In 2009, Anna was invited to be one of the judges for the sofi Award at the prestigious Specialty Food Show in New York where she tasted 3,000 food products, judged them and selected the best from each category.
Prior to her current career with Westside Market and as CEO of Seven Deuce Inc, Anna was a partner and owner in ZOI Moda, an online women’s apparel and accessories company located in Athens, Greece.
Fluent in Greek, Anna holds dual degrees from New York University, Stern School of Business, in management and organizational behavior with an emphasis on international business.
The Artisanal Kitchen's latest product: Three Olives Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Anna sent us a sample of the Artisanal Kitchen's Three Olives Extra Virgin Olive Oil. We tried her product with plain French bread and also as an ingredient in our Olio Verde recipe to see how it stands up to heat in cooking applications.
With plain French bread, we found the Three Olives Extra Virgin Olive Oil to have a sweet, fruity taste with a complex aroma. It had superior flavor on its own. You could almost drink it straight from the bottle. This is a complex, high quality olive oil.
Next, we used Three Olives Extra Virgin Olive Oil in our Olio Verde recipe. We first infused the olive oil with garlic over medium heat and then added basil, crushed red pepper, and balsamic vinegar to the mix. The oil did well in the heat and didn't seem to loose any of its character. It really enhanced this already flavorful sauce. I've made this dish many times and the Three Olives Extra Virgin Olive Oil pushed it to a higher level of flavor complexity.
We will definitely purchase this product in the future to have it on hand for use in sauces and salads. If you are in New York, you can find it at any of the Westside Market locations or you can order it direct from the Artisanal Kitchen. It is available in a liter bottle for $13.99.
Q & A with Anna Zoitas
IRS: A couple of years ago you started your own business, Seven Deuce Inc. that now includes the Artisanal Kitchen and Urban Tribe brands. As a young entrepreneur in New York City, what were some of the greatest challenges that you faced?
AZ: As an entrepreneur you are constantly faced with challenges regardless of the point in time – they don’t seem to go away. Challenges is what makes the job so interesting and overcoming them is what makes it rewarding. From identifying a team to, to sourcing the product and optimizing the flavor, to selecting packaging and design , to delivering and bringing to market great quality and consistency there are constant challenges. I think the biggest challenge is to overcome the fear that keeps a lot of us from reaching our goals and true potential. Whether its fear of rejection or fear of failure or fear of success overcoming those fears was the biggest challenge for me to face.
IRS: Describe how you developed your company's latest product, Three Olives Olive Oil. Why did you decide to grow your olives in California instead of the traditional growing regions of Greece, Spain, and Italy?
AZ: I did a lot of searching before I found the ideal product with the quality and price that I was looking for. I wanted to offer something that had the quality of the Greek olive oil that I grew to know and love from my trips to Greece but that was locally produced. The reason I chose a California estate olive oil was because I have more confidence in the freshness. When olive oil travels such great distances you don’t have control over the quality and freshness. To truly enjoy my grandmothers olive oil in its freshest form it would cost a fortune none of the cost would be associated with the product but with the transportation of the product. My philosophy is to support small local farms and growers in the US to insure the deliciousness of my whole artisanal food line. California olive oil producers have developed the market and it’s following the same trend that took place in the wine industry. Three Olives Olive Oil is one of the leaders of that trend.
IRS: The International recipe Syndicate is a blog that features signature dishes from around the World. Do you have any favorite family recipes that you would like to share with our readers that come from your Greek heritage?
AZ: Spanakopita. One of my favorite greek artisan dishes is the spanakopita. Made with lots of fresh greens and feta cheese wrapped in a crusty phyllo dough. (See Anna's spanakopita recipe).
IRS: Choosing an olive oil can be daunting because there are so many brands on the market today. It is difficult to differentiate one from the other. Obviously, you would encourage our readers to try your product. Can you provide some general guidelines that they could use in choosing a good olive oil?
AZ: Some questions that you should ask yourself when choosing an Olive Oil are – What are you using it for? Do you want a strong olive flavor or light flavor? Choosing an olive oil is like choosing between a Merlot and a Cabernet. This is totally about preference.
Some guidelines you can follow are:
- Look for the dark bottle because that’s what protects the olive oil from getting rancid or losing it’s original flavor and antioxidants.
- Check the acidity level. For it to be Extra Virgin it needs to be under .8% acidity -Three Olives is .5%. The lower the acidity the better because there are lower fatty acids.
- Don’t let price drive you. Expensive is always the best and inexpensive isn’t always bad. The price point you should be looking at is $15.99 to $20. Trust the brand.
- Look for the seal whether domestic or imported make sure it is certified by an outside organization.
The Artisanal Kitchen label for olive oil tends to be more beautiful reflecting the care that goes into creating the olive oil - into cultivating the olives, producing it and bringing it to market in small batches of high-quality oil that is healthier because of the low acidity, has more subtle flavors and is suited for everyday use.
IRS: You grew up in New York City. If you had to recommend one Greek restaurant in the Big Apple, which one would you choose?
AZ: There are so many to choose from but two of my favorite restaurants are Avra and Mylos. Avra has more of a traditional atmosphere, great seafood, delicious spanakopita and really authentic Greek cuisine. Cozy environment and great service. Mylos has a more modern feel to it, it is a nice open space, very elegant they also have fresh fish imported from Greece.
If you are looking for a Mediterranean restaurant with a great wine bar atmosphere I would recommend Vareli – great place with an exquisite wine selection and Mediterranean tapas offered in a cozy, romantic environment with a rustic feel.