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Can you recommend good olive oils for dipping and cooking? The recipes say, "Pick a good olive oil." How do you do that? You can't pop the cap in the market and take a glug. Thanks to the recent article in The New Yorker we have reason to be cautious. And now that products from California, Australia, and South America are increasingly entering the market, the selection seems more complicated. Any ideas?

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The December, 2006 issue of "Cooks Illustrated" rates Spanish Olive Oils above Italian, citing that Italian oils are "bitter and pungent" compared to Spanish. They state that Tuscany has frost problems and thus Italian law requires an early harvest, yielding bitter oil compared to Spanish olives that are left on the tree longer, to mature. Their recommended brands are Columela Extra Virgin (Spain), Nunez De Prado Organic Extra Virgin (Spain) and Terra Medi Extra Virgin (Greece)
I use olive oil virtually every day, Pauline, and have had no bad taste using oil from Italy - although I'm no
connoisseur. I buy two types of Carapelli olive oil - one, their extra virgin olive oil, is labeled for salad dressing and flavoring and the other one, an extra light olive oil, is labeled for sauteing and baking.
And I can't live without my Italian olives, double-stuffed with jalapenos & garlic - the Tassos brand is the
best but I can no longer find it here. Costco used to handle it. Now they have the same product put out
under the Sausalito brand name. Tassos doesn't have it available for purchase at their internet home page
but Sausalito does, so I know I can at least order it if Costco stops carrying that one. Bon Appetit.
If you are Italy or a "reliable" Italian grocer anywhere, look for the green stuff with gray bubbles in it. When it warms, they go away. Butter (I live in Switzerland) cannot compare, and the stuff is GOOD for you. I don't drink it neat (as yet), but I am sure that it is a lot better than cod liver oil (anyone remember that?). It likely is not the best ice cream topping, but I haven't tried it yet.

Spend the most on the olive oil, and "economize" on the rest.
Must be time to take an Untour to Italy or Spain. Our visit to Spain resulted in us bringing lots of olive oil back from Andalusia - but alas it is all gone now!!! Time to get back to Europe. But in the meantime - shop at World Mart or Trader Joe's and get some imports................
Zingerman's in Ann Arbor, Michigan, cuts through all the noise and does a great job of educating its consumers. You can learn quite a bit from reading the information on their website (http://www.zingermans.com/Category.pasp?Category=olive_oils), but they also publish a booklet devoted strictly to olive oils. If you happen to visit the store (highly recommended! worth a trip to Ann Arbor in itself!) you can indeed taste-test a number of oils as well as ask its well-informed and personable employees for further assistance in making a selection. (Bread lovers, cheese lovers, and vinegar lovers, Zingermans has the best stuff for you, too!)
We have a line of extra virgin olive oils based out of Corning, CA. They are delicious for cooking and dipping. There are three varieties based on the type of olive tree, Ascolano, Mission and Manzanita. We also have flavored oils; mandarin and lemon. In addition we have a Balsamic Vinegar that is 18 years old and is absolutely delicious. If any of the Untour readers would like a sample bottle of any of the oils I will gladly send it out. You can check out the overview of products at lucerooliveoil.com! Thanks!

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