Olive oil, much like a fine wine
VAIL – Vail Mountain was bustling as the weekend crowd took to the slopes on a recent brilliant blue-sky morning. Meanwhile a group of us sat in a dark room as if attending an anonymous meeting, the silhouette of the mountain appearing overhead through the translucent shades. “I’ve always been an olive oil addict,” one woman admitted.I wouldn’t call myself an addict, but I do find olive oil wonderfully delicious and use it constantly in the kitchen, cooking and making salad dressing. So on Saturday at noon I joined other foodies like myself to, of all things, take shots of olive oil spiked with nothing but hard work and the conditions with which the tiny oval-shaped fruit was beared. It sounds gross, but it was the only way to taste it in its pure form.You see, like a fine wine, olive oil has its own flavors, aromas, textures, colors and nuances based on the olives, climates, soils, blends versus singular varietals and other factors. At least that’s what the advertisement said in describing the olive oil seminar hosted by the Organic Olive Oil Company. I was intrigued. “I read about it in the paper and I decided in two hours I could become an expert in olive oil and that’s probably the only thing I could become an expert on in my whole life,” said Stanley Goldberg, who divides his time between Avon and Scranton, Pa. He read my mind.”An Italian friend of mine told me the trick – the greener it is the better it is,” said John Faas, a longtime Vail resident. “I don’t know if it’s true.”As it turns out, olive oil is like fine wine, and consequently there are no steadfast rules for determining its worth. You simply have to taste it. “We do this three times a week with wine and only once in my life have I done this with olive oil,” said Restaurant Kelly Liken Chef de Cuisine Anthony Mazza, who came up with the idea to host the seminar. “We wanted to offer our clientele what we got to experience.”
Tour around the worldAnd so, Organic Olive Oil Company Vice President Shelton Reichardt led us on a tour around the world. Our mouths watered, puckered and squirmed with delight as we sampled the organic oils. The Villa Stabbia, produced on the luscious farms of Tuscany in Northern Italy and once dubbed “the Arnold Swarzenegger of olive oils,” boasted a slightly fruity but robust flavor. The Moutere Grove, an oil produced amid the unique climate and clay soils of South Island, New Zealand, exuded a rich, mellow, fruity flavor with a peppery aftertaste and sweet finish.The favorite varied from palate to palate and like wine preference – the mood you’re in.The most widely praised by a show of hands Saturday was the Hermanos Catalan from Rioja, Spain. The Catalan brothers yield the exceptional creation in the northern region exclusively from the Arbequina olive. The fruit from the Arbequina produces a light greenish yellow oil with a clean, fruity aroma. It tastes smooth and balanced with a slightly peppery aftertaste. I preferred the Moutere Grove myself. I could actually taste what the olives must relinquish when you pop one in your mouth.Mazza’s favorite? The Salvatore Mirisola from Sicily, which he uses at the restaurant.”I thought it had the most complex flavors,” he said. “I thought it had the deepest flavor.”Mazza also loves that it’s organic.
“We really are trying to bring in as many organic products as possible to the restaurant,” he said.When to use the good stuffOrganic, Reichardt explains, means no pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, preservatives or genetic engineering were used in the production of the olive oil and requires that all adjacent farms operate organically.”This is the purest food you can put in your body,” Reichardt said. “This is the healthiest food you can put in your body.”The oils are extra-virgin as well, which means they were harvested and within hours are cold pressed and milled to insure the highest quality oil possible.Of course, the world-class olive oils don’t come without a price, and the wannabe chefs in the room were left wondering when to break out the good stuff versus the generic supermarket-brand. “We’d be going through $125 a month worth of olive oil if we only used this kind,” said Cathy Pollard, a second homeowner from Cleveland and a fellow “foodie.”
Mazza had the answers – the golden nugget really – of the whole seminar. The chef recommends using sunflower oil or canola oil when cooking with high heat and using extra virgin olive oil only to “finish” the food. For example, when you are finished sautéing vegetables, drizzle on the olive oil to finish the dish.”None of the olive oils I would bring to heat over 200 degrees,” he said. “You don’t want to disrupt the virginity of the cold press. It would alter the chemicals. You’ll throw the high dollar price down the drain.”Eat! drink! in Edwards carries products from the Organic Olive Oil Company. Call eat!drink! at 926-1393 for more information.Staff Writer Laura A. Ball can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14641, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado