By Emily Williams
Pressing olives to create olive oil is an art form, akin to turning grapes into wine.
It is a practice deeply rooted in Mediterranean culture and cuisine. The culinary act originated as early as 6000 B.C. in Asia Minor, later recognized as ancient Greece, and olive trees that are approximately 2,000 years old have been found in groves, continuing to yield fruit.
Both the art of making olive oil and the culture of its originating European region were the inspiration for Fairhope residents Vickie and Richard Bailey’s store, The Happy Olive.
For the past seven years, The Happy Olive has served artisan oils, blended balsamic vinegars, spices and more products, adding locations in Mobile and Orange Beach along the way. On Oct. 8, the Baileys will open their fourth storefront, in Mountain Brook Village’s Lane Parke.
The Baileys’ passion for olive oil began with a wedding.
While in Italy and teaching for the University of Georgia, their daughter Shayna fell in love. She married her husband, Paolo Fasolo, at a mountaintop church near Chivasso, Italy.
The couple lives on an olive farm and vineyard in one of the most celebrated Italian regions, Veneto.
While visiting their daughter, the Bailey’s were able to take part in the olive harvesting and pressing process.
“At harvest time, we shake the olives off the trees into nets just as they’ve done for generations,” Vickie said. “The olives are ground that night and enjoyed the next day in the richest flavors you can imagine.
“That pure, simple diet of fresh, non-processed foods – enjoyed around a relaxed table to savor the experience – changed our lives. We knew we wanted to share the Mediterranean diet and its healthy way of life with not just friends, but everyone.”
To stock their store with the best products, the Baileys have traveled to olive orchards across Europe, although their first Happy Olive oils were cultivated at the Fasolo vineyards.
The store stocks artisan olive oils from Italy, France, Spain and Australia, with infusions including basil, walnut, Persian lime and black truffle, among others.
The Baileys have continued to add to their repertoire, constantly inspired by their travels.
After traveling to Modeno, Italy, the couple began offering a selection of balsamic vinegars to complement each oil. The store now offers a selection of Infused balsamics, including cinnamon pear, lavender, fig, grapefruit and other flavors. The espresso flavor, the owners noted, is deliciously versatile and a great addition to salad, steak or even a stack of pancakes.
In addition, a 2016 trip to the Dijon region of France had the couple hooked on fresh mustards. Richard spent the following year studying in Paris and in New York with Maille mustard masters to become a certified mustard sommelier.
The Mountain Brook store will include a selection of gourmet mustards on tap, and Richard handcrafts specialty flavors for the store, such as wasabi or white wine.
While the store will open Oct. 8, the grand opening and ribbon-cutting will be celebrated Oct. 24 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The event will feature music by Roman Street, a Fairhope-based Latin Jazz trio, as the store staff serves champagne, caviar and The Happy Olive’s gourmet mustard and feta dips.
For more information, visit happyolive4.com.