitch tournament, parade and fireworks. >> Steinbach's award-winning Signex Manufacturing Inc. has left its mark on the new Investors Group Field in Winnipeg. The company's handiwork can be seen on signs at the home field of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and at several other prominent locations throughout Manitoba and Canada. MBiz June 2013 29 MBiz June 2013_final.indd Sec1:29 6/21/13 3:26:13 PM

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