I didn’t discover olive oil until my early twenties. Growing up, the choice of oil was sunflower. This dark, golden yellow, aromatic, and rich oil made from sunflower seeds was used left and right to dress tomato and cucumber salads, fry potatoes with onions, and drizzle on top of shredded beets with lots of garlic, walnuts and prunes. For cooking, vegetable oil was the staple, butter, just like olive oil, was pretty much missing from my daily diet. I never heard the sizzle of butter in a hot pan, or smelled the grassy notes of olive oil, nor did I swirl a chunk of crusty bread in olive oil and balsamic vinegar to soak up its goodness.
My first taste of olive oil left something to be desired; I was not used to the aftertaste, but I was determined to make it my friend and an ally in the kitchen. Since then, I grew to love olive oil and appreciate its benefits and use olive oil pretty much exclusively. I was very excited when I got an invitation from Dana of Dana Treat to attend an olive oil tasting at Cantinetta sponsored by Star Fine Foods. For the evening, Star Fine Foods partnered with Emran Chowdhury, the executive chef at the restaurant, to create a fantastic four-course menu to showcase different varieties of olive oil.
First Course ~ Antipasti: Prosciutto E Melone with Borges/ Star Keren Or Holy Land Olive Oil. I have to admit, the pairing of prosciutto and olive oil from the Holy Land made me giggle just a bit (or perhaps, it was the bubbly kicking in). The chef explained that this particular pairing showcased the oil’s buttery notes and low acidity, which complimented perfectly the higher acidity of the melon and prosciutto. The oil was slightly spicy, which also enhanced the sweetness of the melon.
Second Course ~ Primi: Agnolotti with Local Figs, Goat Cheese and Lemon Verbena with Borges/Star Keren Or Holy Land Olive Oil. This was perhaps my favorite dish of the night, possibly due to the combination of figs and goat cheese which immediately won me over. I loved the delicacy of the pasta, made in house. The fruitiness of the olive oil played nicely with the figs.
Third Course ~ Secondi: Olive Oil Poached Coho Salmon with Yellow Corn Puree and Swiss Chard with 100% California Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Chef Emran explained his use of California olive oil for poaching salmon – the oil is less fruity and has more grassy notes than the Holy Land oil. He recommended to use this oil for dressing and vinaigrette recipes.
Fourth Course ~ Dessert: Olive Oil Polenta Cake with Olive Oil Gelato with Star Extra Virgin Olive Oil Mediterranean Blend. The Mediterranean oil had a balance of grassy and floral notes, and fit somewhere in between the Holy Land and California oil in taste and color. I have made olive oil polenta cake, popular in Italy, and loved this rendition – the polenta in the cake had a slightly coarse texture, yet as a whole, the cake had a very moist (sorry for the use of the word) and rich texture due to generous amounts of olive oil.
There was also plenty of wine involved, but sadly, I did not write down the names. Also, as often happens at dinners, the lighting did not allow me to take decent photos of the later courses, and I’d rather not post unflattering pictures of the food.
Thank you, once again, to Dana, Cantinetta and Star Fine Foods for an educational and delicious evening, and for sending us home with a bottle of olive oil! I’m excited to put the California Oil to use in my kitchen.