Every year at RITROVO® the arrival of new crop extra virgin olive oils is momentous, especially when it coincides with our annual extra virgin olive oil class and tasting at Bayleaf on Whidbey Island. Teaching about extra virgin olive oils rejuvenates our admiration for this classic Italian staple.
As we said in our introduction to Sunday’s tasting at Bayleaf, quality extra virgin olive oil embodies what appassionatos like ourselves love about Italy: its history, its cultural diversity, its foodways, and its natural beauty. Olive groves abound in the Italian peninsula, particularly in the central, southern, and coastal regions. From the Tonda Iblea olives of Sicily, to the Taggiascas of Liguria, to the Caninese of Lazio, each type of tree has grown and evolved alongside local populations and their foodways for centuries. In Liguria, late harvest Taggiasca olives fall into immense catch nets laid over the orchard’s floor to be pressed into a buttery oil which the locals use for their delightful seafood specialties. The people of Lazio use bold Caninese oil as a sublime complement for bean and farro soups. Sicilian Tonda Iblea extra virgin olive oil has a light spiciness that elevates a wide range of regional delicacies, such as chickpea cake or sautéed greens.
As we reminded our guests at Bayleaf, our pantries can be homes to a variety of extra virgin olive oils. Every oil suits a different dish, a different season, and a different voyage. To help our tasters choose the right extra virgin olive oil, we reminded them to:
Always choose from a trusted supplier (like us!). Use websites or magazines like Olive Oil Times to figure out which brands are particularly good.
Look for dark-tinted or foil-wrapped bottles. These measures protect the EVOO from oxidation, which influences the flavor. Trampetti pioneered the foil-wrapping technique for their organic Moraiolo-based EVOO.
Always look for a specific farm or geographic origin on the bottle. As a rule of thumb, only quality EVOO producers are proud enough of their terroir to announce it.
As with wine, expect to pay for quality.
Consider a few of our 2013 harvest extra virgin olive oils. Both the mild Trampetti Chef’s Blend and the bold Madonna dell’Oliva Raro augment the flavor of simple foods such as fresh focaccia, Michele Ferrante’s Naked Barley, or Fior di Maiella’s Lamon Beans.
Most of all, remember that selecting the right EVOO can make a good meal a great meal.