Chef Talk: Robert Kay of vomFASS
By Abby Weingarten
Published: Monday, June 9, 2014 / Herald-Tribune
vomFASS (1469 Main St., Sarasota. 365-2137; vomfasssarasota.com) in downtown Sarasota is the pride of husband-and-wife entrepreneurs Robert and Debbie Kay, who opened their Southwest Florida shop in April 2013. The Kays became enamored of the vomFASS concept while traveling in Germany, and when they returned home, they bought into the 1994-founded franchise and launched the eighth store in the United States. It has since become a coveted tasting room and magnet for patrons seeking the highest-quality olive oils, liqueurs, vinegars, scotches and beyond. Robert Kay is known for suggesting the primo ingredients to make any recipe dazzle.
Q: What is your background and how did you become involved with vomFASS?
A: Before I first encountered vomFASS, I’d never considered myself a foodie, but I did grow up around the retail grocery business. My wife and business partner, Debbie, spent the last 30 years in operations and compliance management in the investment industry. We became involved with vomFASS by accident. While I was serving with the Army in Afghanistan, I met Debbie and daughter, Shannon, in Europe during my two-week hiatus. We walked into a vomFASS shop in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany and began tasting. We were hooked. We began our research and developed a business plan on my return to the United States, and just 1½ years after our visit to Bavaria, we opened the eighth vomFASS shop in the United States.
Q: What are some of the most popular products at vomFASS?
A: We really have a balance of popular products. We get repeat and referral customers shopping for our single-malt scotches that are all exclusive to us. Our liqueurs and fruit brandies are always popular; they’re unique, very good quality and available in lots of fun bottles. We’re enjoying a solid reputation as a great place to find a good bottle of wine at a great price. The products that people can’t seem to live without are the culinary oils and vinegars; they’re among the best in the world. Every Saturday morning during the farmers’ market, we get quite a few customers coming in to refill their bottles.
Q: What are your favorite ingredients to use in recipes?
A: My kitchen prowess pales in comparison to my natural ability to combine flavors. The great thing about vomFASS is that someone like me can easily turn a simple dish into something gourmet by either combing a drizzle of oils and vinegars, or by adding liqueurs to something easy to prepare. I’ll take a simple cheese and veggie omelet and drizzle our white truffle extra virgin olive oil and Vinagre Viejo (aged Spanish red wine vinegar) on top of it. I also like to combine our herbal sunflower oil, sherry vinegar and honey vinegar for a great skirt steak marinade. I’m always amazed at how adding just a little French Armagnac to a simple custard dish transforms it into something wonderful.
Q: What is the experience like at vomFASS?
A: vomFASS is a world of wonders. We can always tell when it’s someone’s first time in our store because they have this mesmerized look from seeing all the casks, glass balloons and colorful bottles. We give them a brief overview of the store, pointing out what is where and invite them to taste almost anything before deciding on their purchases. Our team is ready to help novices and connoisseurs make their best selections. We’re always happy to customize or personalize gifts and baskets. Our customers leave our shop carrying delectable goodies, and with big smiles on their faces. That’s so rewarding for us and for them.
Q: Do you host events at vomFASS?
A: We pair up with top-caliber culinary instructors and host cooking classes right in the shop. Our classes are hands-on experiences where our guests create and then enjoy entire gourmet meals. We recently held our first whisky tasting event. We hold a wine-tasting event on the third Thursday of each month. On June 5, we hosted a free wine tasting event with oenologist Kirk Lambert from Lambert Estate Winery in Barossa Valley, Australia. Our events are a way to connect our shop and our customers, and it gives us a great sense of community.
HAPPY HERBED OLIVE OIL DIP
(From Chef Sue Kubinski)
½ cup vomFASS Madonia extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup vomFASS basil olive oil
1 tablespoon vomFASS Aceto Balsamico di Modena Maletti vinegar
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ teaspoon vomFASS Pyramid sea salt
¼ teaspoon vomFASS Bunter Pfeffer peppercorn mix
1½ teaspoon vomFASS Bruschetta Italian spice blend
6 leaves fresh basil, chopped
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
In a lidded jar, combine all ingredients except Parmesan cheese and shake well. Taste to adjust salt and pepper, if necessary. Prepare ahead of time so the flavors will marry. When ready to serve, shake again and pour onto saucers. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and use as a dip for crusty breads.
Read the full article here: http://www.ticketsarasota.com/2014/06/09/chef-talk-robert-kay-vom-fass/