Food & Drink » Dish

Basque Market Marinated Green Queen Olives


A sandwich without chips on the side isn't a sandwich. Or it was that way until the Basque Market changed the rules.

The market's mouth-watery selection of sandwiches--jamon serrano, Basque meatball, idiazabal and manchego cheese and more--all come with a side. Not chips. The choices include potato salad, orzo pasta salad, green salad or marinated olives. Olives as a side? Oh, heavens yes.

Green olives are an unripened version of their black counterparts, and that lack of maturity contributes the slight bitterness unique to the green ones. Olive cultivars number in the thousands and include the manzanilla (the most common type), the French picholine, the dark violet-colored Greek kalamata, the Italian liguria and ponentine, and the sevillano from California. But the Basque Market uses the most royal of the green olives, her highness the Spanish queen.

Market co-owner Tara McElhose-Eiguren explained that they use extra-large queen olives, which are drained and then soaked in water to remove any brine or seasoning. They are placed in a 5-gallon bucket and covered in garlic, herbs (McElhose-Eiguren would only divulge fennel as one of the herbs), vinegar and brine and left to marinate until they have the cheek-clenching sourness a good green olive should have.

"You know," McElhose-Eiguren said, "Bardenay uses our olives in their Basque martini. I don't think many people know that." (Psst, they do now.)

As a side, the portion usually includes five or six of those bad girls, floating in their liquid-and-herb mixture­. They also are part of the by-the-toothpick Tuesday tapas fest. But if that isn't quite enough, you can buy a take-home container; prices range from $2.99 and up. McElhose-Eiguren confirmed that they sell at least a dozen containers per week. She added that as soon as the bucket starts to look low, the process starts again.