AZ Daily Sun, Mountain Living Section, June 4, 2023
Story and photos by Gail G. Collins
The happiest diet discovery is something that is both delicious and nutritious. Olive oil—it’s been around for thousands of years, and with the promise of an olive tree, which lives to be 500 years old, those who consume its fruit, can also extend the quality of their lives.
Olive trees originate from the Mediterranean Basin, where some of the longest living populations reside. It’s no coincidence; their diets are abundant with healthy oils, nuts and fatty fish. Packed with potent polyphenol compounds, olive oil protects against chronic and degenerative diseases, boosting immunities while fighting inflammation. It can guard against certain cancers, strengthen bones, promote cardiovascular health and improve memory and mood. Further, olive oil can balance our blood sugar as well as the microbiome in our guts.
Extra virgin olive oil is particularly packed with antioxidant properties. Polyphenols combat oxidative stress that resides as deep as our DNA. A Mediterranean diet consumes four-plus tablespoons of olive oil daily, but studies by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration support the claim that one-and-a-half tablespoons can improve heart health.
It was just such hope that drove Scott McPeak to reclaim his health. At 57, he had been diagnosed with weight-related diabetes, requiring critical lifestyle changes. He ate plentiful salads and vegetables with a desire to dress them in a nourishing way, finding that in first-rate olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Healthy progress spurred McPeak on to lose 80 pounds within four months.
That was three years ago, and alongside the change in health, came a change in business. Scott McPeak and son Scotty owned an H & R Block in Nebraska, but had their eyes on the West. “When the previous olive oil business went up for sale, we swooped in and bought it in 2018,” says Scotty. “We sold the tax business, looking for one with expediential growth.”
The McPeak families revamped the shop, honing the product line and focusing on superiority for Olive the Best Olive Oils & Vinegars of Flagstaff.
So as not to diminish the essence, the oils are cold pressed and first pressed, meaning no heat is used in the extraction, and the press is cleaned between groves. The McPeaks rely on University of California, Davis to vet distributors.
“They provide a list of the top 10 distributors and vouch for them,” says Scotty. And for the McPeaks, that quality is of the utmost importance.
There are fused oils, augmented flavors created through simultaneous pressing, and infused oils to which flavors are added later and steeped. Like wine, guests can taste their way through possibilities at Olive the Best, such as wild fernleaf dill. Then, there are the balsamic vinegars for pairing. Try mixing lemon EVOO with pomegranate dark balsamic or honey ginger white balsamic. Use on salads, yogurt or like the celebrities, infuse your water with balsamic for an antioxidant flavor boost. Mixologists take note—add infused vinegars to your cocktail program to cut sugars and up complexity. The vinegars originate in Modena, Italy and act as a natural preservative, bitter in its initial state and aged for sweetness, caramelizing in barrels.
If you can’t decide on a favorite, buy and try TSA-friendly sized samples. If you’re passionate, get a growler, holding six bottles for the price of four. Guests can custom mix variety gift boxes, add bread dipping kits, pasta, Spanish olives and more with free shipping opportunities. If you’re in Williams, check out their second location, which opened in April.
Olive the Best manufactures 100,000 handcrafted products—from barrel to vat to etched bottles—in its veteran-owned shop.
“COVID shifted attention to health and brought in new customers,” says Scotty, and referring to the shop’s quality products, he adds, “Think of it like a gym membership—buy the best olive oils to invest in your health.”
Quoting Thomas Jefferson: The olive tree is surely the richest gift of Heaven. ML