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Any intel on Baker & Olive? (Encinitas)

  • cgfan Oct 16, 2010 01:10 AM
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I accidentally came across this shop, so strangely named like an intersection, (no, its not at Baker & Olive but just south of Encinitas Blvd. on El Camino Real...). ...and as you'll see, it's not so strange a name if you take it literally...

Although the shop was closed, after glancing through the windows and looking at the signs I quickly became aware that we could have a very unique concept store here that is probably a first for the County. From what I could tell we have a store that specializes in imported French olive oils and vinegars, each presented in large and spigotted stainless steel containers not behind a counter but perched up above the main shop floor.

Might we be talking about the bulk dispensing of special olive oils and vinegars here? And might the customer be able to dispense their own? And might this be the ever-elusive place to conduct a broad olive oil tasting? Oooh, sounds like it could be fun!

And it doesn't end there... The signs talk of fresh baked bread and a selection of fine cheeses! I later called them up one day to inquire about their hours, and unfortunately they close at 6 pm, too late for me to catch them after work. However during this call they also mentioned that they stock various "gourmet" provisions as well.

I can't wait to check out this store! Seems like it should be great fun for any CH'er, and dare I say could be bit out of place in our County? Perhaps I'm jumping the gun a bit, but if this store is everything that I'm imagining my only fear would be that we may not have the critical mass to support such a specialty store, at least in a bedroom community such as Encinitas. (Perhaps somewhere on the East Village side of the Gaslamp could support it better, where it'll likely attract both tourist business as well as foot traffic from our new downtown urbanites, or perhaps even the 30th Street corridor?) Not that I'm complaining, BTW...

So just wondering out loud if any CH'ers have already scouted this place out. Seems like it could be quite the buzz if they really deliver good product at a not-too-dear of a price. I'll catch them eventually, perhaps sooner rather than later if they're open on weekends.

(FYI they're located in the same mini-mall as Miyabi Steakhouse, Flippin' Pizza and Rico's Taco Shop on the east side of ECR south of Encinitas Blvd., and just south of the car wash...)

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  1. I'll have to check it out and report back.. I never go into that shopping center..

    Here is the web site http://bakerandolive.com/

    2 Replies
    1. re: SDGourmand

      SDG, thanks for the link. Wow, it sure reads well.

      Yeah that shopping center practically doesn't exist for me too, but with the arrival of B&O it may have just been reborn.

      1. re: cgfan

        If they execute as well as they say it could definitely be a fantastic find.

    2. Just returned from a first visit to B&O. What a wonderful concept, and for the most part executed very well. They've stocked enough separate product areas to keep the interest of most at-home Foodie chefs, at least enough to feel like a very focused Foodies' destination shop. Here are their product lines from what I could gather on this preliminary visit:

      * Approx 20 different (non-infused) EVOO's, all from the 2010 harvest, all for $15.99 per 375 bottle ($1 more for their only free-stone [pit-less] olive oil...) [Bulk purchasing is also available for restaurants and guzzlers of EVOO!]
      * Approx 14 different (infused) EVOO's, including a Tartufo Blanco or Negro as well as a Porcini
      * An 18 year Traditionale Basalmic Vinegar in regular and in a white form
      * Approx. 16 different (infused) 18 year Traditionale Balasalmic Vinegars
      * Artisan salts - Fleur de Sel, Sel Fume, Himalayan Pink Salt, various salt and herb mixes such as Butcher's Salt, Fisherman's Salt, and Vegetable Salt
      * Dried herb mixes - a limited selection of dried herbs and mixes, such as Herbes de Provence
      * French mustards - didn't explore this very much, but looked like a good offering
      * French jams and preserves - ditto
      * Honey - a good variety of French honey
      * Teas - a very limited selection of teas, (4 varieties), only one of which was a single-variety tea - mostly focused on tea blends
      * Cheese - a fair selection of cheeses, including Bucheron, Humbolt Fog, Tallegio, Parmegiano Reggiano, and many, many more; think of them as carrying, perhaps, around 35% of Venissimo's stock, with many exact product overlaps
      * Olives - just one mix of olives that I could see
      * Salumi and Chorizo - Two Chorizos and four Salumi's; sampled several of the Salumis, which I thought were a weak spot in their product line. I don't know, but by texture they felt like they were machine-stuffed [overpacked] with a synthetic casing. Not a Fra Mani by any means, and even though I'm not a big fan, doesn't reach Knight's level as well. (Unfortunately no Prosciuto or Spanish hams in sight!)
      * Chocolates - they only carry Askinosie, a super-premium single-origin chocolate - Dark, Dark with Milk, Dark with nibs, and a White, $8.50 a bar, and also small squares at $1 each
      * Mini Stainless Steel tin with spigot - a scaled-down version of the tins they dispense their oils from
      * Breads - a good selection of breads, heavy-focused on European dark breads and ryes, but also a good representation of hearth-baked breads. I instantly recognized that some of their breads are sourced from Belen, one of my favorite local bakeries! Ciabatta - $1.25, French Baugette ($3.50 - or was it $2.50?)

      There were three people in the store, all interacting with the customers. While it looks like the format suits itself for customers to draw their own tasting samples, signage does ask that one ask for assistance. Too bad, as this really slows down and inhibits wide sampling, not to say that I tasted just a few. It's just that it took a while to get enough tastes to just begin getting acquainted with their product, and I felt like I would have covered 3x more had I had free reign... (Though their policy is completely understandable!)

      It was quite easy to ascertain the two principals of the shop, as the third was giving some questionable answers when asked more detailed questions... (All of their EVOO's are ordered by "intensity", which the assistant said that it runs from it's ability to sustain heat, from room temperature use only to stir fry's... That didn't compute at all with me, and when I got to talk to one of the principals, he described the rating as the intensity of the flavor, something which made a lot more sense...)

      Talking further with the principals it was very clear that their objective was to stock the best products that can be had but only at a reasonable price point, which I thought to be very commendable vs. the premium venue costs approach of S.F.'s Ferry Building. Call it affordable luxuries, if you will. So that means some compromises, such as what I noticed in their Salumi. (I bought one anyway to see if it'll grow on me, but I kinda doubt it...) But it's definitely clear that they have a concept which can easily be expanded into other product lines and/or better sources as they find suitable matches.

      Another key objective in regards to their main product line, their EVOO's, is their focus on freshness and seasonality. (Hurrah!) Currently most of their product is representative of the Southern Hemisphere's 2010 harvest, since that is where the fresh EVOO"s are coming from now. Expect to see more Northern Hemisphere offerings from them as the seasons change!

      However lest one get the wrong impression, they do have a tendency to stock only one purveyor per product type, except, perhaps, with their breads and of course by necessity in their cheeses. Also one of them can get quite ruffled and defensive when one mentions either other artisan products or other stores that have come and gone in S.D. as well as some stores that are only in the planning stages.

      In this area I was quite taken aback with, being more accustomed to the collegiality of the specialty coffee trade where each shop acknowledges the others (witness the "disloyalty card" phenonmenon - http://tinyurl.com/yb5g7uw, http://tinyurl.com/3x35ez3, and http://tinyurl.com/y2kxnt4) and sees the overall business as a non-zero sum game. (He'll quickly have to get used to it as us Foodies have opinions too, and there's always many stones left unturned in anyone's search for good product, no matter how thoroughly it's done!

      )

      However these are minor flaws, and certainly these guys are passionate and resolute on offering great products at an honest price. And plans seem to be underway to expand to as much as 5 locations, 4 of which are in S.D. County.

      So here's to a very (at this time) unique concept store. Check them out and be sure to report what you think about them here!

      4 Replies
      1. re: cgfan

        Cg, thanks for the detailed posting. I'll have to check it out. It was unclear from your post whether they bake any of the bread the carry, or whether it all is sourced from local bakeries.

        I have enjoyed visiting the Ferry Building in SanFran , mostly for the dining and noshing options, which I think are priced fairly. It's also a great place to engage in free tastings.

        1. re: Encinitan

          They do not bake any of their breads, but I did mention that Belen is one of their suppliers for the hearth-baked breads. I don't know the identity of the others, though they did state that they are all local bakers.

        2. re: cgfan

          Thanks for the details. I'm more into vinegars than olive oils so still worth a look. Eventually would like 4 locations in SD County? Seems ambitious. Wish they had extended hours for at least 1 evening.

          1. re: Island

            Couldn't agree any more on the extended hours, but the saving grace is that they're open on Saturdays.

        3. I have looked in the place several times, but they have never been open when I have been by. I guess when I fill my Flipppin' pizza fix, It is not a good time to sell olive oil. I think they do need to add some evening hours, or do they think they can get by with the stay at home and not go to work traffic. Maybe a little advertising might also help them out, like cgfan, I just happened upon the store.

          1. Stopped in B&O today.. Definitely a great concept and the selection and quality of oils is top notch.. All of the infused oils and vinegars have a strong nose and a clean taste on the palate.. I picked up a pineapple infused white balsamic, preserved lemons I've been looking for these forever, and a loaf of the rosemary olive oil bread.. The bread was good but not my style.. It's very dense and somewhat chewy which was a German bread is supposed to be.. I'm more for the Italian/French style light airy with a hard crust.. Overall a great addition.. They have been open for about 3 months and have done no marketing what so ever, just word of mouth.. They say it has been working well for them thus far.. One of the guys was a former worker from Arterra, the other that was in there used to be an owner of tastes in Encinitas..

            16 Replies
            1. re: SDGourmand

              Were you able to taste a good variety?

              1. re: Island

                Yes tried about 7 oils & 5 vinegars

              2. re: SDGourmand

                There is no "typical" Germam bread but normally it is not very dense and has as one of the important features a crisp, hard crust. Most breads which are sold in the US as German bread have abolutely no resemblance to any bread in Germany.

                1. re: honkman

                  you would know better than I.. All I know is thats not my style bread.. They said they had people coming in from Germany because they hadn't had bread like this in so long.. The recipes for the bread were passed down for generations from what one of the workers stated...

                2. re: SDGourmand

                  Although I've never been a fan of infused oils or vinegars, when I made my visit to B&O their strong offering of infused Basalmics forced me to reconsider. The quality and depth of their infusions immediately reminded me of other parallels, such as high quality infused black teas or very carefully prepared dried herbs.

                  I still went home with a "plain" Traditionale 18 year Basalmic, but left with a clear mental note that I'll return and more closely explore their infused Basalmics. Honestly, though, their straight Basalmic explodes with enough intriguing flavors that I could easily have mistaken it for a Basalmic infused with prunes. So incredibly smooth; truly wonderful stuff...

                  1. re: cgfan

                    I loved there 18yr red balsamic.. There infused oils and vinegars really make you appreciate what they are doing.. Every one of them is so fragrant on the nose but nice and mellow on the palate and you still taste the vinegar or oil.. The harrissa oil and walnut were my two favorites for the oil and I liked the pineapple white balsamic enough to buy a bottle..

                    1. re: SDGourmand

                      Never had pineapple infused. Any specific plans for use?

                      1. re: Island

                        My gf has watermelon everyday and usually adds it to watermelons that lack flavor. I think it will go well with any fruit salad.

                        1. re: SDGourmand

                          Love balsamic on watermelon and strawberries, but never tried using a flavored one. Hmmm...

                          Will be staying at the beach in Carlsbad for 5 nights this week. Playing tourist in this crappy weather so I think I can easily give up some beach time to check out Baker & Olive.
                          Any recs for a place to stroll to for lunch after visiting B& O?

                          1. re: Island

                            Island..
                            Hear that Paon in the village of Carlsbad is Fab..
                            www.paoncarlsbad.com

                            SD..love love love watermelon and could eat it everyday and now I've gotta try it with some aged balsamic!

                            1. re: Beach Chick

                              B-Chicky. Yes Paon is definitely on my list and Obsessed's review just sealed it. Hopefully I don't pick the dud entree; I have a knack for that. Usually park the car and only go where we can walk to, but I've got to make it back to Pelly's now that you turned me on to that place. Craving one of their fish sandwichs and cup of clam chowder.
                              And yes you must try the balsamic on watermelon. That was a favorite of my Italian grandfather, but as a child that was as Old Country weird as stinky baccala. Came around to the balsamic on fruit, but not that cod.

                              1. re: Island

                                Harbor Reef on the water in Carlsbad has some great fish n'chips and the Reader had a coupon for $5.99.
                                I love the chile relleno at Norte in Carlsbad which is owned by Fidel's but they do a relleno so well...no flames please...hee hee
                                Kumamoto oysters at King's Fish house for happy hour and Tip Top meats for some deli sandwiches to take to the beach and you can drop in to VJ's for your donut fix...and enjoy Pelly's!

                                1. re: Beach Chick

                                  BC, Norte and Fidels are seperate now. The parents got divorced, Mom got Norte and Dad, Fidels. The kids went with one parent or the other.

                            2. re: Island

                              Across the (very busy) Encinitas Blvd. to the north of B&O you can find Bety's Tacos, a local board favorite. It's in the same plaza as the 7-11 and just across the street from Brett's BBQ and the Volkswagon dealer.

                              BTW while you're there one might also make a mental note that another board favorite, Kaito Sushi, is also nearby, though they're not open for lunch. From B&O cross diagonally across the big intersection and up El Camino Real to the first center on the left; they're just behind the Vitamin Shoppe.

                              If you return to Carlsbad via the I-5 then on the way to the freeway you'll be passing board favorite Elizabethan Desserts, just on the corner where you'll also see signs for the San Diego Botanic Gardens (formerly Quail Gardens). They're co-located in the nursery (Sunshine Gardens) to your right as you travel down Encinitas Blvd.

                              -----
                              Kaito Sushi
                              130-A N El Camino Real, Encinitas, CA 92024

                              Elizabethan Desserts
                              155 Quail Gardens Dr, Encinitas, CA

                              1. re: cgfan

                                Thanks cgfan. I love spending time in different parts of town and trying restaurants in the area that I don't know about. I'll check out those lunch spots. Elizabethan desserts...oh yeah...now that's one I'm very familiar with! Love those lattice pies and the chocolate dipped pecan bar is insane. Great, now that you reminded me, I think I need to pick up a few treats for the hotel!
                                Yes I've read many posts here about Kaito and you thoughtful and detailed posts about other Japanese favorites. I enjoy reading them for the education because I know so little about the cuisine, but at this point I think I'd be too intimidated to navigate the menu on my own.

                                1. re: Island

                                  Yummmm, mini-lattice pies...

                                  Oh don't count yourself out for fear of intimidation at Kaito - it's the most welcoming place one can find in Sushi that's authentic. Really. Afterall you can even order rolls there... (But why? :-) ) However the mention above was just so you can note the location, as they're closed for lunch...

                                  However one thing worth mentioning since they're a traditionally run Sushi shop is that they start their prep several hours before opening. So if you happen to be there in the mid-to-late afternoon, even if they're not yet open for business, it's an interesting thing to watch. Just politely ask and say that you'll be a fly on the wall, and if you're good about it I can't see why they'd say no. (I've watched their prep many a time, but I'm a crazy regular so I can't go by my personal experience...)

                                  While other Sushi bars are busy defrosting and opening up all sorts of trays and packs during prep, at Kaito you'll be seeing the real thing. This includes the careful maintenance of their knives, which is alone worth seeing whether or not you're a fan of Sushi or seafood...

                  2. Thank's cg!
                    Wish we had more of these shops on every corner.
                    Can't wait to stock up on goodies of balsamic, sea salts, olives and French mustards.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: Beach Chick

                      I live nearby so I stopped in after a workout at L.A. fitness.
                      I have mixed feelings about this place.
                      I am not sure $16 for a small bottle of olive oil is going to fly when you can go across the street to Trader Joe's and buy a larger bottle of California Estate olive oil for $7 that is pretty darn good. I did taste a few of the olive oils. I asked the person helping me what her favorite was and she had me taste a greek olive oil which was very olive tasting and mild. Then I asked for a something grassy tasting and she had me try an Italian olive oil that was very harsh and not that grassy. Strangely, they had no California olive oil even though they have two dozen or so from other countries. I felt the olive oils I have bought in Davis and Paso Robles were better.
                      On our last trip to Paso Robles we tried some walnut oil and really liked it so we bought a small can of it. I am still amazed how good this stuff is on salads, I don't know why it took me so long to discover it and why it isn't used more widely.
                      The mustard section looked nice and the pricing was reasonable. I will probably go back and get some. The bread was hidden on a shelf behind the counter and it was hard to tell what they had. I think they need to display the bread were it can be seen. They had many types of cheese but again Trader Joe's has a good selection. I think its a great concept but they need to carry more products to be successful.

                      1. re: pantani

                        "They had many types of cheese but again Trader Joe's has a good selection." - It's OT but I found the cheese selection and quality at Trader Joe's lousy. Just some standard cheeses and they often taste very old.

                        1. re: honkman

                          I can't eat TJ's cheese after having Venissimo's.

                        2. re: pantani

                          This store was the subject of a discussion I had with some friends at dinner (Tender Greens) last night. One of my dining companions - tho' he grew up in the U.S. - was born in Italy (Calabria) and his family is in the olive oil business. He has 66 olive trees on his East County property and has taken classes in olives and olive oils at UC Davis; or as he said "I can talk olives all night". His take on olive oil in general was "I trust the Spanish...the Italians and Greeks?, not so much". There was a huge olive oil scandal in Italy several years ago when it was discovered that some oils were not what they claimed to be. His take on the store was that their vinegars are stronger than their oils.

                          BTW, he loves CA olive oils and says NorCal is doing a great job with them. I tend to agree with my friend with regard to the Spanish and olive oils; those are my favs.

                          1. re: DiningDiva

                            Part of that scandal I found interesting is that of the mid- to large producers, only Bertolli managed to stay honest. The vast majority of Italian "olive oil" being sold was doctored hazlenut oil from Greece or lampone-quality oil from rancid olives.

                            Got to get up there and get me the good stuff.

                            Cheers.

                            1. re: SaltyRaisins

                              Have to agree, there's a lot of cheating going on with the purity of olive oils.

                              1. re: SaltyRaisins

                                Yeah, I think a road trip to the North County is in order as well. I'm particularly interested in checking out some of their infused vinegars and mustards.

                                1. re: DiningDiva

                                  The mustards are all from Edmond Fallot which is an excellent brand. I enjoyed all the vinegars that I tasted. The salt selection is lacking IMO. The preserves were from a French based company l'Epicurien.

                        3. I will have to check this place out! I'm especially interested in their vinegar and salt selection

                          1. Stopped here last Monday afternoon after a stay at the beach in Carlsbad. Doubt I’d ever come across it if not for cgfans post, so thanks cg!
                            On a busy street in a nondescript strip mall with a 99 cent store, weight loss program, fitness center, pizza joint and some empty store fronts. Not exactly somewhere you’d casually stroll by or expect to find gourmet goodies. Large Baker & Olive sign above the storefront partially obscured by trees when driving by, but no indication of what type of business it is until you park and get close enough to see each window has some small print like gourmet mustards, fine cheeses, etc. Hope people continue to find this place or they’re going to need what you guys call the SD Hype Machine.

                            Clean sparse interior dominated by 3 tables of stainless steel vats containing the oils and vinegars. O&V paradise!
                            No one in the place, but voices in the back so we wandered for about 5 minutes until the 2 employees (owners?) came out. We expected to buzz the place, maybe buy a bottle, but ended up staying for about an hour and a half and leaving with 10, and it could have been more since everything we tasted was so flavorful. The gregarious guy who helped us obviously has a passion for this and was a wealth of info. Asked us what we like and he tailored our “tour” to that. We tasted probably 10 of each alone and in combination, satisfying my request for interesting vinegars and combos that highlight them and husband’s preference for olive oils. Each vat had a label with info about the product and what other oil, vinegar, condiment or food it paired well with, but he was more than happy to fill us in. He said he could go all day and I believe him!

                            However we also had the luxury of being the only 2 people in the store until we were finalizing our purchase. The few others came in at the same time; probably after work. Since tasting requires assistance I don’t know how they manage more customers and that end of the day hit seems to beg for evening hours.

                            We spent so much time with the vinegar and oils that I can’t tell you much about the other products, but cgfan covered that well. My impression was the salt selection looked similar to what you could find at Bristol Farms or even the farmer’s markets. Not much bread when we were there and it’s kind of hidden behind the counter. Cheese nowhere near the assortment of Venissimo, but what they had appeared to be quality. I didn’t check out the other condiments.

                            One could easily whip up a great gift basket from this place. We purchase 2 bottles for a gift and for gifts they put another cap on the bottles and nicely wrap it in a gift bag.

                            A few other tidbits…he mentioned for the holidays they’re thinking of putting together gift sets of 4 small bottles, combining flavors that would go together to use with different things, like seafood , meats, etc. Not decided yet, but it will be more expensive per ounce due to the cost of the little bottles. Would be nice if you could pick your own combo. I enjoyed all their citrus flavors.

                            Also in the works, chocolate truffles infused with the balsamics. Maybe oils too? I’ll definitely want to try those. He estimates they’ll be about “$2 each, like Chuao”, but hopefully not as tiny.

                            They reuse rather than recycle and if you bring your bottles back clean with the label removed they’ll take a buck off your next bottle.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Island

                              Hey Island, great info on the bottle reuse program...

                              I've been going back every weekend since I first visited, mainly to pick up on their Belen Artisan Bakery Ciabattas ($1.20 per), which I love to use for sandwiches at home. When I visited last week they had remember me and comp'd me a German loaf, which I am used to receiving from a German baker friend of mine but outside of that do not seek it out. It was a nice change of pace, but certainly screams to be used differently than the white breads I am used to using. (Toasted w/peanut butter and honey seemed to be a good match; they recommended it w/cheese, but I prefer less lighter and less flavorful breads for that purpose...)

                              BTW did you try the Askinosie chocolates? Their $1 squares are perfect for the occasional treat - the bar is far too tempting to ignore for long - and thier dark chocolate is amazing.

                              As others have noted, I, too, feel that their strong suit is in their vinegars, though that may be because I only did an in-depth tasting on my first visit and even then only sampled, perhaps, 5 different EVOO's.

                              Also agreed with Island that they have a built-in (and low) capacity for handling tastings. To handle anything but the smallest of crowds they really need to open up their store for self-guided tastings, though I don't now how they'd work out the logistics with the spouts that they are using... (Too easy to just let it run or dispense too much product per sample...)

                            2. Do they sell Stonehouse Olive Oil from Berkeley there?

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: DougOLis

                                Everything at B& O was bottled under their own name and I don't think there were any CA oils.

                                1. re: Island

                                  Just to clarify a point, though there are no CA EVOO's in their selection right now, it is not ruled out. They just go to their freshest sources at the time, and right now they're principally coming out of the Southern Hemisphere. Expect more European and domestic EVOO's later in the season...

                                  1. re: cgfan

                                    Aren't we coming up on California olive oil pressing season right now?

                              2. Not sure if it's seasonal but B&O now have vinegar and oil gift packs. 4 small 160ml bottles 2 EVOO and 2 balsamics for I think $24.99.

                                The Purist: 2 unflavored EVOO one mild and one bold, traditional and white balsamics.

                                Garden Greens: Blood orange and basil EVOO. Pomegranate and raspberry balsamics.

                                Butcher Block: Tuscan herb and mushroom sage EVOO. Traditional and black currant balsamics. This one supposedly also good on grilled/roasted veggies.

                                Gone Fishing: Persian lime and Eureka lemon EVOO. Honey ginger and ripe peach white balsamics.

                                They now also have chocolate truffles infused with their black currant, cinnamon pear, and blackberry ginger balsamics. 9 piece for $19.97. Haven't tried them yet, but plan to purchase a few for stocking stuffers.