It's not often that gourmet product purveyors offer to give the likes of little ole me fabulous gifts, so when I got an e-mail from fellow food blogger Erin, with the news that Alejandro & Martin were giving away 800 boxes of free artisanal olive oil in December, and then gave me the code to get in on the olive-y action, I jumped right on that bandwagon.
Alejandro Levins and his partner Michelle import artisanal olive oils from small producers that they gather from around the world. The oils are fiercely protected from the demons heat and light, and are only sold through the website and not to stores, to ensure the proper care and handling at all times on their way to you.
Only a short time after ordering it, I received a super-cute wooden box that was packed with four slender bottles of different olive oils from different areas of the world, with different flavor profiles.
J. and I took the plethora of La Brea Bakery bread we had left over from our New Year's Eve gathering and piled chunks on a plate to convey the different oils to our mouths. Alejandro & Martin's website has instructions for tasting the oils straight but ... well ... we had all this bread! So we set out each flavor next to it's corresponding dipping dish and proceeded to taste and compare, with bites of carrots and cheese & crackers in between to cleanse our palates. I don't care if those things are really good for cleansing your palate or not, we also had tons of them left over from New Year's Eve.
Of course when you put out bread and olive oil and cheese, it's almost like magic how a bottle of wine just appears, as if summoned by the magical combination of foods. In this case, a bottle of A to Z Pinot Noir.
The flavors available were:
*Mild & Delicate: The Mild & Delicate oil was from Spain, where it has been produced on an ancient Cordoban estate since the 16th century. When I first tasted it, I thought it had a very "green" flavor and wasn't mild at all. As I moved on to taste the other oils, I realized that it was actually mild compared to the rest, it just didn't seem mild compared to the run-of-the-mill oil I am used to.
*Fragrant and Fruity: The fragrant and fruity oil was from Greece and this was my very favorite. It comes from a family that has been producing since the 1860s. They make Kalamata olives and olive oil for the Athens Jewish community. It started out with a delicate and floral flavor and suddenly you would get the tongueful of fruit. I couldn't get enough of this and I am excited to try it in a pesto, or with fruit, as suggested by the website.
*Olivey and Peppery: Well finally! An olive oil that is olivey. I liked this one. It has a tiny bit of bite, that according to the website is called "pizzica" in Italian, and means that the oil is high in anti-oxidants. I like to have anti-oxidants. This was probably my second favorite, after the fragrant and fruity. This oil comes from a fourteenth-century Italian wine estate and is made of hand-picked Frantoio olives.
*Green and Grassy: This was the only one I didn't necessarily enjoy so much. The green and grassy oil had a very intense plant flavor. It kind of tasted like alfalfa to me and was a little too much. I prefer delicate flavors to "punch you in the face" taste. This one was from Central Cali, so it balances out with extra points for locale. And in fact, I think the website's comparison of this oil being to the European oils what California cabernets are to their European cousins is very apt. I think this one would be best off on a salad of peppery greens like arugula or watercress or something very herbal to round out the sharp green flavor.
Eating the different olive oils was definitely a unique experience. Olive oil to me has always been there as a component of a dish, but not to be noticed for itself. It's interesting to turn around and think of it as a complex ingredient that has a character and life of its own. Now that I've tried each of them on plain bread, I am excited to use them by making the suggested dishes with each one and seeing if I notice a difference .
|Thursday, January 4, 2007|