Downtown: A new taste comes to South Main Street
When Charla Mayotte moved to New Hampshire from upstate New York earlier this year, she and her husband, Clark, didn’t expect to have so much trouble finding the extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar they used regularly in their kitchen.
So when the Mayottes couldn’t track down their go-to products in Concord, they took the matter into their own hands.
They opened a store of their own.
“We had to have it,” Charla Mayotte, 40, said.
Celeste Oliva opened on South Main Street at the beginning of August. Mayotte sells extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar from Veronica Foods, a niche company based in California. The quality is unparalleled, Mayotte insisted.
“What we can’t get away from is the extra virgin olive oil,” she said, pointing to the silver vats in the middle of her store. “As soon as the olives are fresh, they are crushed within (two) to four hours. It’s a huge difference.”
Other companies that mass produce olive oil don’t pick the olives soon enough or wait too long to crush them, she explained, but the products in her store come off the tree in Peru, Chile or Australia at exactly the right moment.
A sign outside advertises free tastings. The shelves are stocked with rows of thin-necked bottles, their labels noting exotic flavors like cayenne-fused chili spicy olive oil or aged blueberry balsamic vinegar. Mayotte deftly grabs a plastic tasting cup and explains the difference between infused and fused oils. (When the olives are crushed with the mix of herbs or flavors, the end result is a fused olive oil. When the added flavor is mixed in later, that product is an infused oil.)
A little bit of cranberry pear balsalmic vinegar, and a dash of blood orange olive oil. It’s sharp but fruity, and the tang rests in the back of my throat. Her most unexpected combination? She thought for a moment, then splashed butter olive oil and a maple-flavored balsamic vinegar together in my tasting cup. The combination tasted like syrup, but lighter.
Mayotte’s favorite part of the job is “educating people, seeing their eyes light up,” she said. “Like, ‘Oh, that’s how this is supposed to taste.’ ”
She didn’t expect to work in her own store. Mayotte’s husband transferred to New Hampshire for his work with ADT Security, and the family has two young children. But their passion for these ingredients has gone beyond the Mayotte’s new kitchen in Hooksett, and the couple was encouraged by their first impression of the business community in Concord.
“Coming here and seeing a city like this, with all the quaint little stores, it’s a good little city,” Mayotte said.
Most of the bottles in Celeste Oliva or on the store’s website cost between $11 and $25. For those who stare at her shelves with confusion, Mayotte has a list of recipes that range across a meal from appetizers to dessert. Located in the strip mall at 75 S. Main St., the store is open from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
“You can come in and try whatever you want,” Mayotte said.
For more information, visit celesteoliva.com.
Main Street construction begins – sort of
Prep for underground utility work will begin on North Main Street during the week of Sept. 8. Construction on those utilities will start the week of Sept. 15.
North Main Street will continue to be open for two-way traffic, and city staff has pledged delays will be minimal. The sidewalks will be mostly undisturbed during this first phase of construction. The major work to redesign and rebuild about nine blocks of downtown will get underway in the spring of 2015.
Stay tuned for more updates in the Monitor.
Ducks and dragons
The city’s annual Weekend on the Water festival returns Saturday and Sunday at Kiwanis Riverfront Park. This year’s event will again include dragon boat races, duck boats, a beer garden, a craft fair, live music and other activities. Admission is free, and the event is sponsored by the city’s parks and recreation department, the Rotary Club of Concord, the Black Ice Pond Hockey Association and Concord Crew. For more information and a schedule of events, visit concordwow.org.
New this year, sign up for the Friendly Kitchen Road Race on Sunday at 8:30 a.m. at the New Hampshire Technical Institute. For more information and pre-registration, contact Perry Seagroves at email@example.com. You can register and pick up race numbers – and buy a Friendly Kitchen apron to wear during the run – on Saturday at Weekend on the Water from noon to 6 p.m.
In honor of Labor Day, city offices and the Concord Public Library are closed today. Trash and recycling collection is also on holiday. Collection will be delayed one day for the remainder of the week through Saturday, starting with today’s route collected tomorrow.
Editor’s Note: The original version of this story has been updated to correctly identify Clark Mayotte’s employer and differentiate between infused and fused olive oil. The extra virgin olive oil at Celeste Oliva also comes from Peru, Chile and Australia, and its balsamic vinegar comes from Italy.
(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)