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Meredith Holt, Published July 01 2013

A pinch and a pour: New downtown Fargo store sells high-quality oils and vinegars

FARGO - Passers-by peek into the windows of 210 Broadway curious about what’s inside.

Are those stainless-steel containers filled with wine? Coffee? Nope.

Pinch & Pour sells dozens of extra-virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars from around the world, all of which customers can try before they buy.

“We could put about 40 of them out if we wanted to, but that’d be too overwhelming,” says Gregg Robbins, husband of store owner Julie Robbins.

Their selection will continue to change and evolve as they get new imports with the seasons.

Walk inside the downtown Fargo specialty store and you’ll be greeted with an invitation to sample a mild or robust variety.

“It starts with a mild intensity, which can be used for cold salads, then goes to bolder,” Gregg says.

The mildest olive oil in stock, from Australia, has fruity, floral and peppery notes that mix well with apple-flavored balsamic.

As you go down the row, you’ll find infused oils, like garlic, lemon and blood orange.

“They take the whole orange and the whole olive and they crush them together,” employee Kat Kunz says.

All of Pinch & Pour’s balsamic vinegars come from Modena, Italy, where it’s been made since the Middle Ages.

“They come right from the producer, through our importer, directly to us,” Gregg says.

Featured oils, typically best-sellers like Tuscan Herb, are set out on a vintage table with little chunks of bread for the taking.

“But I encourage tasting it without bread so you get the full flavor,” says Kunz, who helps customers find a perfect match for their tastes.

Gregg demonstrates proper olive oil tasting with a step-by-step process similar to wine tasting. You smell it, heat it by rubbing your hand around the top of the cup, and drink it quickly.

“It’s like wine. You want to slurp it so it aerates through your senses,” Julie says.

If you like what you try, they’ll bottle it for you in one of the dark, sleek bottles displayed on the bottom shelves.

Light, heat and air are the enemies of oil and vinegar quality.

“You never want to buy a product that has a clear bottle because that allows the light to deteriorate the product so much quicker,” Gregg explains.

When shopping for olive oil, he recommends looking at three numbers: the “crush date,” the polyphenol count and the free fatty acid percent.

The FFA percentage has to be 0.8 percent or less for an olive oil to be called extra-virgin.

“The lower the number, the better the quality and the longer it’s going to last,” he says.

Gregg and Julie became interested in the industry through their travels for their other business ventures.

They stopped into one such store and walked out with $300 worth of product.

“We thought, ‘There’s nothing like this in Fargo, let’s take the chance and bring it to Fargo,’ ” she says.

The additions to the Robbins’ pantry have improved their cooking, and Julie’s having fun with it.

Oils and vinegars aren’t just for salads and grilling. She’s been adding them to cakes, cookies and truffles.

“Let your imagination run wild. That’s our philosophy,” she says.

Local chefs have been experimenting with Pinch & Pour’s oils and vinegars, too, and the couple would like to host tastings and classes in the future.

They hope to add the “Pinch” side of their business to their space by mid- to late July.

“Julie called it Pinch & Pour because you cook with a little pinch of this, a little pour of that,” Gregg says.

Business profile

Business: Pinch & Pour

Address: 210 Broadway, Suite 102, Fargo

Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday

Phone: (701) 356-7779

Website: www.pinchandpour.com or www.facebook.com/pinchandpour

Readers can reach Forum reporter Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5590