The Olive Tap
Fresh, artisan-produced extra-virgin olive oils and aged balsamic vinegars keep new and loyal samplers-turned-buyers eturning to The Olive Tap.
“You want me to do what?” It’s a question Bob Sherry said he hears almost all the time.
“Drink it,” he tells people. “It’s good.”
He’s talking about olive oil. With varietal names like Arbequina and Tuscan Herb, these oils indeed sound good enough to drink. You can find these and more at The Olive Tap, Bob and wife Lori’s store at 68 N. Williams St. in downtown Crystal Lake.
Blame It on the Sign
Bob came to olive oil in an uncommon way. The Harvard resident had been working for 21 years in a tool-and-die shop in Wisconsin. On his way home from a vacation with Lori, he said he saw a sign on the side of the road for an olive oil tasting. He tried it. He liked it and thought, “Boy, I’d like to [sell olive oil].”
He said he came home, did his research and decided to go all in by giving up his career to become one of the first franchisees of The Olive Tap, which also has locations in Long Grove and Downers Grove.
“We would never have dreamt of opening a store like this,” Bob said. “There wasn’t an ounce of it in my house,” before opening the store.
A Friend with Benefits
Opened August 1, 2012, in the heart of downtown Crystal Lake, Bob said, “Every day, new friends are coming in.”
That’s because even though the Sherrys are relatively new to olive oil, they have quickly become connoisseurs, taking full advantage of every opportunity to tout its medicinal and taste benefits.
Bob said his cholesterol has gone down since he started cooking with olive oil. He also said he uses the liquid as an anti-inflammatory and that he can immediately tell a difference when he stops using it because the arthritis in his ankle flares up. It’s no coincidence.
The Arthritis Foundation reported, “extra-virgin olive oil has anti-inflammatory properties similar to ibuprofen and aspirin.
What’s more, according to Olive Oil Times, Italian researchers from the University of Florence have found that extra-virgin olive oil polyphenols may prevent or delay the appearance of Alzheimer’s disease.
Olive oil’s value can be traced back to ancient Greece where the liquid was once worth its weight in gold.
What’ll It Be?
The first thing you see when you walk into The Olive Tap is the bar lined up with a row of gleaming silver canisters. Above them are names like Olio Novello del Spoleto, Tuscan Herb and Jalapeño. Then there’s the Aceto Balsamico di Modena, Orange White and others. They’re just a few of the extensive selection of olive oils and balsamic vinegars at The Olive Tap.
Bob said his olive oils are sourced primarily from Greece, Italy and California. All of them are of the extra-virgin variety, which, according to the Olive Oil Times, is the highest quality and most expensive
“Olive oil has to be gotten fresh and used fairly quickly because after about six months, its health benefits begin to diminish,” Bob said.
It’s a claim backed up by the Mayo Clinic, which states online: “The fats and healthy phytonutrients in olive oil — as well as the taste — can slowly degrade over time, so it’s probably best to use it within a year or within six months once opened.”
Because the oil and vinegar selections at the store are so extensive, the Sherrys see themselves as guides or counselors to their customers.
“We try to be friendly and knowledgeable and educate our customers,” Lori said. The selection includes extra virgin olive oils to varieties infused with basil, garlic, and jalapeños to name a few.
Most of the time, Lori said, a customer’s eyes go wide when she suggests a taste of the olive that is offered in small white sampler cups. She encourages them to put just a drop on the tip of the tongue. “Next thing you know, they’re drinking it,” because they love the taste, she explained.
“This is fun,” said Michelle Holmberg, a customer from McHenry who had been hearing about the store from friends. “It opens up my taste buds.”
A self-proclaimed evangelist for The Olive Tap, John Rupp travels from McHenry almost semiweekly to fill up on his favorites. “This is going to change my cooking,” he said. “I can get restaurant-style food, but in my house.”
“We try to be very conscientious” when helping customers, Bob said. They get “so excited that I have to throttle them back because they would buy so much.” He wants to ensure customers are using their products in a timely manner so they get all of the taste benefits from it, so he counsels customers to buy what they know they can use in a six-month period.
The finishing touch to The Olive Tap’s service is pouring the fresh oil or vinegar from the canister into take-home bottles.
“It can season steaks, burgers, scrambled eggs, even popcorn,” Bob said. “The stuff you can do with olive oil is amazing. It is a true seasoning.”
The store also sells olive oil and balsamic vinegar gift boxes and samplers, accessories such as emulsifiers and dipping sets, and locally produced teas, soup mixes and treats for pets.