Strip­pag­gio fu­els food­ies across At­lanta

LGBT-owned Emory Point, Mid­town olive oil and vine­gar bar turn­ing heads

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

“Peo­ple are as­ton­ished when they taste real ex­tra vir­gin olive oil.” - Celia Tully, owner of olive oil and vine­gar bar Strip­pag­gio

By DIONNE N. WALKER

For most of us, the uses for a bot­tle of olive oil are ba­sic: It’s the base for a tasty salad dress­ing, a quick dip for a hunk of bread, or even a sim­ple fa­cial mois­tur­izer. Celia Tully sees so much more. Her voice al­most lilt­ing, she stood ex­plain­ing the nu­ances of the fra­grant oil re­cently in the Emory Point olive oil and vine­gar bar where she’s com­mit­ted to el­e­vat­ing the side fea­ture to the main culi­nary at­trac­tion.

Del­i­cate fla­vors are best for cook­ing, while denser ones – which will be dam­aged by heat – should be used for dips or other min­i­mal prepa­ra­tions, she ex­plained be­fore pour­ing out a shot-sized sam­ple of le­mon-fla­vored oil. Once swigged, the un­usu­ally smooth-tex­tured, abun­dantly fla­vor­ful oil made it clear why the store is called Strip­pag­gio – a term de­scrib­ing the sound made by olive oil tasters slurp­ing to ex­tract ev­ery ounce of fla­vor.

“Peo­ple are as­ton­ished when they taste real ex­tra vir­gin olive oil,” she said proudly, adding that some cus­tomers joke that she has ru­ined them on gro­cery store oils.

Food Net­work, econ­omy fu­els foodie trend

The bou­tique is the lat­est man­i­fes­ta­tion of a foodie trend that’s seen the once ba­sic kitchen oil el­e­vated to cen­ter stage, pop­ping up as the fo­cus of spe­cialty shops from Vin­ings to Nor­cross. It comes as ev­ery­thing from Food Net­work to fi­nances en­cour­age peo­ple to be more cre­ative in the kitchen. It’s a shift that’s also helped this queer en­tre­pre­neur real­ize a pro­fes­sional dream.

“Well­ness and culi­nary things were al­ways

Septem­ber 16, 2016

my pas­sion,” said Tully, who started her first busi­ness, Nat­u­ral Body Spas, with part­ner Cici Cof­fee in the late ‘80s. “So I took my pas­sion for well­ness into the spa in­dus­try and my pas­sion for culi­nary (things) in here.”

“Here” is 900 square feet of olive oil heaven tucked along­side shops and eater­ies near Emory. On one side, gleam­ing sil­ver tanks house ready-to-sam­ple blends in­fused with rose­mary, basil and other fla­vors. Off in a cor­ner, turmeric honey and spe­cialty vine­gars min­gle with gift sets and even olive oil lip balms, while near a win­dow, shelves hold mango wood vases, home­grown salts and other spe­cial­ties.

Tully proudly sells some 20 olive oil blends, sourced from farms she per­son­ally vis­its and in­spects. At over $15 a bot­tle, Tully said she wants to en­sure her oil is high qual­ity.

“All good olive oils should have a lit­tle bit of a pep­pery fin­ish,” said Tully, whose more unique blends in­clude a bold jalapeno oil.

Num­ber of olive oil bou­tiques sky­rock­et­ing

Tully opened Strip­pag­gio in 2012, when she was an ad­vanc­ing home cook and a self-de­scribed “olive oil snob.” At the time, Tully said, it was dif­fi­cult to find an olive oil shop in­side the Perime­ter. Nowa­days, one need only throw an olive in At­lanta to find an oil bou­tique. In fact, there are be­lieved to be at least 1,000 spe­cialty olive oil bou­tiques across the coun­try, ac­cord­ing to the Olive Oil Times, an on­line in­dus­try mag­a­zine.

The sam­ple bars are pop­ping up as Amer­i­can pro­duc­tion of this oil, his­tor­i­cally dom- Strip­pag­gio has two lo­ca­tions, one in Emory Point and one in Ponce City Mar­ket in Mid­town. (Cour­tesy photo) inated by Ital­ian pro­duc­ers, reaches its stride. Ex­perts point to the pop­u­lar­ity of the so-called Mediter­ranean diet, which touts the ben­e­fits of high-veg­etable, olive oil-rich eat­ing.

Tully her­self links the ex­plo­sion in pop­u­lar­ity to two things: The econ­omy and TV. She said ca­ble shows shows like “Che­fog­ra­phy” and “The Mind of a Chef ” planted the seed in the minds of home cooks. When the mar­ket tanked a few years back, she said the stage was truly set.

“Dur­ing the re­ces­sion, peo­ple were stay­ing at home more, they were watch­ing those shows,” she said. “They weren’t go­ing out to eat as much and I think they were look­ing for good qual­ity in­gre­di­ents to cook with to cre­ate some of those recipes.”

Four years ago, Tully jumped on the trend. It wasn’t her first time rid­ing a busi­ness wave: In 1989, she and her part­ner cap­i­tal­ized on the bur­geon­ing per­sonal pam­per­ing trend to launch Nat­u­ral Body Spas. They have since ex­panded to in­clude lo­ca­tions across Georgia, Ten­nessee and Florida. Along the way, Tully did stints in dif­fer­ent sec­tors of the med­i­cal field, all the while main­tain­ing her in­ter­est in cook­ing and health.

Ex­pan­sion to Mid­town

In 2012, Tully de­cided to jump in and hasn’t looked back. Not that any­one would want her to: She re­cently ex­panded to in­clude a Mid­town shop to ac­com­mo­date a grow­ing au­di­ence that in­cludes tourists and food­ies look­ing to kick their cook­ing up a notch. Tully obliges with olive oil tast­ing tours and tips to help the av­er­age per­son un­der­stand the sub­tleties and in­flu­ence of a good oil.

Back in her Emory Point shop, Tully vir­tu­ally beams as she de­scribes some of her lat­est ad­di­tions, in­clud­ing an earthy smelling pecan truf­fle oil in­fused with ac­tual Georgia truf­fles. Trained through a com­bi­na­tion of sem­i­nars and olive oil school­ing, Tully is a vir­tual en­cy­clo­pe­dia of oil facts – from the rules of what makes an oil ex­tra vir­gin to the source of the tin­gling fin­ish in a good oil (it’s heart-healthy polyphe­nols).

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