Olives Forever

After 24 years spent teaching in the Gwinnett County school system, Chrissi MacGregor looks forward to retiring this month. But her golden years will not be spent in leisure. MacGregor has already turned her passion for flavor into the Prima Olive tasting room and store in Johns Creek. Inside, visitors can sample and purchase premium olive oils and vinegars that will not only improve their cooking but also provide health benefits.

Nestled in a brick shopping center on Medlock Bridge Road since 2013, Prima Olive is surrounded by restaurants, and it offers a special flavor of its own. In addition to the 40 extra virgin olive oils and infused oils and vinegars, the store features spices, seasonings, salts, jams and sauces.

Popular selections include Meyer Lemon olive oil and the herb-infused Tuscan. While many of these items come from Mediterranean places like Crete, Spain and Sicily, there is a new local extra virgin olive oil from Terra Dolce Farms in Lyons, Georgia. One product offers more adventure than the next, including the chocolate and jalapeno infused balsamic vinegar. It’s perfect for roasting almonds.

MacGregor spouts flavor combinations and recipe ideas like a true culinary expert. Actually, it runs in the family–her father was a chef. She suggests using her store’s products for roasting vegetables, glazing steaks and improving salad. A citrus habanero olive oil works well with fish, and the honey ginger white balsamic delights over salmon. One of her favorite bites lately comes from sprinkling truffle oil over a hard cheese like Pecorino or Romano.

“People have changed from the time we started this,” she says. And MacGregor has watched her customers grow in their exploration of flavors. “We try to help people experiment with their cooking.”

A teacher in and out of the classroom, MacGregor educates visitors about how to taste olive oil. First, you breathe in its aroma. Next, you sip it, gliding the oil across your teeth so that air breaks up the molecules and releases the flavors.

“It’s just like wine,” she says. The olive oils she carries are single varietals, unlike what is typically found in a grocery store.

In addition to enlightening customers on the flavor benefits of olive oil, MacGregor schools visitors on the health advantages. A sign by Prima Olive’s front door informs: Extra virgin olive oils bolster immune system, lower levels of blood cholesterol, improve blood sugar control and lower risk of depression.

“We do a lot of events here that are free to the community,” says MacGregor. This could include bringing in dietitians and doctors to speak about health. She’s also welcomed customers who drink extra virgin olive oil to ease the effects of radiation.

Prima Olive’s balsamic vinegars earn good marks for health, too. Aged for many years, real balsamic vinegar naturally reduces over time to form a syrupy, flavorful substance from its original grape must. No sugar has been added to any of the vinegars MacGregor carries.

To further educate the public, Prima Olive holds a chef’s dinner once per season. With just 16 seats, these events always sell out and feature four tapas created by MacGregor and her husband Jim or a visiting chef.

Once you fall in love with these flavor enhancers, it’s easy to spread the joy. Prima Olive offers gift sets and baskets that are ideal for anyone from realtors seeking closing gifts to brides looking for a unique wedding favor, or flavor.

Prima Olive is located at 11030 Medlock Bridge Rd. in Johns Creek and can be found online at PrimaOlive.net.