Steve Lewis teaches nuance of real olive oil at Taste of Vail seminar |

Steve Lewis teaches nuance of real olive oil at Taste of Vail seminar

Brenda Himelfarb
Special to the Daily

VAIL — Steve Lewis is all about olive oil. He can differentiate between the tastes, the smells, how you should cook with it, how it should be stored, etc.

"Olive oil smells like vegetables, it smells like fruit," Lewis said enthusiastically. "It's very clean, it's very fresh-smelling. And it's very vibrant. A lot of times, commercial oils have a different odor, which you don't notice if you're just pouring it into a pan. But if you sit there and really smell it out of a wine glass, you can notice if it's really fresh."

And that's what Lewis, owner of Denver-based Giuliana Direct Olive Oil, will share at his seminar Saturday at this year's Taste of Vail.

"Educating people is a bit of a process," Lewis said. "I'm going to talk about what real olive oil is, how it's made. I'll talk about what people want today, which is unprocessed, cross-vintage oil.

"There will be a little cup of olive oil in front of each guest, like a wine tasting. You want to pick up the cup in your hand and rub it like you're warming it, for about 45 seconds, until it becomes aromatic and you can smell the oil. Then, after you're done smelling the oil, you sip it just like you would take a sip of wine and get that sensation of the vegetable flavors and the fruit flavors and the spiciness of each oil."

From Start to Finish

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Lewis only sells artisan oils that are estate bottled and produced. He works with producers, who, like in the wine world, grow their own olives, harvest the olives, make the oil and bottle it all on site.

"From start to finish, that's where the quality comes in," Lewis said. "Those producers control the farming. They control the harvest. They control the amount of time between the harvest and the processing, which is very important. And that way, we know that we are dealing with something real."

Fresh olive oil has a high count of polyphenols (plant-based molecules that have antioxidant properties) and gives a slightly bitter taste which can be too bitter for some palates.

Lewis suggested light, fruity oil, with fewer polyphenols, for daily use. Those with medium intensity — with more "green " flavors such as artichoke, basil and tomato leaf — he said can make a "warm dish like pasta or soup deliciously aromatic." More intense oils can be paired with strong foods such as meats or soft, fresh, young cheese.

"We try to get people to open up their minds," Lewis said. "When people think of olive oil, they think salad dressings. But people have to think of it as something fine. Just like everyone goes crazy for heirloom tomatoes or root vegetables — olive oil is like that. It has to be added to the plate as part of the finishing style, so once you cook whatever it is — you roast a chicken, you grill a steak, you saute some vegetables — you put the oil on the table like a bottle of wine.

"And once you taste the dish, you season it with the oil, say a quarter of an ounce, half an ounce or more. It adds so much flavor, and it is so aromatic. It's part of the plate. It should be at tableside with a little bit of seasoning or salt. It's really where olive oil shines."

If you go …

What: “Real Olive Oil with Steve Lewis,” a Taste of Vail seminar.

When: 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, April 2.

Where: The Grand View, Lionshead Village parking structure.

Cost: $40.

More information: For tickets and more event information, including a complete schedule, visit or call 970-401-3320.

Friday’s Taste of Vail events

9 to 10:30 a.m. — Seminar: What Puts the Pop Inside of Sparkling Wine?, Four Seasons Resort Vail, $55

Noon to 2:30 p.m. — Mountain Top Tasting, Eagle’s Nest, Vail Mountain via Eagle Bahn Gondola, $140 (included in Signature Four Pass)

5-6:30 p.m. — Seminar: Beer 101, Golden Peak Grill, $45

6 to 10 p.m. — Larkspur & Taste of Vail Present James Beard Foundation’s Celebrity Chef Tour, Larkspur Restaurant, $195

6:30-8 p.m. — Terra Bistro and Rock Wall Wine Dinner, Terra Bistro, $125

6:30-8:30 p.m. — “Swirl your Food” Elway’s Ingredient Smackdown!, Elway’s Vail, $80

For tickets and more event information, including a complete schedule, visit or call 970-401-3320.