By Regina Kenner
My parents would often tell me, ‘If you like what you do for a living, you will never work a day in your life”. Deb Foley, owner of Taste on Caroline Street in Fredericksburg, appears to have done just that.
We sat down for lunch together recently and Deb told me how she came to own the shop that sells imported olive oils and balsamic vinegars. She began by saying that she holds a degree in Restaurant and Hotel Management. After graduation she managed several restaurants near her hometown of West Lafayette, Indiana, including one owned by the famous Stouffer’s Corporation. In time, she met her husband and her life as a military wife took them away from Indiana and to their appointed stations in California, North Carolina and lastly to Virginia, where they have settled.
“I have a love for cooking and I became a regular shopper at Taste.”, says Deb. She would drive to downtown Fredericksburg from their home in Stafford to buy the specialty products then invent creative ways to use them in her cooking. In 2014 when the owner of Taste was looking for part-time help, Deb went to work in the shop one day a week. It wasn’t long before her responsibilities grew and she was managing all aspects of the business. Deb was offered to buy Taste in 2016 and she jumped at the opportunity, eager to put her personal stamp on it.
“I was quite busy and found I needed extra help when the holiday season rolled around, so I turned to my family for support”. Her husband and two children pitched in at the store and a true family business was born. Her daughter has since graduated college and started her career, but her son still works in the shop during the summer and on school breaks. In fact, she tells me her son has inherited her love of cooking and experiments with the oils and vinegars in recipes that he is more than willing to share with customers. Her husband, too, can often be found in the shop, wearing one of their signature green aprons, helping a shopper choose oils and spices.
Deb says, “The relationships we build with our customers is what keeps them coming back”. A first-time visitor is treated to a thorough description of the products. Essential information such as, why the oils are stored in dark colored bottles and how the aging process effects the flavor of the vinegars, is all part of the experience. Returning shoppers come prepared with questions that are readily addressed by a knowledgeable staff. As customers’ inquiries for cooking suggestions grows, links to recipes are constantly being added to the website.
Taste has two locations; one in Culpepper the other in Fredericksburg. The shop in Fredericksburg is housed in a long, narrow storefront. The walls are lined with stainless steel canisters with oils imported from all over the world on one side and vinegars from Modena Italy on the other. Tiny cups are made available as tasting before purchasing is highly encouraged. A container of water and paper cups are there to help cleanse the palate between samples. Pottery and olive wood carvings crafted by a local artist are for sale as are organic spices, flavored pastas and a variety of sauces
“I am by no means a food critic. My palate is not adventurous. I simply savor the pleasures derived from sharing a meal that brings me together with others.”
Regina is a long-time resident of the Fredericksburg area and the founder of Flavors of Fredericksburg, A Food Tour, Garnished with History.