OARSPA members visit the Brick Kitchen | Way of life

Oelwein Area Retired School Staff (OARSPA) met on Tuesday April 5th at the Brick Kitchen in Independence. The company is owned by Nate and Shelly Whited. They bought the building known as King’s Hall or King’s Opera House with another couple in the fall of 2020.

Built in 1876, this fascinating building has served as an opera house, roller skating rink, seed corn company, graduation hall, Chinese laundry, chicken hatchery, antique shopping center and now home to the Brick Kitchen and Circle 8 Cyclery. The owners have restored the building to bring back the grandeur of this 150 year old treasure and to make the building more energy efficient.

After sharing the rich history of the building, Nate told the group about his family’s cooking workshop. A wide variety of cookware and bakeware as well as kitchen gadgets are available. Additionally, there are many flavored olive oils, balsamic vinegars, and spices that can be purchased there.

Nate provided the group with information on quality olive oil and balsamic vinegars. The best type of olive oil to buy is extra virgin olive oil. The olives used there are fully ripe and are cold pressed a few hours after harvest. This type of oil is especially good for infusing flavors. The second best oil is called virgin olive oil. The olives it contains are processed before or after the peak harvest. Much of the olive oil typically found on store shelves is actually refined olive oil that is heavily processed or distilled from unused olives in one of the first two processes. Unfortunately, the distillation process removes most of the health benefits.

A variety of balsamic vinegars are also available at The Brick Kitchen. Traditionally, balsamic vinegars are made from freshly squeezed grapes that are boiled to a concentrate and aged in barrels for 8-12 years or more. The end product is a sweet, dark, syrupy substance that can be used as a condiment.

All of the premium infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars sold at Brick Kitchen come from a mother/daughter owned company located in Bozeman, Montana named Olivelle. The company’s goal is to produce quality products that make ordinary recipes taste extraordinary.

Nate shared samples of infused oils and balsamic vinegars with the group. He also gave suggestions for how he and others used them when preparing food. Groups of five or more can schedule a tasting session by contacting the store. Individual samples can also be obtained at the store. Definitely worth visiting this interesting local store. Currently it is open every day of the week.

The next OARSPA meeting will be on Tuesday, May 3 at 10 a.m. at the Oelwein Public Library. Suzi Kennedy will present a program on making wreaths. All retired school personnel in the region are invited to attend OARSPA meetings. Please join us at the May 3 meeting.