Updated 2009-08-21 18:09:05 ID=470:0

© 2009 The Romantic Table
©2009 The Romantic Table 2009-02-17 09:52:55:123
©2009 The Romantic Table

Larry McGourty writes about wine and food

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Tasting

Recently I was invited as a "Celebrity" Taster for the Paso Robles Olive Oil Festival Extra Virgin Olive Oil contest. What a great selection of olive oils are produced here on the Central Coast!

The Paso Robles 6th Annual Olive Oil Festival kicked off with an Extra Virgin Olive Oil Contest. Note the word "contest" versus "competition!" On the panel of five judges, there were only two real olive oil professionals. The rest of us were culinary and wine professionals. We added the consumer input to the judging, so it was more a contest than a real competition. All of us were familiar with extra virgin olive oil, but at least for me, this was the first time I had the chance to compare about 40 different styles and type side by side. What a great experience.

If you have not tasted real extra virgin olive, you are in for both a delight and a shock. Real extra virgin olive oil is much more complex than that wimpy import stuff of dubious- origin-quality-and-handling and that comes-in-a-can at your local grocery store.

Your first impression will be that quality extra virgin olive oil has flavor! Depending upon the variety and blending, aromas range from fruity to overtones of fresh cut grass. The most mellow variety is the Mission Style, made predominately with Mission Olives. The most intense are the Italian Styles, especially the Tuscan style where the olives are picked still slightly green. This style developed in Tuscany because of the danger of frost at olive harvest time. Getting fully ripened fruit is not an option in that climate. Now it is a style all of its own.

The second sensation you will experience is the "cough." Fresh, real extra virgin olive oil has a healthy complement of phenols -the part of the olive oil that gives it its health properties. When you taste the oil, there should be slowly developing warm sensation in your throat. The best oils high in phenols will be very intense -we say a two cough oil.

One thing I found interesting was the approach of the judges. The professional judges, with a lot tasting experience, judged the oils strictly relative to the standard. The culinary people on the other hand also considered the "possibilities" of the oil. By this I mean, two oils that would objectively be at the same level by olive tasters may differ a bit by a little different aroma or taste. We may have scored them the same, but there were a couple that triggered some inspiration that we wanted to try in a new recipes idea and we wanted more!

The Central Coast Olive Growers produce extraordinary oils. Despite the relatively small number of producers, they dominate the olive oil competitions. You too will find that you have a couple of favorites that you will want more! But the only way to find out which ones, you have to do some olive oil tasting. Many local events --the biggest the Paso Robles Olive Festival, feature olive oil tasting. A number of local producers also have on site olive oil tasting available. You can find a list of the Central Coast Olive Growers here www.theromantictable.com/ccoga_list.php

One final but important point. Olive oil has a finite shelf life depending upon the variety, of one to two years maximum. If you have extra virgin olive oil -USE IT! Don't worry, the Central Coast Olive Growers will make more.

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A tip from Sue!

Frying fish is not hard

Frying fish is not hard. The trick is to evenly coat the fish and allow the coating to set and dry a bit before frying. The purpose of the coating is to keep moisture in NOT absorb oil! To minimize oil absorption fry at a temperature between 350F and 400F max