By Emily G. Peters
Epicure Lisa Grabow recently posted an Instagram picture with the caption “I’ve got olives in my pockets, olio nuovo in my mouth and hand and customers on my mind. A delicious day!” It neatly sums up why she can accurately call her business Beyond the Olive.
Grabow’s involvement with Beyond the Olive came when friends Chip and Crystal Reibel called on her to carry their products in her gourmet food shop, The Bea’s Knees. Before long, the shops merged into one mecca of deliciousness.
“Their plan became a reality as a store in Old Town Pasadena in 2009, which is noted as one of the ‘10 Great Places to Buy Olive Oil in the World’,” remarked Grabow. “Today, we have an in-depth selection of California extra-virgin olive oils, balsamic vinegars, wines, spirits, international cheeses, and a deli specializing in cheese boards.”
In many ways, the shop serves as a monument to California products. A Pasadena native, Grabow regularly tours the state to visit olive groves, meet the millers and learn as much as she can.
“I love all things California—especially our agriculture. I’ve never had a Georgia peach, Texas grapefruit or Florida orange that can compare to anything grown in our great state,” said Grabow. And while vinegars from Modena do grace the shelves at Beyond the Olive, she cautions her clients against grocery store oils—even the ones from Italy.
“Grocery store-brands have best by-dates that are three years from harvest. Olive oil is likely to go rancid that far out. We don’t sell anything older than a year from harvest,” she said. “And Italy actually exports more extra-virgin olive oil than they produce because they blend the oil with cheaper oils or import oils from other countries and put a ‘made in Italy’ label on it—which once upon a time insured quality, but doesn’t anymore.”
Grabow’s depth of knowledge paired with that of her staff has led to some pretty serious accolades. Along with several wins as Best Specialty Food Store (and even Best Grilled Cheese) from local publications, Beyond the Olive brought home gold and bronze medals for their signature blends at the 2017 Los Angeles International Olive Oil Competition. For Grabow, flavor inspiration is found in her city and its people.
“We have an incredible customer base. I listen carefully to their health needs, cooking habits and flavor profiles and curate flavors that they want to use,” she said, perfecting flavors like the spicy Pasadena Blend and Porcini Sage. And while Grabow recognizes it’s fun to browse, she affirms that small businesses make communities more vibrant.
“If you don’t want your neighborhood to look like an industrial park or walk past numerous vacancies, and you take pleasure in the shopping experience of a unique store, then please support that store,” she said. “If you can see the difference, feel the difference, taste the difference, then please, pay the difference to keep indie stores alive!”
Beyond the Olive is located inside of Stats at 120 S. Raymond Avenue in Pasadena. Contact them at www.beyondtheolive.com | 626.844.3866 and check them out at the La Canada’s Farmer’s Market every Saturday. Follow along on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter @beyondtheolive.