Tasting some unfamiliar cheeses at your favorite deli or wines at your neighborhood liquor store are all well and good; but where do you get to slosh together samples of flavor-infused oils and vinegars to see how different combinations work together? In New Paltz, those in the know will point you to Scarborough Fare Fine Olive Oils & Gourmet Specialties, the North Front Street emporium for serious salad-makers. Only now, they’ll have to point slightly to the south: As of April 1, Scarborough Fare has moved across the street to #15.
“We saw an opportunity here and decided to take advantage of it,” says Cory Wirthmann, who owns the business in partnership with his mother Donna. The original shop on the northwest corner of North Front and Church Street opened eight years ago, almost to the day, and two years later the Wirthmanns launched a second storefront in Beacon. But they’ve been wanting to expand their product line for a while now, and that opportunity finally presented itself when Adam Monteverde of Mexican Kitchen decided to close his short-lived whole foods grocery venture next door, the Root Cellar.
Monteverde’s recent renovation, which included the construction of new wooden shelves and vegetable bins, was ideally suited for what the Wirthmanns had in mind: selling the fresh ingredients that go underneath the oils and vinegars that have long been their specialties. There’s also refrigerated storage for perishables. “We’ve never carried produce, but we always wanted to,” says Donna. “This space is a little bit larger.”
So what’s new, besides salad greens? A much bigger selection of cheeses, for one thing. Locally made fresh mozzarella, imported parmesan and all the different flavors offered by Gardiner-based Casa del Caciocavallo are already on display, with more to come, according to Cory: “We never really got into cheese before.” Salami from Magnanini Farm Winery in Wallkill is another new product, and “We’re adding a ton of olives, all imported,” Cory says. And there’s more to come: “We listen to the people – whatever customers want.” Donna agrees with this open-to-innovation approach: “Whenever somebody says, ‘Do you have…,’ we put it on the list.”
More shelf space also means broadened selections of the nonperishable items that were stocked in the original store: dry pastas “Made by Real People” from the Al Dente Pasta Company; canned sauce tomatoes imported from Italy; a variety of spreads and tapenades that are great for panini and antipasti. There are now at least 65 varieties of Harney teas, available loose in tins, as boxes of sachets and even single sachets, so customers can taste-test. “We go through a lot of tea. I didn’t think we would,” says Cory, noting that Scarborough Fare sells the second-largest volume of Harney teas of any small store in lower New York State, second only to the Harney shop in Manhattan.
Herb and spice blends are also popular items, with flavored sea salts becoming especially trendy in recent years. Cory buys them in bulk and sells them in two different sizes of zipper bags. There are a dozen different salts from all over the world, plus two dozen more infused with a variety of exotic flavors. Four are smoked, seven are hot, a couple involve citrus flavors (ideal for rimming margaritas) and several more have the earthy aromas of mushrooms and truffles. What would a person do with espresso-flavored sea salt? “I’d put it into cookies,” Cory answers without missing a beat.
Now that they’ve got more room, you can expect to find a lot more in the way of kitchen gadgetry as well. In the beverage section, there are teapots and kettles and infusers and French presses. Over by the pasta and sauce makings, you can find pasta machines with myriad attachments for making different shapes. Sprayer bottles for oiling your pans are a must-have you may not have realized you needed. And for the ultimate housewarming/hostess gift, check out the gift bags and baskets, premade or assembled to order. They’re set up at the checkout to do gift-wrapping as well.
But mostly, Scarborough Fare will continue doing what it does best: selling high-quality extra-virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars, plain or infused. Unflavored oils come in five different regional varietals plus a blend, and there are eleven different flavors to the infused oils. The dark balsamic vinegars come in ten flavors including plain; there are white balsamics as well, made from the same Trebbiano grapes, but with the skins removed.
Yes, you can buy them pre-bottled, but the Tasting Bar is what makes this shop a unique experience. You pay for your refillable bottle the first time – they come in 250, 500 and 1,000 milliliter sizes – and bring it back again when it’s empty. Shiny stainless-steel urns line a long wooden counter where you can taste samples from tiny paper cups. Maybe that bacon-flavored olive oil will inspire you to go back to making your own homemade popcorn in a pot (who needs butter?). You can even mix oils and vinegars together to help you decide what awesome flavor combo would take that salad of bitter spring greens that you’re planning to the next level of awesomeness.
The Wirthmanns will make suggestions if asked, but, says Donna, “Everybody’s palate is different.” She’s not kidding when she recommends trying balsamic vinegar over ice cream: “Some are them are so viscous — it’s all about the fruit.” Cory vouches for this counterintuitive approach to dessert as well. “We’re very interested in promoting creativity.” There are four-ounce bottles available for the faint of heart. Or just stop in for a taste – or several. Scarborough Fare is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.