Monadnock Oil and Vinegar offers original, healthy blends

AMHERST – With its aromatic scent and stores in Peterborough and Amherst, the latter opening last summer, Monadnock Oil and Vinegars, 114 Rte. 101A, offers a bounty of extra virgin olive oils, infused and fused olive oils, Balsamic vinegars, salts, spices and their own herb blends.

Owners Korey Snow and Kim Homoleski said opening their store in Amherst in June last year provided innate challenges during the pandemic.

“It was a lot slower than we anticipated when we started the process in December and January of 2019,” Snow said. “We decided to move in December 2019. We thought this would be a great spot and went through the details in January 2020.”

Snow said they don’t make the oils and vinegars, which are produced by The Bradley Family as their importer.

“One of the big reasons for this move here is because we bought Attar Spice Company, which is 53 years old this year,” he said. “We bought them three years ago. They’re originally from Cambridge.”

With a love of spices and their health benefits, a Harvard student founded Attar and sold them out of his backpack at school.

“When he got out of school, he decided he didn’t want to raise his family in the city,” Snow explained. “So, he moved the whole operation to New Ipswich, New Hampshire. He was one of the first in the country to supply restaurants and we actually still supply restaurants in New York City where he supplied for close to 40 years.”

Snow and Homoleski estimated that they sell somewhere around 100 different spices and varieties.

“And then we do blend and rubs on top of that,” Homoleski said.

One of the main reasons that the owners opted to move into Amherst was that after buying Attar, they moved stock from an 800 square foot facility into 200 square feet in Peterborough.

“It just was not working,” Snow said. “You’d have to move four tubs in order to find the tub you were looking for. Here in the spice room, everything is laid out and marked on shelves. The other benefit of having everything here, like you said, is you walk in and just smell what we’re making today.”

Their main business is olive oil, vinegars and spices, and Snow said they looked at many importers before landing with the Bradley name.

“They’re all about quality, and what makes good olive oil and good Balsamic vinegar,” he said. “And you can taste the difference. We went out to their facility, took some olive oil classes and learned a lot.”

Monadnock Oil’s motto is “Try before you buy.”

“We used to have open tastings,” Snow continued. “But now since COVID, we switched to a tasting bar, so now our staff pours it for you. We ask that you put hand sanitizer on, and we wash our hands and sanitize and you tell us what you want, we pour a little cup, everybody steps apart, you take your mask off and you try them. That is one thing that’s changed, but we kept the ‘try before you buy.’ Because real olive oil is very different from what you get in a supermarket.”

Monadnock Oil began buying spices from Attar and it was a perfect match, Snow said. And then when the time came for that business to be sold, Snow and Homoleski sealed the deal.

“We really blossomed into spices,” Snow said. “And people are seeing the benefits of buying real spices. If you go into a market and buy a spice off the shelf, it’s been ground and blended a year before. Then it sat in their warehouse and went to the distribution warehouse, and then to the store warehouse and then went to the shelf and you take it home. What we have on the shelf is what we have made. We don’t mass produce our stuff.”

Four or five pounds might be a lot to make, Snow said, but once that’s gone in a month, they then will make more.

“Once you grind an essential spice, you crack that essential oil, and they start to lose their flavor,” he said.

Most people don’t stop to think that a spice sitting in a spice rack or in a pantry at home has lost most of its true flavor and zest over time.

“We get a lot of people who say the spices that they have at home have no flavor,” Snow said. “And then we ask, ‘How long has it been sitting there?’ All the essential oils are out of it. We don’t say you have to throw it away, but you have to use more of it to get that taste.”

Technically, a spice doesn’t go bad, but loses all its flavor.

Snow and Homoleski both have farming backgrounds. Snow grew up on a dairy farm in Hollis and still has about 60 acres of hay land there. Homoleski worked for a long time at Lull Farm and since they met, they’ve been very cautious and aware of where their food came from.

“Growing up, when we ate beef, I knew the cow personally,” Snow said. “We read an article in 2010 and UC Davis went around and pulled everything listed extra virgin olive oil off the shelf and sent it all to a lab to be tested. And back then, 69 percent came back as not extra virgin olive oil.”

Snow explained that much was produced that didn’t meet ‘extra virgin olive oil’ standards. It may be olive oil, but more along the lines of lamp oil. The show “60 Minutes” also did a story and that percentage was 80 percent.

“In the U.S., there is no regulation,” he said. “If it’s made from olive oil, you can call it extra virgin. But our importer actually won a lawsuit recently because Bertolli and the big boys sued them.”

The “big boys” argued that Bradley could not state the quality of their product was better than that of conglomerates like Bertolli. And the courts said that Bradley could indeed.

“There is a difference in grade,” Snow said. “Just like there is a difference in wine quality.”

A robust olive oil will actually make you cough.

“If you take olive oil right off the tap and you don’t cough, you insult the farmer,” Snow said. “They’ll actually make you aerate it which is essentially slurping it. And that will make you really cough. It will really give you a strong, peppery bite in the back of your throat. So a true olive oil snob will slurp it. Because they want to feel that burn. And if you don’t get that burn, it’s probably not good extra virgin olive oil.”

Currently, Monadnock supplies restaurants with their olive oils, vinegars and spices. And there are some restaurants in which Monadnock supplies their special blend spices.

“At Luca’s in Keene, we do two of his custom spice blends,” Snow said. “We also do Charcoal Charlie’s. We do his BBQ blends for him.”

Monadnock also stocks a vast array of New Hampshire-made products, which includes garlic products, honey, hot sauces and salsa, Jack’s Crackers, maple products, pasta, seasonings and rubs. They also carry skincare products. Curbside pickup is available.

Monadnock supports their customers in patronizing local restaurants. Bring a receipt from your local restaurant and receive 20 percent off your Monadnock purchase.

For more information about Monadnock’s extensive selection of oils, Balsamic vinegars, spices and more, visit monadnockoilandvinegar.com.