Big Oil takes on new meaning
by Claire Harlin
Published - 02/24/11 - 05:00 AM | 12576 views | 0 0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Christine DeMates helps customers fill bottles of olive oil at the Feb. 17 opening event for We Olive. Photo by Claire Harlin
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LA JOLLA — Olive oil is all the craze these days.

Besides its common uses in cooking — TV cook Rachel Ray is famous for sticking by her “EVOO” (extra virgin olive oil) — people have started treating their hair, nails and skin with it, and oil from olives is said to have once been used in medicines and ointments of the ancient Mediterranean. The Food and Drug Administration even proclaimed in 2004 that two tablespoons a day can prevent heart disease — the country’s No. 1 cause of death.

Now the craze has come to La Jolla, with the opening of exclusive olive oil retailer We Olive, located at 1158 Prospect St.

The business endeavor started with owner and managing partner Frank Mercurio’s passion for olive oil — he’s Italian — mixed with his knowledge that California provides the perfect climate for producing that oil.

Maybe his medical knowledge also had something to do with the endeavor. We Olive is actually a side project for the Rancho Santa Fe resident, who is the chief scientific officer at San Diego-based drug developer BioTheryX.

But he said it’s his wife, Ruth, who’s the real oil scientist.

“She’s the one who chooses all the oils and makes sure the ones we sell here are the best quality,” Mercurio said.

This isn’t Mercurio’s first store opening. There are 10 locations across the state — seven franchises, two corporate-owned stores and one affiliate store. Mercurio and Ruth own the Paso Robles and San Francisco stores and are partial owners and managing partners of the new La Jolla location.

The La Jolla store is unique in that it will soon feature small plates and a wine bar, which is currently in the licensing process, making it the only one of their location to serve alcohol.

We Olive customers can fill reusable, self-serve bottles with bulk oils of their choice, and they can also purchase high-end tapenades, mustards, pestos and balsamic vinegars.

Part of We Olive’s mission is to educate consumers about California extra virgin olive oil, and each shop has an extensive tasting bar staffed by very helpful “oil specialists.”

We Olive works closely with scientists at the University of California, Davis’s Olive Center, a university/industry coalition that provides research and education to olive growers and processors. The center released a study in June that revealed 69 percent of imported oils boast an “extra virgin” label, even though they are merely “virgin.”

While this exposé may have been a surprise for many consumers, the concept was far from virgin for We Olive, whose products all bare a California Olive Oil Council stamp of approval, earned by strenuous testing and tasting.

For olive oil-inspired recipe ideas, from shortening-free cookies to roasted turkey to tomatillo salsa, check out
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