Is the only thing you know about olive oil that it comes from olives? Do you only use it when you’re sautéing veggies? Well then you’re missing out on a whole world of flavors because, as they say in the Frank’s Red Hot commercial, “You can put that shit on everything!”

Olive oil, in various forms, can be used for dipping, cooking, baking, frying, dressing a salad, and so much more. The possibilities are basically endless. You can even drink it (only some forms, and added to water!). After finding a small specialty olive oil store down Vestal Parkway, and spending $50 there, I became obsessed with Crystal City Olive Oil and all they had to offer.

I eventually brought a few of the Binghamton Spoon team to CCOO and we had ourselves a feast. While stuffing our faces on six dishes the owner prepared, we learned a lot about the world of olive oils. Did you know that there is an International Olive Oil Council? Yup. I couldn’t make that up if I tried. They set the standards for the oil on your supermarket shelves, distinguishing between Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Virgin Olive Oil, and more (FYI Extra Virgin is the highest quality!). liquor, beer, alcohol, wine
Gaby Derlly

Crystal City Olive Oil actually sells both olive oils and balsamic vinegars out of their four locations in the area. The store consists of dozens of fustis (large metal containers used to hold the oils and vinegars to keep them dark, dry, and room-temperature) with bread to taste each option. On special occasions owners Bob and Wendy will close the store for private parties, cooking a multi-course meal, with each dish containing an oil or vinegar they sell, which is exactly what I did with some of the Binghamton Spoon members.

Now, it’s likely the owners know more about how to cook with different olive oils than you do, sitting at home binge-watching Netflix since yesterday. But that’s okay! Because I’m going to tell you what we ate and how Wendy made it, so you can just as easily concoct at home.

Hummus

sweet, bread
Gaby Derlly

We started off with their hummus, which uses both CCOO’s Chipotle Olive Oil and Sesame Seed Oil. Throw in garbanzo beans, lemon juice, garlic cloves, salt, and Crystal City's two oils into a food processor, and pulse until smooth. The hummus was so rich and creamy, with an authentic garlic flavor and a slight kick. The hummus came with pita chips as well as ciabatta bread, and was a great appetizer to start the night. Additionally, this is not a complicated recipe and is something any college student can easily make for a healthy snack.

Spinach Apple Salad

pepper, vegetable, spinach, salad
Gaby Derlly

Next came the salad, Spinach Apple to be exact. The vegetarians in the group were pleased to find out that aside from the oils, it was filled only with spinach, green and red apples, and sharp cheddar cheese. Wendy drizzled Crystal City Olive Oil’s Apple Balsamic Vinegar and Tuscan Herb Oil, but you can substitute the Tuscan Herb with Basil Olive Oil. The crunchiness of the apple perfectly complemented the tanginess of the balsamic and the sharpness of the cheddar. Each bite was sweet and fresh, and even though I generally dislike fruit in my salads, I had no complaints.

Kabobs & Brussels & Penne

penne, chicken, pasta
Gaby Derlly

After the hummus and salad, it came time for the main course. The entrée Wendy prepared, so easy you could make when you’re high, was chicken kabobs, accompanied by sides of Brussels Sprouts and penne pasta. The chicken kabobs used both CCOO’s Milanese Gremolata Olive Oil and their Peach Balsamic Vinegar. The chicken was tender, and the slightly sweet flavor was paired perfectly with the al dente penne.

Since this party, I’ve made the pasta at home because it’s so easy and delicious. Just penne, avocados, basil leaves, ground black pepper, grated parmesan cheese, and a drizzle of Tuscan Herb Olive Oil. The rich flavoring of avocado and subtleness of herbs, specifically basil, were the perfect addition. Since we’re being #healthyaf, the second side was Brussels Sprouts with onion and apples. The Brussels were rich, smooth, sweet, and had a hint of lemon. Wendy sautéed them with onions, salt, pepper, and both Garlic Olive Oil and Sicilian Lemon Balsamic.

Apple Cake

fudge, peanut, cake, brownie, chocolate
Gaby Derlly

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Okay fine, you can put oil in the pan or on the chicken, that’s normal, but that’s about it.” Wrong! Too many times have I been excited to eat an apple cake only to find that it’s too dry. Adding Crystal City Olive Oil’s secret weapons makes for the most amazing sweet and moist apple cake ever. This apple cake with balsamic drizzle was so perfectly rich, yet the apple was still subtle because of the Lemon Olive Oil. And we’re not done! Wendy also drizzled each slice of apple cake with a fruity dark balsamic.

While the idea of a balsamic on an apple cake seems out of the ordinary, it is something I for sure recommend trying because it adds a kick to a classic dessert. You probably didn’t even know that Red Apple, Black Cherry, or fruity dark balsamic vinegars even existed! But they do, and they are #op for sure.

liquor, alcohol, wine, beer
Gaby Derlly

CCOO was definitely a great experience for both myself and the Spoon team. Not only was the food delicious, but the owners were also very friendly and knowledgeable. I learned more than I ever could’ve imagined about olive oil and balsamic vinegars, and absolutely love cooking with them now.

I highly recommend trying one of the Crystal City Olive Oil stores if you ever have the opportunity to do so because you definitely won’t regret it. The several types of oils and balsamic vinegars make perfect gifts as well, especially with the holidays coming up. For college students, CCOO is a fun and different social outing when you get tired of campus food or cooking for yourself. Now, don’t waste time and enter this world of olive oils and balsamic vinegars!