Tuesday, June 26, 2012

California's Liquid Gold

In advance of The Fancy Food Show, which returned to DC from June 17-19, The California Olive Oil Council held a private event at Equinox Restaurant, inviting guests to taste some of the freshest certified extra virgin olive oils from California and experience delicious food pairings created by Executive Chef Karen Nicholas.

Founded in 1992, with a current membership base of over 400 producers, retailers, suppliers, and marketers, the COOC awards a seal of certification to  extra virgin olive oils that are 100% grown in CA, and pass a blind taste test taken by trained staff. Olive oils are often labeled as extra virgin even when they are not completely void of all defects, and the COOC works to educate consumers about this misconception, making them aware that a seal of certification awarded by the California Olive Oil Council is the only way to ensure the superior quality, exquisite taste, and health benefits that you can expect from California extra virgin olive oil.

In addition to regulating standards within the California olive oil industry, the COOC also works to promote the sale of California olive oil throughout the US. Since olive oil does not need time to mature, and is meant to be consumed within the year that it is made, California producers have an impressive advantage over producers located overseas, as California olive oils will arrive to the US consumer much quicker, in a fresher state.

To demonstrate just how fresh certified California olive can be, the COOC provided guests of Drizzle and Blend the ability to taste oils produced by Owens Creek Company, ENZO Olive Oil Company, Pepper Oaks Farm Olive Oil, Chacewater Olive Oil, Bari Olive Oil and the Robbie from Robbins Family Farm. Guests could choose to slurp the olive oil directly from a tasting cup, dip the olive oil into bread, or enjoy delicious food pairings created by Equinox's Executive Chef Karen Nicholas.

Owens Creek Quaretto Viola Sicilian Blend and Shaved Zucchini Panzanella Salad

Pepper Oaks Farm Basil Blend and Compressed Watermelon with House Cured Lardo and Picholine Olives

Classic blends offered by Pepper Oaks Farm were clear favorites of the afternoon, as indicated by the olive oil dishes that were nearly empty every time I walked by. We were able to sample the Classic, Basil, and Lemon Blends, and enjoy the Classic blend paired with Fennel Cured King Salmon with Compressed Apricot.

There's not much I enjoy more than the simple addition of pepper to spice up my meal, making Talcott's Tuscan Blend, a delicate oil with a foundation of fruit flavors and definite peppery finish, my personal favorite. Eve's Mandarin Orange Blend was just the right balance between exotic citrus and mild buttery oil.  It was the perfect follow-up to Talcott's, eliminating the extra pepper taste originally left in my mouth.

Though Talcott was my favorite on its own, my favorite pairing was Owens Creek Quartetto Classico Tuscan Blend, paired with Port Wine Marinated Muscovy Duck with Blackberry Agrodolce, which had just the right amount of fruit flavor. 

I also really enjoyed the cucumber gazpacho, which was the perfect summer treat. I definitely helped myself to more than one of these little glasses.

Vanilla ice cream, which tasted much more similar to Taiwanese Snow Ice, was topped with ENZO Olive Oil, pink sea salt and cracker black pepper.

With over 100 varieties of olives grown in the state of California growing over a span of 10,000 acres, everyone is sure to find a California Olive Oil to suit their tastes, and you can visit Secolari (http://www.secolari.comcastbiz.net/) or Tasting Bars (http://www.tastingbars.com/), both located in MD, to experience the superior quality and exquisite taste of California Olive Oil for yourself. 

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