Friday, January 30, 2009

Relearning to Savor Olive Oil

Olive oil has become such a routine presence in our everyday lives that we often forget it’s there. Not only is it so commonplace, but standard issue extra virgin olive oils often taste like little aside from a nominal olive-y overture. But when is the last time you tasted an olive oil that you could actually savor, an oil whose taste you enjoyed purely for the joy of tasting the oil and the bread with nothing else? An olive oil whose strength of flavors burst through the liquid over your tongue and made you stop and think about where it came from? What kind of olives produced such flavorful oil? How was it made? What makes this oil lighter or darker than others? Why does it taste like olive oil?

Photo by Audrey Farber.

Grab yourself some simple, high quality bread, hunt down an olive oil of interesting provenance (an unremarkable aisle in fluorescent-lit Fresh Grocer doesn’t count) and taste away. Try to find an olive oil other than an Italian variety, and forget about cold-pressed extra virgin. Some high-end kitchen stores (not Williams-Sonoma) such as LeRoux Kitchen in Portland, ME, Portsmouth, NH, and Martha's Vineyard, have olive oil tasting sections where you can taste oils from places as disparate as Portugal and Syria. See if you can find one of these shops, or just seek out an interesting-looking oil on your own. I'd also be psyched if someone wanted to organize a tasting . . . hint hint.

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