Posts Tagged ‘The Unrefined Olive’

Elizabeth Kilvert’s recipe for spring slaw with baby kale, carrot, apple and cabbage

Monday, May 12th, 2014


Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Kilvert, The Unrefined Olive

Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Kilvert, The Unrefined Olive

Warmer weather means luscious salads made with fresh local produce. This recipe for spring slaw comes from Elizabeth Kilvert, owner of The Unrefined Olive, an olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting bar in the Glebe (read my interview with Elizabeth here).

“This slaw makes a lovely side salad, an accompaniment to pulled pork, and a topping on sandwiches,” Elizabeth says. “You can also simmer any leftovers with chicken broth for a tasty soup.”

Local suppliers

A believer in local food and local partnerships, Elizabeth sourced the kale in this recipe from Jambican Studio Gardens, the apples from Hall’s Apple Market, and the olive oil and balsamic vinegar from – of course! – The Unrefined Olive.

About Elizabeth Kilvert 

Elizabeth was working comfortably as a civil servant at Environment Canada when she decided to take a risk and open an olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting bar. The business is the culmination of her passion for food and travel, her life experience and her deep-rooted work ethic. At The Unrefined Olive, Elizabeth strives for a local approach, integrating partnerships, developing networks, and co-promoting as much as possible.

Spring slaw with baby kale, carrot, apple, and cabbage


2 large carrots

2 medium apples, peeled and cored

1/4 purple cabbage

1/4 regular or Napa cabbage

2 cups chopped baby kale

1 tbsp coarse black ground pepper

1/2 cup Serrano Honey Vinegar

1/4 cup Robust Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil

salt to taste


Coarsely grate the carrots, apples, and cabbage or run them through a food processor. Place in a bowl and toss with chopped baby kale.

Whisk together vinegar, olive oil, pepper and salt. Drizzle onto the rest of the ingredients and toss.

This makes a lovely side salad, an accompaniment to pulled pork, and a topping on sandwiches. If there is still salad after a few days simmer with chicken broth to make a soup.

What your favourite spring salad?

The Unrefined Olive: Ottawa tasting bar gives global food local, sustainable roots

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014
Kilvert 2

Elizabeth Kilvert, owner of The Unrefined Olive
Photo: V. Ward

Ottawa’s Elizabeth Kilvert sells premium, extra-virgin* olive oils from around the world and aged balsamic vinegars from Modena, Italy, but her business is all about local community and sustainability.

A former biodiversity specialist and environmental educator, Kilvert took a leave of absence from her job at Environment Canada in 2012 to launch The Unrefined Olive, an olive oil and balsamic tasting bar on Second Avenue in the Glebe.  Not only did the concept appeal to her love of food and travel, it met her stringent ethical priorities. “I wanted to specialize in a nutritious food with a long history,” she says. “I also wanted to reach out to the local community and run the business with as low an eco-footprint as possible.”

*Extra-virgin refers to the first pressing of whole unblemished olives within a day of harvest.

The products

The Unrefined Olive offers:

  • 13 single-estate olive oils (from olives grown on a single farm or estate and bottled on site, delivering a more authentic product with tighter quality control)
  • 22 oils that are either flavour-fused (olives and whole fruits, herbs or vegetables are crushed together) or infused (a flavour is added after the olive oil has been pressed). Available flavours include Persian lime, Eureka lemon, blood orange, green Baklouti chili, organic basil, organic garlic, and many others
  • 7 specialty oils, such as walnut and truffle
  • 23 balsamic vinegars including honey, serrano honey, raspberry, pomegranate, aged black cherry, blackberry ginger, blueberry, espresso, dark chocolate and cranberry pear white

Products can be purchased in 200 ml, 375 ml or 750 ml bottles for $12, $19 and $32 respectively (other quantities and prices apply for the specialty oils).

How a tasting bar works

Tasting bars got their start with wine in California’s Napa Valley, and have started to catch on with extra-virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars. The oils and vinegars are contained in stainless steel casks, with spigots. You can sample different types and get tips on pairings and information on production methods from store staff.

Kilvert sees customer education as a big part of the service she provides. “We work with customers’ taste preferences and tend to down-sell, encouraging people to buy smaller quantities until they feel comfortable tasting and cooking with a variety of oils and balsamic vinegars.”

Education seems to be paying off. Since The Unrefined Olive opened more than a year ago, she has noticed a shift in customers’ preferences. “As they learn and taste more, they’re moving to purer, more robust oils.”

A healthy food

Extra-virgin olive oil is a key ingredient in the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It is also an anti-inflammatory loaded with polyphenols that help reduce blood pressure, protect against cancers of the breast and the respiratory and digestive tracts, promote bone health and offer cognitive benefits. Balsamic vinegar has beneficial effects on cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose levels.

Quality oils and vinegars make it easier to eat healthy, Kilvert says. “They offer a simple way to add new flavour to everything from salads to fish to pasta. You don’t have to learn another cooking style or buy a new gadget.”

She also points out that olive production is less damaging to the environment than other oil-producing crops. Olive trees are more climate-change resistant, they’re grown without synthetic fertilizers and require minimal spraying.

Shrinking the eco-footprint

Kilvert strives to run The Unrefined Olive with the smallest possible eco-footprint. For example, she selected low-VOC paints and varnishes for the store and had LED lights installed. The stainless steel tasting cups are washed, sterilized and re-used, and customers are asked to wash their oil and vinegar bottles and bring them in for refills. Packaging is made from local paper with high recycled content, paper scraps are re-purposed, and product boxes are specially designed to work for the store’s three bottle sizes.

Instead of throwing out olive oils that are more than a year old – when their taste and nutritional value have passed their peak – they’re donated to Shepherds of Good Hope, food banks and a local soap maker.

Supporting community

As part of its broader commitment to sustainability, The Unrefined Olive supports local producers and community. For starters, many of the finishes and accessories in the store (including furniture, glass and pottery) were locally sourced, and providers from Ottawa and Montreal were hired to develop business software solutions.

In addition, the tasting bar:

  • offers specialty oils produced within a 100-mile radius, such as Stony Brook butternut squash seed oil from Geneva, New York, and cold-pressed, naturally farmed sunflower oil from Eastern Ontario’s Kricklewood Farm
  •  co-promotes artisanal foods from area producers who don’t have storefronts, such as Hummingbird Chocolate and The Salty Don
  • participates at local seasonal food workshops
  • contributes to community charitable efforts by donating gift boxes and bringing a mobile tasting unit to fundraising events.

“Community involvement is an important component of what we do,” Kilvert says. “It helps make us sustainable.”

In your opinion, what characteristic(s) make a local food business sustainable?



The gift of food: Stocking stuffers for locavores

Saturday, December 14th, 2013

(Photo: zaimoku_woodpile via Flickr

Good food is a welcome gift, no matter what the celebration. And with the growing number of Ottawa-area food artisans, it’s getting easier to shop for the locavores on your list.

Here’s my list of ideal stocking stuffers: compact and non-perishable, with most prices ranging from $3.50 to about $20. I’ve based the list on my visit to this year’s Locavore Artisan Food Fair, a showcase of products from 20 of Ottawa’s most creative food-makers.

These artisans produce in small batches and use local ingredients when possible. Many don’t have their own retail space, so plan to contact them online, or visit them at the Ottawa Farmers’ Christmas Market or Flavours of Ottawa Holiday Food Markets. I’ve indicated where products are available at local restaurants and stores.

Artisan brownies and dulce de leche from Carolina’s Box of Goodness

Carolina’s Box of Goodness handcrafts rich artisan brownies in flavours such as Chocolate Fudge, Dulce de Leche, Caramel Sea Salt, and Cinnamon Pecan Blondie. The treats come individually packaged or in boxes of 6 or more. There’s also a Boozy Brownies Collection featuring Bailey’s Irish Cream, Amaretto & Ginger and Grand Marnier varieties.

Another option is Carolina’s dulce de leche, a simple mixture of milk and sugar that’s cooked until it becomes thick, creamy and full of complex flavours. It can be served with fruit, toast, pancakes and ice cream – or eaten straight from the jar.

Chocolate bars and Mayan drinking chocolate from Hummingbird Chocolate

Almonte-based Hummingbird Chocolate handcrafts dark, organic chocolate from single-origin, ethically traded Latin American and Caribbean cocoa beans, using 19th century methods that bring out the beans’ unique flavours. In addition to bar chocolate, Hummingbird has come out with Mayan drinking chocolate for the holidays, essentially a cake of chocolate on a stick that you melt in heated milk for a rich, spicy drink. You can find Hummingbird products at a restaurants and food stores across Ottawa. (For more information about Hummingbird Chocolate, read my February 2013 post

Chocolate truffles from koko chocolates

koko makes gourmet chocolate truffles by hand, using premium Belgian chocolate, and all-natural, gluten-free ingredients. Choose from traditional truffle flavours or more adventurous ones like margarita and spicy Thai chili.

Fairly traded coffee from The Barking Barista

These fairly traded, Brazilian, Indonesian, Ethiopian and Colombian coffee beans are craft-roasted by an Ottawa husband and wife team. For every pound of coffee you buy, $1 goes to help dogs in need. The owners are available at or in person at the Ottawa Canine School, and will ship to you for an added cost.

Gourmet jams from Michaelsdolce

Confectioner Michael Sunderland makes all-natural gourmet jams, using local produce when and where possible. Michaelsdolce jams include: Blueberry & Lavender, Ginger Citrus marmalade; Fig Blood Orange, Papaya & Pink Grapefruit, Plum & Star Anise, and many others. Find them at Isobel’s Cupcakes and Cookies or contact for more info.

Oil and balsamic vinegar from The Unrefined Olive

The Unrefined Olive is Ottawa’s only oil and balsamic vinegar tasting bar. It sells 50 fresh premium olive oils from around the world as well as balsamic vinegars and flavour-infused oils.  All balsamic vinegars come from Modena Italy, are aged for a minimum of 12 years, and are available in flavours such as fig, cranberry pear, pomegranate and dark chocolate. Flavour-fused olive oils include mushroom sage, Tuscan herb, basil, garlic, and hot chili. Drop by the tasting bar at 151 A Second Avenue in the Glebe or call 613-231-3133.

Elizabeth Kilvert, owner, The Unrefined Olive
(Photo: V. Ward)

Preserves from Top Shelf Preserves

Chef Sara Pishva makes her small batch pickles and preserves from locally sourced produce. Top Shelf wares include: spicy pickled garlic scapes, pickled turnips, red pepper jelly, molasses baked beans, brandied plums, spiced pears in syrup, pickled jalapenos, dill pickles, pickled beets, and more.

Smoked seasonings from The Salty Don

The Salty Don makes its own line of natural smoked salts, as well as pepper blends, unique items such as smoked quinoa and smoked risotto, and spa products. Salt and pepper flavours include Bison Smoked, Canadian Curry, Garlic Smoked, Peppered Provence, Lemon Pepper, and Saffron Pepper Rub, to name a few. You’ll find Salty Don products at Grace in the Kitchen and other locations.

Specialty tea from Kimicha

Kimicha owner and tea sommelier Kimiko Uriu sources the best-tasting black, white, green, herbal and fruit teas from Southeast Asia; two varieties she’s chosen have won awards at the North American Tea Championships.  In addition to packages of loose tea, Kimicha sells sampler sets and tea accessories. Order online or call 613-612-5464.

Sweet treats from Pascale’s Ice Cream

Pascale’s seasonal, all-natural ice creams are renowned in Ottawa.  For the holiday season, she’s also offering less perishable treats: try her salted caramel or sour cherries in balsamic caramel, but order soon because they go fast. Get in touch at or call 613-322-4256.

What’s the best food gift you’ve received?