The year was 1997 and would mark a life-changing moment when a young Detroit couple and their growing family decided to move to the Phoenix area. Their idea was to tap into their Italian heritage and produce quality olive oil – first as a hobby and hopefully next as a thriving business venture. And so it was that the Rea family planted 1,000 olive trees on 100 acres in the quaint town of Queen Creek. Owners Perry and Brenda Rea of what would eventually be called Queen Creek Olive Mill reasoned that they could provide their local community with fresh, local Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO).
Their venture proved so successful that they decided to create an agriturismo and educational environment by building a 5,000 square foot shed housing a storefront and educational classes. (The building literally looks like a shed!) The Reas enhanced their product line to include more cold pressed oils, vinegars, tapenades, and stuffed olives. They opened a small cafe where visitors could not only taste their olive oil but also find great food products of local partners. Their Partners in Passion program highlights local vendors who are just as passionate about their own craft as they are about their olives and includes: Superstition Coffee, Valley Honey Col, Cerreta Candy Company, and Mediterra Bakehouse.
Today the Reas have 7,500 olive trees on 120 acres. And because the extreme Arizona heat is unfriendly to natural pests, they are a 100% pesticide free farm using environmentally efficient drip irrigation. Plus their olives are hand-harvested from September through December and pressed within 24 hours of harvest. “Fresh olives give you fresh oil, it’s as simple as that!” says Perry.
Besides becoming Arizona’s first working olive farm and mill, the Queen Creek Olive Mill is a place where you can learn all about olives and olive oil. This 30-minute tour is “designed to educate you on olive oil, the different varieties of olives grown around the world and what specific types are grown at Queen Creek Olive Mill to create Arizona’s own high quality EVOO.” A brief tour of the pressing room and mill equipment follows. Afterwards you can sample some of the oils, stuffed olives, and tapenades. (I liked the olive oils so much I ended up buying a “build your own” trio sampler of flavor-infused olive oils including Mexican Lime, Garlic & Herb, and Red Chile.) Since the class is offered seven days a week at various scheduled times, walk-ins are more than welcome. One happy customer proclaimed that he went for the tour but ended up staying for the food. I certainly did.
Be sure to try the fall salad with cranberry vinaigrette which features their Cranberry White Balsamic Vinegar and their QCOM Tuscan Estate Balanced EVOO. Recipe is provided courtesy of Queen Creek Olive Mill.
FALL SALAD WITH CRANBERRY VINAIGRETTE
Time: 20 mins.
¼ cup Cranberry White Balsamic Glaze
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup QCOM Tuscan Estate Balanced EVOO
⅛ teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 pinch freshly ground black pepper
2 heads Romaine Lettuce – rinsed, dried, and torn into bite-size pieces
2 medium heads Belgian endive – washed, dried and chopped
2 red Anjou pears
½ cup toasted walnuts, chopped
½ cup crumbled Gorgonzola Cheese
In a saucepan, combine vinegar and cranberries. Cook over medium heat until cranberries soften. Remove from heat; add Tuscan Estate EVOO, sugar, salt and pepper. Place in blender and mix until smooth. Refrigerate until chilled.Core and julienne one pear, core and dice the other.In a large bowl, combine the Romaine lettuce, endive, diced pears, walnuts and Gorgonzola. Toss and drizzle with enough dressing to coat. Divide among salad plates and garnish with julienned pear. Top with any additional walnuts as well.
Queen Creek Olive Mill
25062 S Meridian Rd
Queen Creek, AZ 85142