Saturday, July 18, 2009

Foodie Achieves American Dream With Grandmother's Spanish Olive Oil

By Michelle Allen

With one suitcase between them, 11 year old Miriam and her parents caught the last flight out of Cuba on October 19, 1962, during the height of the Cuban missile crisis.

"We were on a flight from Havana as Russian missiles were in Cuba pointed at Miami, everything was fear-driven."

In Miami, they met her brother who had left Cuba six months earlier.

"We were refugees," she said. "We had to start over."

But they were refugees with marketable skills. Her mother, found work almost immediately after arriving in the Unites States, as a seamstress. It took her father who had been a lumberjack in Cuba, a bit longer.

Life in Miami was different -- fallout shelters, radiation drills, a different language and a new way of life. Miriam was one of only five children in her school who spoke Spanish.

Miriam is the person she is today because of these experiences.

Miriam Vigoa didn't foresee making a Spanish olive oil splash in the health food industry when she added spices to her great-grandmother's herbed olive oil recipe and began serving it on menu items at Cafe Latte.

She was already busy running a business she purchased in 1983, Cypress Lighting -- -- maintaining and investing in real estate and helping run a coffee shop, Cafe Latte she opened with partner Kristi Linebaugh in 1995.

Miriam was happy sharing a bit of her heritage with cafe patrons who were requesting the Spanish olive oil -- now known as Canary Island Garlic and Herb Splash.

After doing some research, she began hand-blending herbs and Spanish olive oil into Splash and bottling it in her kitchen -- just in time for Christmas 2002.

The Splash is still hand-blended but is now bottled in a small cannery in Winter Springs.

Vigoa and Linebaugh decided to hire extra employees to run the cafe on Fridays and to close it Saturday through Monday.

Weekends are now spent hauling a trailer full of Splash throughout Florida -- and often out of state -- attending trade shows and marketing the product.

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