Secolari Restaurant | Bethesda, MD

Secolari infuses pantries with olive oil

At Bethesda's new Secolari, olive oil is sipped as if it were fine wine.

There are bread bits available for dipping into the California-sourced olive oils and vinegars, but the preferred sampling method is straight.

Owners Barth and Mary de Rosa traveled throughout California, meeting a variety of purveyors from which to purchase products for the pair's week-old olive oil bar. Secolari serves more than a dozen types of oil and seven vinegars ($17 to $21 for 13 ounces), all stored in stainless-steel vats lining the small shop.

Organic Arbequina is bright and fruity–a strong match for simple pasta preparations. The milder Arbosana has a long, nutty finish that stands well with roasted tomatoes and grilled bread.

Flavored oils are deeply concentrated. Habanero oil stings with the pepper's fruity spice. Basil enhances the olive's grassier flavors and would electrify the herbaceous side of pesto. Blueberry balsamic vinegar has a wine-like depth ideal for flavoring steak.

The shop does recommend layering different oils and vinegars in tasting cups to balance flavors. Spicy, tangy, kiwi-based Pacific Spice vinegar dances through an immersion of jalapeño oil, creating sweet sparks amid the heat.

Oil and vinegar can finally mix in harmony.

Secolari, 7249 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda; 800-946-2077 or