The Verve of Quality Oil and Vinegar
Health & WellnessLocal

The Verve of Quality Oil and Vinegar

Entrepreneur Ellen Softness goes all out for healthy and flavorful oils and vinegars in her business, Strippaggio, and adds advice about when to slurp.

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip).

Ellen Softness with her arms around a bevy of Strippaggio bottles.
Ellen Softness with her arms around a bevy of Strippaggio bottles.

Foodies and advocates of a healthy Mediterranean diet alike have long fawned over the benefits and vibrant tastes of quality oils and vinegars.

Enter entrepreneur Ellen Softness’ Strippaggio Artisan Oils, Vinegars and Gifts with its fusions, aromas, and most intense flavors. Softness, who left a career as a government bond trader on Wall Street, with an MBA from Columbia University, and previous owner of seven Gymboree franchises, and a mother of three, was “post-COVID ready” for a new adventure.

She said, “I had no background or training in the food arena, but knew the products were special. Olive oil and balsamic vinegar have been staples in many cuisines for hundreds of years, but the premium category with enhanced flavors is an emerging and fast-growing category, so I bought Strippaggio Artisan.”

A charcuterie board display with Basil EVOO and Traditional Dark Balsamic Vinegar makes for fun entertaining.

Back to basics, vinegars today are well beyond traditional uses, and some bottles can sell for $100. Versatile to the point of being syrupy, or drizzling on ice cream or strawberries, gourmands will pay extra for complexity, distinction, re-defining acidity and tartness. There are three types of vinegars — traditional, condiment, and salad — all meant to elevate food. EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) is at the top of its quality category and is prepared according to strict standards: no solvents or heat, no fruit other than olives, no storage above 80 degrees F, etc.

Strippaggio purchases olive oils primarily from small batch growers in Northern California, as well as Chile and Southern Europe, depending upon harvest, weather, and climatic changes. Their balsamic vinegars are all sourced from Modena, Italy, where the finest vinegars in the world are made.

Softness has different price points for gift boxes/bags. Shown here are the most popular.

They sell only 100 percent Pure Certified Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), whose production is regulated by the government to produce the purest and most flavorful oil.

Softness continued, “Our flavored oils are all ‘fused,’ which means that the flavor, like fresh basil, and the just-harvested olives, are crushed together at the beginning of the process before being bottled. This results in a deeper, richer taste and aroma. Our balsamic vinegars are made in Modena using the traditional method of fermenting grapes and cooked grapes in oaken casks for multiple years.”

Their bestselling EVOO’s are basil, garlic, lemon, and blood orange while their bestselling balsamic vinegars are traditional dark, traditional white, lemongrass, and peach. They have boxed gift sets at various price points that can ship to more than 45 states. Gifts range from $15.95 to $109.95.

Strippaggio displays these oils and vinegars at one of their wholesale clients – Stripplings in Bogart, Ga. They are in four of their six stores with plans to expand to the last two.

Legions of medical studies confirm the heart-healthy benefits of extra virgin olive oil which is high in monounsaturated fatty acids and contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. As promoted in the Mediterranean diet, quality EVOO can be used in every meal.

Softness added, “At Thanksgiving, rosemary EVOO is appropriate for basting a turkey, Italian herb EVOO adds flavor to stuffing and dressing, and peach balsamic vinegar is delicious in cranberry sauce. Peach, blueberry, strawberry, and fig balsamic vinegars can be drizzled over ice cream and fresh fruit. Basil EVOO is yummy in scrambled eggs and traditional dark BV heightens the flavor of grilled meat. Lemon and blood orange EVOO are best in baking, even brownies.”
Softness sure has a long list of ideas.

In making salad dressing, Softness said, “It’s hard to choose one ‘best,’ as there are literally dozens of delicious combinations. Two of my favorites are Basil EVOO with Lemongrass BV and Lemon EVOO with Cranberry Pear BV.”

Strippaggio’s products range from $14.95 to $26.95 per bottle. Like great wine, most balsamic vinegars get better with age. Most of their vinegars are aged at least five years, while Cask 10 Premium Balsamic is aged for 10 years. Strippagio is marketed via their website,, farmers markets, and through social media and email marketing. It’s also sold through retail partners – butchers, bakeries, and specialty grocery stores.

Softness, who’s also an evaluator in the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, laughed, “Strippaggio means ‘to slurp’ in Italian! There is a certain way to slurp in order to properly taste good olive oil.”

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