Published on December 16th, 2010 | by Zoe0
EVOO — California Oil at Its Fruitiest
I was rather surprised to find out that olive oil has an expiration date. For most olive oil, it is recommended as best consumed within a year for ideal freshness. Apparently olive oil, like most all foods, become stale after too long. Of course, if you're cooking with the olive oil, freshness matters much less, but for dipping and as a condiment, you'll be amazed at the difference a month or two can make. Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is labeled as such for having a lower acidity. As the oil ages, it becomes more acidic, losing flavor and aroma. At it's best, olive oil is actually essentially olive juice, and we been trying out several varieties in a wide range of dishes, hot and cold, as dressings and even in baked goods.
California Olive Ranch produces an already great everyday extra virgin olive oil (also called "EVOO", which I didn't know until recently). It's pungent, smooth and works just fine as a dipping oil. However, they have several other varietals that take it a step above, and even offer some tasting notes and pairing suggestions.
Their extra virgin Arbequina olive oil was simply fantastic, made from smaller olives of the same name. It's very fruity and is great as a dipping oil with a bit of salt, or just added onto food after it's cooked for a bit of flavor. The California Olive Ranch suggests it as a good oil for meats and as an ingredient to pesto.
The Miller's blend worked very well as a dipping oil, though it was slightly milder than the Arbequina. We started cooking more regularly with this as a high-quality cooking oil, and somehow it was better than the Arbequina in that regard.
California Olive Ranch also has a blend exclusively produced from California groves, called their Everyday California. Considering about 95% of olive groves are located in the Mediterranean, that perhaps makes it a rare commodity in the world. More information and a wonderfully helpful guide with recommendations of pairings can be found on the California Olive Ranch site. It's a little less expensive than the others at $10.49 for a 500ml, while the others are about $14. Available in select stores, especially local specialty groceries, and also directly from their website.
Lucero has a wide variety of oils on offer and tries to cater to individual tastes, and even provides a sampler set for those who simply can't choose (featuring 7 oils and 5 vinegars). They also produced what was the most interesting of the olive oils we tried, which was unfiltered, fresh, and best consumed within four months of harvest- the Novello has a very raw taste. It wasn't fruity or fragrant; the overwhelming flavor was almost grassy in nature. It was incredibly distinctive, but it was hard finding the proper venue for this oil, as it didn't serve as a particularly wonderful dipping oil. I found it work best with a fish that I baked where I drizzled some olive oil on top of it before and after. It would work well when something needs to be marinated or sauced as it tasted best warm.
Besides the very distinctive Novello, Lucero produces several high-quality blends. Anthony's Blend was my favorite of the extra virgin cold pressed olive oils from Lucero, and right behind it I would put the Ascolano and the Manzanillo. Tasters were mixed on the Mission, which was neither distinctive nor flavorful. Lucero also had an Arbequina, which tasted somehow sweet to me, but definitely had that arbequina potency I tasted in California Olive Ranch's.
Lucero also has two citrus varieties, including one lemon variety and one mandarin orange variety. The flavor of the lemon dissipates slightly when cooked, but the mandarin stays quite strong. I found it to be difficult to add to cooking, but great as an interesting olive oil to combine with vinegar for dressing. But beware, the orange is quite potent. I found dressings were best with a teaspoon of orange and a teaspoon of another oil to smooth it out a bit.
And speaking of dressing, Lucero also produces several interesting vinegars to accompany your olive oil- we couldn't resist. The red apple balsamic was perhaps my favorite, but the cherry also had quite a kick. The fig was a bit sweet for my tastes, as was the blueberry, but both were rounded out well when mixed in as a dressing. The peach was not at all my thing as it tasted too real, so the vinegar taste gave it a slightly rotten peach smell. All are available on their website, and range in price from the $60 sampler to individual 500 ML bottles for $12-$24 each.