I don’t care if his name’s Mick Major, which sounds like some British Invasion–era drummer whose lifeless body might have been found in a bathtub in a Mayfair hotel suite. If I know my Italians, & I believe I do, the proprietor of this gorgeous gourmet shop in Lodo is a Michele Maggiore through & through. He’s too gregarious, too generous with & too infectiously enthusiastic about his wares not to have a little sangue del paese vecchio in him.
Which isn’t to say it’s all Italian all the time in here. A veritable modern gallery of oils & balsamic vinegars, the airy space is lined with, to quote the website, some 40 “polished steel canisters named fusti” that are filled with liquid gold (& green & pale yellow & near-black) from around the world—not only the Boot but Greece, France, Australia, Israel, Tunisia,
& so on.
The majority are fused with subtle but clear flavors—not, note, infused. Again per the website, the difference is in the timing of the process—fusing is part & parcel of, not post, production, & is followed by filtering. (Hence the greater purity relative to, say, those clove-&-sprig-filled gift bottles you get from your Pier 1s.)
Cinnamon pear & pomegranate balsamic vinegars
As well-versed about the qualities of his products in person as he is online, Major is also persuasive, proffering sample after sample to prove the savory smarts behind his pairing recs. For instance, he mixed
a bit of
with roasted walnut oil in 1 of those little tasting cups you see, & I swear I could smell the woodsmoke in the October air & taste the butter lettuce & blue cheese I’d toss with the intense blend. (And yes, rather than using bread as a dipper, you really are better off sipping the stuff straight so you know exactly what you’re getting.)
But it was when he combined the white peach vinegar with the Persian lime olive oil (to the left) that he made his first of what I know will be many sales. This too was as evocative as it was flavorful, all green leaves & pink blossoms. (Perfect over a bowl of Lucky Charms! Skip the milk.)
Wanting it all by & for itself, I bought the oil to drizzle on shellfish, blend with lemon juice & just a bit of garlic for a salad dressing, use as a dip for some sort of herbed bread.
All I’ve done so far is use it in a vinaigrette on a pseudo-Greek salad with shrimp, feta, Castelvetrano olives, peppers, tomatoes, etc.—but it made all the difference. Perked that sucker right up.
Though my next purchase will probably be that walnut oil, the 1 after that (I’m fantasizing ahead) has got to be the 18-year aged balsamic (from, ma certo, Modena). Like the author of the way cool local blog Pero Comen Como Locos, I could pour this as a digestivo—it’s that smooth & complexly sweet. (But I’d be just as happy to douse strawberries or olive oil cake in it.)
Kudos to Major, a peach himself, for keeping this lovely store afloat in the economic crisis–tossed waters of downtown. (On that note, don’t set your empties abobbing therein—take them back to the store to get a refill for $1 off.)