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Thursday, December 1, 2005

GIVING THE GIFT OF TASTE

Posted on Thu, Dec 1, 2005 at 4:00 AM

It's the season for giving, and edible gifts are always welcome. Where to go for the goods? One new place is Hot Olives Market, a classy depot attached to the eponymous restaurant in Winter Park. In August the owners of Hot Olives brought in colleagues from their catering past to run the attached market (which offers catering). Steven Poyner and Chris Kenyon purchase all the merchandise and are on hand to answer questions and take requests. The market features a private label of sauces, preserves and condiments, and they stock artisanal and gourmet specialties. Plus, they throw together tasty takeout meals – the barbecue brisket and Hot Olive salad are delicious.

The room is bright and stylish with Tuscan pottery, olive wood beams and stainless steel shelves. I sampled a few choice items after wandering around the small space. My favorite was the handmade sopressata ($28 per pound) that I snatched out of the refrigerator case. When I cut into the cured meat at home, the aroma of tenderly aged pork and a bouquet of spices, particularly paprika, extended across the room.

From the prepared sauces, I tried walnut artichoke pomodoro sauce ($7). For a pre-made sauce, it was of exceptional quality. Mellow undertones of the nuts married with a pleasing bitter thistle-y flavor, which complemented the acidic tang of plum tomatoes. The signature sauces come packaged in clever gift bundles: Italian pastas are piled into a stainless-steel colander with the sauces and tied with ribbon. Holidays or not, this is a spot to indulge in something out of the ordinary – for others and for yourself.

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