Baker & Olive

San Diego is known for its natural beauty, and perhaps even for its artificial beauties, but a foodie haven? Not so much. Having lived collectively in Chicago, New York, Boston, London, Paris and Tokyo before moving here, my husband and I had to adjust to living in a place where people seemed too busy working out to be concerned with food. Which saddened me, because Food, you complete me.

I want to start brewing my own vinegar. That will make for two pets in my home: a 5-year-old sourdough starter named Pete (which is also what my daughter calls the holes in her jeans), and a vinegar mother that will heretofore be known as Wilma. Fermented pets are the best ones.

You can imagine my excitement when Baker & Olive appeared in my neighborhood. You can be excited too, because you can order online.

This is a place where they allow you to drink olive oil and balsamic vinegars out of a cup.

It’s like the land of milk and honey without the milk (but a good selection of raw honey). See those silver things? They’re like kegs of olive oil and vinegar, and when you walk in the staff dispenses these deliciously viscous liquids for straight from the tap. They’ve got beautiful gift sets as well which are a nice way to try a variety of flavors.

Why yes, I do drink gravy, why do you ask?

Back to the vinegars: a nice variety vinegars, both balsamics and lighter ones. I was focused during my visit on the balsamics; you can see some of the varieties here. Their website says that “the density and complexity of our balsamic vinegars are a testament to the fact that they are made in Modena, Italy from high quality grape must, cooked down over an open wood fire and aged in oak barrels without the addition of much else, unlike so many “balsamic-like” products on the market.” Whatever they did, this vinegar is smooth, rich and complex. I bought a bottle of the violet-infused vinegar, which has a lovely fragrant bouquet; I tasted a strawberry balsamic which would be divine over a panna cotta topped with berries.

The violet balsamic, while lovely in concert with olive oil with bread as a convenient carrier, was a bit too floral for my standard vinaigrette — and I make vinaigrettes just about daily, so I need to head back to get a good basic balsamic.

I’m a vinegar novice though, so would love to hear if anyone else has experience making vinegars, or if you have recommendations on particularly good ones.

Excuse me while I have a glass of the violet now.


  • June 7, 2012 - 2:37 PM | Permalink

    I can’t help you at all — but I am fascinated by the idea of making vinegar, and excited to hear about your experience! Sounds great. There is an amazing restaurant here in Portland called Pok Pok who (makes? brews?) their own drinking vinegars. They are tasty for sure!… But they make amazing cocktails! I’d love to learn how to make my own.

    ps, drinking gravy: yes please.

    • June 7, 2012 - 10:13 PM | Permalink

      Wow, I was only kidding when I was talking about drinking vinegar — but I guess people do it! And I really do drink gravy. I also lick bowls when no one’s around…will be posting on the vinegar making journey so you’ll witness either success or disaster!

      • June 7, 2012 - 10:18 PM | Permalink

        Wait, what I wrote is confusing. I meant that I did drink the vinegar, but it was out of a tiny medicine cup thingy, and I didn’t realize people actually drank it as a *beverage* (which is what i do with gravy and drippings). It’s probably not a new habit I should pick up though.

        • Sophie
          June 8, 2012 - 8:26 AM | Permalink

          Whether it’s Drinking Vinegars, or regular vinegars that you just want to drink, I say do it!

  • June 7, 2012 - 6:23 PM | Permalink

    Oh my, yum. I didnt know Baker & Olive had opened. I must stop by. Perhaps you can be convinced to go again avec moi? And I’m not an expert. At all. But I love vinegars & oils. That’s it. 🙂 Teach me to do a started (like for cinnamon rolls) please. And I will pass it down to my great-grandkids one day like I saw a woman on FNetwork do.

    • June 7, 2012 - 10:16 PM | Permalink

      Of course I will go avec you! That would be the perfect opportunity to return your cake pops book (number of cake pops I have made since the dolphins: 0). As for the starter, I can GIVE you some of mine. Then it will be like your starter is a different but related tribe from mine, and our starter descendants will be cousins, then distant cousins, then far enough apart that they can marry.

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