Olive Oil Tasting Party

Posted by Olivia on Monday, December 7th, 2009

Since I began working for The Olive Press, my eyes have been opened to the thrilling gastronomical world of really good extra-virgin olive oil. I had no idea of the extent of styles and varietals of extra virgin olive oil, nor was I aware of just how good it can make the simplest of foods taste. So I decided it was simply wrong for me to keep this information to myself. I had to expose the people I love to the amazingness, so I did what I always do when I want to share something with my friends—I threw a party.

A group of my friends came over, bottles of wine in hand, not quite sure what to expect. They knew there'd be extra virgin olive oil involved but they had little other information. Dana poured the wine and everyone settled on couches or chairs around my coffee table. I'd set out fruit, cheeses and breads for preliminary snacking. {media2}  Also on the table was a platter of baguette slices spread with soft goat cheese and Tuscan Olive Tapenade, which made for a beautiful, impressive, yet deceptively simple-to-make appetizer.

We began with The Olive Press' delicate extra-virgin olive oils,  taking turns reading the descriptions of the different types of olive oil, as we dipped chunks of crusty sourdough bread from Acme in little cups of oil, the more daring of us actually sipping olive oil right from the cups, as is customary in traditional olive oil tasting. "Mmm, it's buttery and fruity at the same time," said Rachel about the Koroneiki as she swirled her bread in it.

"I never thought I would like something so grassy," said Dana, as he rolled the Sevillano around in his mouth. "But this is really good."

On to the medium-intensity olive oils. Mission EVOO was probably the biggest hit. Everyone reached for the its little ramekin for second, third, even fourth dips and sips. Also popular was fruity, peppery Ascolano—one of my favorites for baking with.

When it was time to taste my personal favorite category, robust EVOO, I warned everyone that robust isn't for everyone—sometimes those of us accustomed to mellow, mass-produced olive oil find robust olive oil to be too strong—harsh even. They rolled their eyes at me and told me to pass the bread out so they could taste. "This would be really good drizzled on soup," said Ryan about the Sonoma Valley Blend.

I saved my current obsession, olio nuovo for last. Olio Nuovo, which literally means "new oil" is the freshest oil available at The Olive Press (which means it's pretty darn fresh). The bottle I had had been pressed about a week prior and was rich and fragrant, "like fresh wheat grass," said Rachel. "I know it probably has a million great uses," I told the group, "but honestly, I like it so much that I think it's best just sipped or drizzled on bread or greens."

We ended the tasting with warm slices of freshly-baked Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Pound Cake with Blueberries—not too sweet, the lemony olive oil and blueberries complementing one another perfectly. My friends left with foil-wrapped pieces of cake to eat for breakfast and a little new knowledge about the exciting world of extra virgin olive oil. I have a feeling that there will be many more tasting parties to come.


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