Friday, October 04, 2013

California Olive Oil Council

Because Mr Minx and I had registered for the Natural Foods Expo, we were invited to attend a dinner at Woodberry Kitchen sponsored by the California Olive Oil Council. The California Olive Oil Council (COOC) is a non-profit marketing and trade association that promotes the consumption of California extra virgin olive oil. They represent 90% of all olive oil production in California. Because their standards are pretty strict, you can be assured that any extra virgin olive oil bearing a COOC seal is top-notch stuff that passed various chemical analysis standards and was taste-tested by the organization's taste panel.

There was a tasting of eight olive oils before dinner, but we only got to sample half of them, because you know how people like to stand in front of things and chat and generally get in the way. Rather than fight them, we got glasses of wine and walked away, figuring there would be plenty more oil to taste during dinner.

I like a good, peppery olive oil with a fairly strong green fruit flavor and moderate bitterness. The oils we did try on their own were very mild to my palate, and I think that made them perfect for cooking, as opposed to raw applications. We did start off the meal with an arugula salad though, topped with a lovely ricotta-like goat's cheese and pecans, and a creamy dressing containing olive oil from the producer Bari.

Roasted fall vegetables (Bari)
One of my favorite dishes was the bowl of glorious roasted fall vegetables, brought to the table family style (as were the remaining savory dishes). There were at least three colors of carrot in there, eggplant and squash, all bathed in more of the Bari olive oil. I love me some roasted carrots, and these were delicious. I just wish they had been peeled....

House-made linguine, garlic & herbs, Eve's Dream, cherry tomatoes
bread crumbs (Calivirgin)
Another fine dish was the tender linguine, served with a simple sauce of Calivirgin olive oil, garlic, and herbs. One of the other diners at our table determined that the pasta would be better without the garlic, so she ordered another dish to be prepared that way. And what do you know - she was absolutely right. Without the pungent garlic, the flavors of the olive oil and the cherry tomatoes and bits of other vegetables were more evident.

Slow-cooked swordfish, Anson Mills rice, kale,
summer garlic (Pasolivo)
We also ate a lovely tender swordfish with a soupy rice and vegetable combination. The garlic wasn't as evident in this dish as in the pasta dish, so all of the flavors were able to sing. This one was prepared with an oil from producer Pasolivo, who also produces oils flavored with citrus.

Oven-roasted chicken, braised chard, carrots
Enzo green sauce
The final savory dish was a perfectly roasted chicken flavored with rosemary, with more of those terrific carrots, and a green sauce made with certified organic Enzo olive oil.

Ascolano cake, highland bitters, fig conserve,
fig-peach ice cream
There was also an olive oil dessert featuring a cakelet made with Ascolano olive oil from the producer Lucero. With its almost tropical fruitiness, this oil worked beautifully without making the cake taste like, well, olive oil. The fig conserve, made in house of course, was delicious, but the flavors in the ice cream were too mild to discern, perhaps because the bitters in the whipped cream were too strong.

Overall, the meal was a nice introduction to California olive oils. To be honest, we tend to buy oils we can afford, regardless of the region in which they were produced, and regardless of flavor. Hey - they don't offer olive oil tastings at the Giant. But when we're in the market for a high quality oil, we will certainly look toward the olive oils of California, and I'll be keeping an eye out for their quality seal.

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats.

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