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Food & Dining // Food & Beverage Focus
Jo McGarry

Dana Bergman

Jo McGarry photo

Owner, Island Olive Oil, Ward Centre

Where were you born and raised? Born in Denver, but I’m a bit of a traveling Wilbury. My family was in the construction business, so we lived in a number of different places including Northern California and Hawaii.

From construction to food and beverage – how did that path begin?

I’ve always been a foodie with an appreciation of good food and wine. I think what first inspired me was that I worked in Napa Valley for a time, and I lived in San Francisco, which is a food paradise. I was working in the engineering field, but you can’t live in Northern California and not be aware of great food and wine.

Your olive oil and vinegar store is unique in Hawaii. What was the inspiration? I stumbled across the idea on the Mainland through friends who had a similar store, and I thought it would be a cool idea to bring to Hawaii.

How does it work? It’s an olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting bar, so you can come into the store and taste whatever you like – our oils and vinegars are the freshest you’ll taste and they change with the seasons, so there will always be something different.

So the idea is that people just come by, taste oils and vinegars, choose the ones they like and you bottle for them on the spot? Yes, people can come in and taste as much as they like. We have experts on hand to help and everyone is welcome. We have the new harvest of oils from Italy coming soon.

Most people are used to buying one or two bottles of olive oil and that’s it. What’s the reaction been like to the store and its amazing displays? The feedback is overwhelmingly positive! Everyone loves the idea. Most people have no idea that there are so many different types of olives, but we’re really like the wine industry where different grapes make different wines.

Do you cook at home? I do, but not as often as I’d like to since we opened the store.

What’s always in your fridge? Veggies and fruit from the farmers market – it’s easy to drizzle the oil and vinegar over fresh produce and make a great salad.

Current favorite olive oil? Picual from Australia. It has a very banana-like characteristic. My favorite vinegar right now is our lavender-infused balsamic.

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