What’s the next step for a guy with a degree in exercise science and wellness, who was once a cop in the military, is still a firefighter, and is about to complete a second degree in cellular molecular biology? Yes, that’s right: proprietor of a shop selling fine olive oils, vinegars and other gourmet specialties. Such is the background (so far) of 28-year-old Cory Wirthmann, who teamed up with his mother, Donna Wirthmann, to open a terrific little store called Scarborough Fare in New Paltz in April. “It’s because of the chemical reaction of oils and vinegars,” his mother (sort of) explains about how Cory’s education led to this newest venture. “He loves to cook. You can give him five ingredients and he’ll make a delicious whatever.”
Scarborough Fare is modeled on a shop Donna discovered in Cape Cod. What sets it apart from your run-of-the-mill gourmet shop is the island in the middle built to hold 14 “fusti” — stainless steel containers that look like old-time milk churns, filled with oils and vinegars to taste. So far, nine are filled: 6 with fine olive oils (basil infused, garlic infused, jalapeno, a Tuscan blend, Mission, and a peppery Manzanilla); and three with balsamic vinegars (regular, pomegranate and vanilla).
Once you’ve tasted, made your purchase, taken it home and used it up, you can bring the bottle back for a refill. Or bring in a clean, empty bottle that once held something else, and fill that. “We’re into the reuse thing,” Cory says. “Reuse” is appealing for those into the spend-less-money thing, too. A 250 ml bottle of the basil-infused oil, for example, costs $10.99, and you can refill it for $1.09 an ounce. This milliliter/ounce business is a little confusing, but Google reveals that 250 ml equals 8.4 U.S. fluid ounces. (The imperial fluid ounce is bigger, in case you were wondering — a pint in a British pub is 20 fluid ounces, four more ounces than a pint here. It’s often better beer, too, despite all the silly jokes about it being warm.)
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But where was I? Ah yes. So prices for the oils and vinegars are reasonable anyway, and a refill saves you a couple of bucks. You can also get small amounts, which is a bonus.
These high-quality oils are for dipping, drizzling on salads, or for finishing dishes rather than for cooking. The vanilla balsamic is syrupy enough that Donna said one customer trickled some over his ice-cream cone and was in heaven. A couple of delicious-sounding new balsamic flavors are under consideration: juniper berry and cherry. Refills cost just 49 cents an ounce for the basic balsamic; 79 cents for the fancier ones.
The shop also carries a range of natural Robert Rothschild mustards, dips, BBQ sauces, jellies and jams (like hot-pepper peach and Maine wild blueberry); teas from Harney & Sons; biscotti and cookies; an assortment of pastas; dried beans from Purely American; Perel’s white and black truffle oil; and syrups, like sour cherry and elderflower that, says Donna “are good on oatmeal, pancakes, or waffles. The sour cherry makes a good smoothie.” You’ll find cookbooks, and pretty, empty jars that you can fill for a cool gift for cooks.
Despite being tucked away on North Front Street, Scarborough Fare has already attracted a regular gaggle of foodies. “Chefs come in, and students from the Culinary,” says Donna, “because we carry some oils from Spain that are hard to get your hands on. We encourage people to come and tell us what they make, or send a message on Facebook,” she adds. “I just did a huge fruit salad with fresh strawberries and drizzled it with the vanilla balsamic. That’s a good one.”