Those of you who have been following my Cooking with Blake column will remember that in my first piece I covered olive oils. For that I did the research and put in the time to try to find the best widely available oil for you in this area and give you the tools to pick up great oils in the future. Fortunately, you can now do that yourself, locally, and basically for free. Eugene Litz and his family are bringing all of us some of the best oils in the world, right here in Clarks Summit.
Opening in mid-May, Thirteen Olives will be the only olive oil and vinegar tasting room within almost 80 miles, and the exclusive purveyor of Ultra Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oils in Northeastern Pennsylvania, all of which are available for tasting free of charge. Ultra Premium (UP) sounds great, but what does it mean for you? UP is a classification that excels above and beyond any other standard in the olive oil industry by focusing on the when, what, and how, rather than the where, a false marker of quality that mass retailers overemphasize. Furthermore, in order to sell UP oils, retailers must post information such as crush date, storage methods, and a slew of chemistry test results verifying that a particular batch of oil has as many health boosting compounds as are expected from such a lofty grade.
Something that really impressed me about Thirteen Olives was Litz’s ability to rattle off answers to any questions I had about his oils, as well as his plans for the storefront. A Culinary Institute of America graduate with 20 years of foodservice experience, Litz plans on presenting cooking demonstrations as well as bringing in local chefs to showcase his products and the best ways to utilize them. Speaking of Litz’s other products, Thirteen Olives will offer so much more than just oils and vinegars, including gourmet coffees and loose leaf teas, jams, jellies, tapenades, mustards, spreads, high-end seasonings and salts, biscotti, confections, locally made olive oil soaps, and olive wood kitchenware — any of which can be combined into a gift basket.
“I really can’t emphasize enough that this is a family business,” Litz told me. “My sister [Lisa Litz, the pastry chef at Patsel’s in Clarks Summit] will be creating confections and treats using products we sell. My mother is making the soaps, as well as other gifts. My father is helping with the store, and my other sisters are helping with sales and marketing. This is a small business, but a family business first.” Gene Litz, Eugene’s father, chimed in, “We really feel this is a prime area to introduce these products. No one else is offering these products and we feel that people will be very receptive to what we have to offer.”
Available for private tastings, Thirteen Olives is located at 222 Northern Blvd., Clarks Summit, and online on Facebook and at www.ThirteenOlives.com. They may be reached by phone at (570) 587–1300.