Fine Flavor

"Anyone who walks into Elizabeth Graves' new shop in Coupeville will immediately be able to tell that it was stocked by someone who has a passion for flavor.The shelves and refrigerated display are crammed with wines and delicacies from around the world, many of which cannot be found elsewhere on Whidbey. There's hazelnut and walnut oils, specialty vinegars, ginger beer, imported prosciutto, bulk anchovies from Italy, creme fraiche and pine nuts.Graves opened the doors to her wine and specialty food store, Bay Leaf, Wednesday morning and immediately started selling anchovies, wine and fresh rustic bread to hungry customers. The Bay Leaf is located below The Oystercatcher restaurant on NW Coveland Street in Coupeville. Graves worked at The Oystercatcher and has eight years of experience in the food industry, which she says gives her the knowledge to locate unusual foods and wine.Also, Graves says she simply wants to share her knowledge and love of food and wine with the community. She's tasted and approved everything in her shop.I've always had a food fetish, she said. Exploring what's out there can be a lot of fun.While Graves carries some familiar wines, she said she's specializing in types that are a little out of the ordinary without being expensive. She has a selection, for example, of dry red rose wines. The often-misunderstood wines aren't like white Zinfandel, she says, but are lovely, dry and crisp and have a strong hint of fruit.I like to get outside the mainframe of chardonnay, cabernet and merlots, she said. About 70 percent of her wine selection runs for under $15.Graves says she's interested in strong natural flavors, which is evident by the variety of cheeses and olives she sells. On the cheesy side, she has everything from Italian pecorina - a sharp Italian type made from sheep's milk - to wine-cured goat cheese. She has both fresh and cured olives, including a unique dry-cured kind.They're fabulous, she said to a customer who samples one of the wrinkly olives. The flavor gets more and more intense until you finish.Graves is celebrating the grand opening of the Bay Leaf this Sunday with a wine and food tasting from 1 to 5 p.m. In the next month of so, she plans to starting making and selling take-out lunches of fresh soups, salads and deli items.For those looking for some new ideas in eating, Graves said she's also going to compile recipes and give them out to customers. You should never be afraid of trying new things, she said. "

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