Esther Astorga was hired as an employee for The Olive Oil Pantry in Manteca when it first opened on Valentine’s Day in 2011 by the owner at the time, Arnie Kaufman.
Six months into employment Astorga was promoted to assistant manager and a year later store manager as she quickly proved to be more than just a regular employee but someone who genuinely had a love for the world of extra virgin oils and balsamic vinegars.
Astorga couldn’t have imagined being more pleased until the opportunity presented itself four years later to purchase the pantry from her boss, mentor and now friend Kaufman.
“I became the owner on March 24 of this year and honestly, even now sometimes I walk into the store and it brings tears to my eyes as I realize that I started off as a regular employee and now I own this business. I think to myself, is this really mine?” she said.
The delightful pantry is set up somewhat like a tasting room with many of the infused oils and vinegars ready for sampling.
The prices for the flavorful vinegar’s and oils begin at $6.95 and come in savory flavors such as garlic, basil, butter, oregano and Herbs De Provence along with tangy fruit infusions such as Blood Orange, Lemon, Lime and Tangerine which are a refreshing delight to the palate.
For hot and spicy lovers the heated oil flavors include jalapeño, habañero, chipotle and roasted chili perfect for making a tender steak sizzle with flavor. Even Chocolate lovers have choices as White Truffle and chocolate infused oils create a robust flavor when drizzled over fish, chicken cheese and more.
Tasty balsamic and extra virgin oils are not the only thing offered at The Olive Oil Pantry. The pantry also sells gourmet stuffed olives, local honey, packs of fresh cookies, home-style jams along with gift baskets filled with many goodies such at the popular blend of aged balsamic vinegar and garlic infused oil better known as “Esther’s Blend” which she created early on in her employment.
The only problem customers will have when visiting the pantry is the problem of deciding which oil, vinegar or other item to take home. To make it a bit easier, returning customers who bring their bottle back when purchasing a refill, receive a 10% discount.
While Astorga plans to maintain the same quality products as her former employer, she does plan to branch out and gain more exposure within the community and surrounding cities by reaching out to wineries as well as participating in more events such as Ripon’s Color the Skies and Lodi’s Grape Festival coming this month.
“I’m excited really about this. I love our oils and vinegars and just want others to know about it and love it too. Once customers taste it, they’ll see the quality is there,” said the proud new owner.
For those who may not be too savvy when it comes to cooking with virgin oil and vinegars, Astorga shares a tip: “Always cook on medium instead of high heat because high heat takes away the good flavor.”
Additional tips and recipes about cooking with healthy olive oils and low calorie balsamic vinegars known for lowering cholesterol, diabetes are also shared in cookbooks offered in the store.
Astorga invites members of the community to visit The Olive Oil Pantry, located at 1161 S. Main St. any time, seven days a week from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and taste a world of flavors they won’t soon forget.