Seattle, WA, February 28, 2004 —
Olive Oil is a funny thing to me. We grew up with it in the house
but I don't know that it occupied a particularly special place in
our pantry. I seem to remember us having one of those super big gold
colored square metal containers filled with it. My dad would use it
when he was cooking Italian food. I remember the garlic shimmering
in the greenish olive oil, sautéing slowly. We would also dribble
it over tomato slices followed by balsamic vinegar. Later we would
also pour a bit onto plates of chummus and baba ghanoush. Yummy.
I only really started understanding what was interesting
to me about olive oil after I spent a year living on a farm in Israel.
The eating pattern is very different. The big meal of the day is lunch.
Breakfast and dinner are very similar if not identical. Dairy products,
eggs, chummus, baba ghannoush, pitas, and of course an Israeli salad.
The basic version is: diced cucumbers and tomatoes with salt, pepper,
lemon juice, and olive oil. Truly perfect. The fresh vegetables from the
farm didn't hurt either.
Up until my time in Israel Olive Oil seemed lighter than
a traditional vegetable oil, but it didn't really have any strong flavor
I could discern. Not so with the olive oil in Israel (and in the middle
east in general). Almost all the olive oil I've ever tasted from Israel,
Lebanon, Syria, etc. have had a really strong but pleasant olive flavor.
And for those who have an aversion to olives, while the flavor is
strong, it's still somehow mild. It really adds something to cooking
that is altogether different than the comparatively "pale" olive oils
I've tasted from Italy, Spain, and California. More recently I've come
to appreciate the extra light olive oils of Italy for use in dressing
dishes right before they're served. I guess I really think of them as
two separate experiences - one a deep flavor foundation for dishes, the
other a glossy accent. Both good.
With that short history for context,
Peyman decided to host an
Olive Oil Tasting. Very cool. They gathered a whole bunch of Olive Oils
and set them up so we could taste each one. First up was
in the Galillee of Israel. This extra Virgin Olive Oil had a beautiful yellow color.
It was nice and olivey.
Really light and delicious. Lauren
felt it had an odd flavor, almost meaty.
Trampetti Olio, Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Super light.
Something I'd like to try on super delicate noodles. But a bit of a burn
on the finish. A touch sweet.
Castelas, Huile d'Olive, Verge Extra, De
La Vallee Des Baux De Provence, Provence France. Grassy flavor, slightly
bitter. (I didn't like this one much but everyone else did).
Terranea, Getsemani, Extra Virgin Olive Oil - really not that flavorful
at all. No substance.
Olio Extravergine Di Oliva "Pianogrillo". This
stuff was sweet at first and then a horrible burn on the finish.
Terrible. Casa Brina Extra Virgin Olive Oil, was a flavor vaccuum. Just
nothing. Like a black hole.
Badia a Coltibuono, Extra Virgin Olive Oil -
plain flavor, burns like hell on the finish.
Not a bad start on our olive oil journey. More work to
do. There are thousands to try.