FOOD- DISH- They mix: Oil & Vinegar get together at Barracks

Connoisseurs of fine cooking oils and vinegars will be happy to know that Oil & Vinegar opened quietly on July 8 in the Barracks Road Shopping Center between Talbot's and Barnes & Noble. The European culinary gift shop is only the seventh store in the chain opened in the United States. The Dutch franchise has over 100 stores in 14 counties around the world. Owners Paul & Bridget Urmanski loved the one they visited while they were living in Milwaukee, and when they decided to move to Charlottesville (Bridget has a sister here, and her father, Jack O'Leary is a partner in the business) they approached franchise owner John Blogg about opening a shop. 

"He came and visited Charlottesville and loved it," says Bridget Urmanski. In addition to oils and vinegars, the store also sells a variety of prepared foods from around the world such as chutney from South Africa, Delidevs allioli sauce from Spain, Arugula pesto from Italy, and rum flavored chocolate for chocolate fondue. Gift baskets and recipe books are also available.  

"We're a culinary gift shop with a wide range of food and cooking products from around the world, in a Mediterranean-style environment," says Urmanski. "We hope to be the top-of-mind choice for people looking for a unique culinary gift."

Oil & Vinegar is especially known for its Amphora Wall, says Urmanski, a collection of fancy bottles and cruets that customers can have filled with their favorite oils, clean them when they're empty, and return to the store to be refilled. The store also features a sampling table where customers can try things in the store with bread from Panera down the street. 

Look out, Food of All Nations, looks like another tony specialty shop has come to town!

Eat & learn: Cooking classes heat up

Sometimes learning about food can be almost as fun as eating it. That's the hope of the Seasonal Cook which, for the price of a night out, teaches students how to cook, entertain, and choose wines before they get to devour all the goodies.

On July 6, the shop, located in the West Main Market, hosted a "How to Throw a Tapas Party" class as part of its debut "How to Entertain" series. The class, co-taught by chef and food stylist (some one who makes those dishes look so gorgeous on magazine covers) Marisa Catalano  and chef and wine educator Megan Headley offered recipes for sangria, tapas such as blue cheese-stuffed bacon-wrapped dates and grilled chorizo with sherry, as well as tips for setting a table like a pro. 

"We're trying to teach people to make 'make-ahead' dishes so they can enjoy their parties and not be slaves in the kitchen," says Headley, a 28-year-old UVA grad and graduate of New York's Institute of Culinary Education, who started the series in May. 

If you act fast, you might be able to get in on the "How to Throw a Sushi Party" class on Thursday, July 20. If not, there's always the "How to Throw an Antipasti Party" class on Thursday, August 3. In addition, the two offer wine and cheese pairing classes through August 21.

"I'm very passionate about demystifying the confusion surrounding old world wine and cheeses," says Headley. "People think they need to be rich, or older, or more sophisticated to appreciate or afford these wines and cheeses, but that's not the case."

Headley says her classes are a "101 class" on how to read a wine label, since many of the old-world wines are labeled by region, not wine type. It's an education that can be daunting, since, as Headley points out, there are 2000 varieties of grapes in Italy, compared to only 18 types in California, which makes a guide through the regions almost essential.

And Headley says that cheeses from a certain region go best with wines from the same region. For example, Italian piave (a hard cheese like Parmesan) goes best with white wines like Tocai from the Friuli region, where the cheese is made.

"That's why we do a lot of regional pairings," says Headley. "Why argue with nature?"

Barracks Road Shopping Center welcomes Oil & Vinegar, a new European culinary shop with a mysterious Amphora Wall