Food

Knowledge On Tap

Receiving a culinary education from The Olive Tap

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The Olive Tap is the second gourmet olive oil shop to open on the East Side in the past year, but it isn’t so much a specialty store as it is a neighborhood resource for enthusiastic foodies.

The Wayland Square shop is the eighth location for the Illinois-based chain, and the first in the northeast, but this is no corporate operation. It’s a locally owned franchise run by proprietor Greg Holtkamp, who informs me that he’s there “every day, open to close.”

One of the neighbors who quickly took notice is renowned chef Jaime D’Oliveira – formerly of Red Stripe and Mills Tavern, among other restaurants – who quickly went from customer to part of the team. He prepares food for Friday evening tastings, tastes and advises on new products and even works the sales floor. “I don’t even have a title for him,” notes Holtkamp. “I wouldn’t call him a consultant – I would call him a food coach.”

Every Friday from 6-8pm, Holtkamp and D’Oliveira riff on a theme, with the chef devising a menu that spotlights the store’s bounty. Some themes have included New Orleans, Portuguese food and Cinco de Mayo, and each dish incorporates at least one of the store’s products, like the cornbread made with jalapeno infused oil served on the New Orleans menu. These events not only allow customers to sample some really great food for free, but also to get ideas and advice for using products with which they might not be familiar. “The biggest question we get from people is, ‘What do I do with this stuff?’” says Holtkamp. The tastings help answer that question.

In addition to those events, Holtkamp has tried to make the store a neighborhood resource in a number of ways. He stocks local products like Venda Ravioli, Buono’s Bakery, Aquidneck Honey and Laurent Vals Handcrafted Chocolates. He even uses the shop’s walls as an art gallery, displaying local artists for two month cycles and selling their wares without taking a commission, a program that is already booked through the end of the year and has a waiting list. And by the time you read this, D’Oliveira will have started hosting Saturday cooking classes in-store (pre-registration required). Plus, you can always just stop in to browse around and taste some really great oils and vinegars.