For the longest time, Bobby McVicker says, he was doing olive oil all wrong.
But after an eye-opening journey into the industry that started six years ago, he can’t go back.
“The things we grew up on, most of the time, they’re not olive oil,” he said. “You taste the things we have and you feel betrayed.”
That’s why McVicker opened Blue Moon, the latest retail addition to food-crazy Haddon Avenue. Within, visitors will find a tasting-ready array of what he promises are the freshest available olive oils and balsamic vinegars.
McVicker proudly sources his product from a California direct importer, Veronica Foods. As the Southern and Northern hemispheres, “counter-produce each other,” he said, Veronica adjusts its buying patterns to correspond with the growing season.
“As we’re speaking right now, they’re picking the northern; soon they’re going to have stuff from Italy and Spain,” McVicker said. “They provide the freshest product on the market.
“It’s a bold statement, but we did the research and it’s absolutely true,” he said.
Authenticity, quality, freshness
Freshness and quality are critical to the value proposition at Blue Moon. Every bottle is filled from the same, 10-liter fusti (an ornate metal dispenser) from which the tasting product is dispensed. McVicker can give you a crush date on the olives in his extra-virgin olive oils (EVOOs), which he calls “our babies.” (In case you’re wondering, the current batch is from May.)
The purity and antioxidant counts of EVOO sold at Blue Moon exceeds international standards by a factor of two or more, McVicker says. A polyphenol count of more than 200 is an indicator of the amount of free fatty acids within the oil. Blue Moon sells EVOOs that boast as many as 562.
“The free fatty acids are a good way to tell how fresh olive oil is,” McVicker says. “Veronica Foods picks three weeks earlier than everyone else,” McVicker says. “Time, oxidation, sunlight; things like that damage oil. Antioxidants are indicators of the shape that the olive was in when it was picked."
The balsamic vinegar sold in the store is aged at least 18 years, and originates in Modena, Italy.
“If it’s not from Modena, it’s not balsamic vinegar,” McVicker says.
All pedigree aside, the proof is always in the tasting, McVicker says, and that’s the fun part of shopping at Blue Moon. Just for gags, he says, he keeps a bottle of supermarket-brand EVOOs like Cento and Berrio to offer comparison-shoppers, “and it tastes like Play-doh” head-to-head, he says.
Not just for salad, not just for dipping
“Once you start tasting some of the things, you start getting your imagination going,” McVicker said. “We encourage people to pair our oils and vinegars together. It doesn’t just need to be put on salad; it doesn’t need to be dipped in bread.
“If somebody seems kind of stumped, I ask them, ‘What are you looking to do?’, and then I can lead them in the right direction."
It’s a long list of options to sift through as well: oils infused with Herbs de Provence, black and white truffles, roasted walnut, Japanese sesame. Vinegars infused with white and dark balsamic, chocolate, espresso, champagne, white mango, cranberry pear, apricot.
Blue Moon also retails two fused oils—lemon and blood orange—which means that whole fruit is thrown in with the olive oil at the time of the crush; with infused oils, they add natural flavors afterwards, McVicker says.
The best seller so far is the Tuscan herb-infused olive oil and 18-year aged fig balsamic, but McVicker’s favorite is the chipotle-infused olive oil. Every Sunday McVicker puts out a new oil and vinegar pairing on tasting display for the week.
‘I was always looking for something better’
Entering the oil business is a new venture for the Eastampton resident, but McVicker has always had an entrepreneurial streak. A former sheet-metal worker, he also owned a bakery and deli in Hamilton, N.J. for a couple of years, but “I always knew that there was something better out there.”
“We’ve been received really well in town,” McVicker said. “The community itself; everybody here is just so friendly. Even when we were working on the store, people stopping by, offering to help.
“Most places I’ve been to, Collingswood blows them away as far as I’m concerned,” he said.
Once things slow down in the new year, McVicker says, he’s hoping to invite Collingswood small business owners, residents, and interested guests into Blue Moon for an extended demonstration.
“This way I can walk everybody through some examples of how to use this stuff in their restaurants and in their homes,” he says.
McVicker knows that restaurants are king in Collingswood because he and wife Darcie used to frequent them, “walking around town, checking out the menus with a bottle of wine.” Now he hopes some of that foot traffic will linger in his doorway for a taste of something different—and maybe some of the restaurants they eat at will do the same.
“It’s supposed to be fun,” he said. “It’s got to be fun. We’ve got to appeal to that. It’s a unique tasting experience.”
At Saturday’s grand opening, Blue Moon will offer food, live music, and discount sales: a dollar off any bottle in the store. Repeat customers—the shop has only been open since around Thanksgiving, but they’re out there—who return a clean, dry bottle can also save a dollar off a refill.
McVicker said his products are priced competitively: $12 for a 200-mL bottle, $16 for a 375-mL bottle; the truffle oils are a little bit more. He’s also offering a $30, five-bottle gift pack, which will be on sale Saturday for $25.
“Even if they don’t buy anything, we want it to be a truly unique tasting experience,” he says. “Once you taste the difference, it sells itself.”