We'd like to introduce you to the family behind the delicious Olive & Marlowe olive oil and balsamic vinegar products. We asked Heather to share the inside scoop with us. Make sure to read all the way to the bottom where she shares her favorite recipe with us.
Tell us about your business. When did you get your start and what led you to specialize in oils and vinegars?
Olive & Marlowe was founded in 2013, after the birth of our second child, Marlowe. We had inherited the name, Olio Fresca Olive Oil Company, from my previous employers in 2011. My husband, Rob, daughter Olive, and I moved to Pittsburgh in 2010 and I went to work for the family-owned company right after the Pittsburgh Public Market first opened its doors. The couple who ran the olive oil stand there, the Pitonis, hired me on, saying that it was "meant to be" with me having a daughter with such a fitting name. A little over a year later, the Pitonis offered to sell me the business and Rob convinced me to take advantage of the unique opportunity. We loved the products from the beginning, and introducing others to it had always been a pleasure, so I was fortunate to take over such a wonderful business without having to navigate the process of starting it from the ground up.
You are a part of a local main street community. Tell us about your storefront and how your business has been influenced as it has grown to be a part of the growing artisanal shoppes of East Liberty.
When I decided that I was going to be owning and running the business, I began scouring the city for prospective storefront spaces. We had always done well at the Public Market but I knew that a brick and mortar space was the next step for us to continue our growth. I considered neighborhoods like Lawrenceville, Squirrel Hill, and Shadyside, but then I got wind of the development plans for East Liberty.
A customer involved in real estate development showed me our current space two years ago and, while I was skeptical because of its less-than-visible location (set off of N. Highland Avenue on Broad Street Mall in what will soon be known as Indigo Square), I was encouraged by what was in store for the area in the not-too-distant future. Our location across from the Hotel Indigo, and a high-profile neighbor, Kiya Tomlin, two doors down, and Kevin Sousa's Union Pig & Chicken and The Shop in East Liberty right around the corner, I knew that this would be a prime spot for us. We've been really well-received by the community so far and are incredibly honored to be part of the new life being breathed back into East Liberty.
What do people come back for over and over, and what surprises them most to try for the first time?
Our most popular product, by far, is our 25 Star Traditional balsamic. Customers often purchase this by the case because they use it so liberally and often give it as gifts. According to many, it stands up well to the much pricier versions sold at high end retailers like Willams-Sonoma or what they find in Italy, but with a much lower price tag. Our fig balsamic is also hugely popular. As far as olive oils go, our Arbequina is our best everyday oil and customers can refill their bottles (this is also the case with the 25 Star balsamic) for a discount. The Three Rivers Blend, roasted garlic, and Meyer lemon olive oils are also staples in many households. Our biggest sleeper hits are the vanilla bean olive oil and hickory balsamic (though not necessarily together). The vanilla bean is my oil of choice when making French toast, and is delicious over ice cream. The hickory makes a phenomenal glaze for chicken, pork, and roasted vegetables, and can be enjoyed drizzled over burgers or barbecue. But perhaps the most surprising discovery when people visit our shop is that nearly all of our products are pretty spectacular paired with vanilla ice cream. Olive oil on ice cream? Absolutely.
Your family adds to the mix. Tell us about your business name for starters!
Being that my children would always have a strong presence in my work (they're usually at the shop, whether chasing each other about on the sales floor or making oil suggestions to customers, or napping or playing quietly upstairs in the mezzanine), it seemed fitting to take my oldest's name and run with it. I didn't want to give the business a name like "The Pittsburgh Olive Oil Company," as classic as that is, because naming after my children was not only personal, but would appeal to our customers, most of whom already had a relationship with the girls and have watched them grow over the years.
Can you share your favorite recipe using your oils or a vinegar?
My favorite olive oil recipe comes from Fran Gage, author of The New American Olive Oil. Her Almost Flourless Chocolate Cake is scrumptious and a must for any intense dark chocolate and olive oil lover.
- 7 ounces 70% dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
- ½ cup (4 ounces) either delicate or robust extra-virgin olive oil (I recommend using either the Ascolano, Koroneiki, or Three Rivers Blend, depending on your taste)
- 1 cup (7 ounces by weight) granulated cane sugar, divided
- 5 extra-large eggs at room temperature, separated
- 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
- powdered sugar for dusting
- whipped cream for serving (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F with the rack positioned in the middle.
Line the bottom of a 9-by-3-inch round cake pan with parchment paper.
Put the chocolate in a large stainless-steel bowl and melt it over simmering water. Whisk it until it is smooth. Remove the bowl from the simmering water.
Add the olive oil, whisking in a steady stream. Whisk in 2/3 cup of the sugar, the egg yolks, then the flour and salt.
Put the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium speed with the whisk attachment until they start to foam. Add about a third of the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar. Beat until the whites become opaque, then add another third of the sugar. When the whites begin to increase in volume and become firmer, add the rest of the sugar and turn the mixer speed to high. Beat until the whites form soft peaks when the whisk is lifted from the bowl. They will still look slightly wet.
Fold the whites into the chocolate mixture in two additions.
Pour the batter into the pan and bake until the cake is puffed and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean or with only a few crumbs clinging to it, 35 to 40 minutes.
Let the cake cool completely, still in the pan, on a rack. It will deflate as it cools.
Run a table knife around the edge of the pan and invert the cake onto a serving plate. Peel off the parchment paper.
Lightly dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar. Serve at room temperature, with a dollop of whipped cream if desired.