olive oil

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Once again the ICC hosted the NY International Olive Oil competition. In my opening remarks, I observed that after last year’s conference I felt ashamed. Ashamed I knew so little about an ingredient that I am so in love with, passionate about and spend a fortune on. As an educator I feel I need to be part of the solution to change the common ignorance about tasting an exquisite olive oil. The statistics are a bit startling. Only .2 of 1% of olive oil is extra virgin. It is mostly made by artisans who harvest by hand, crush and bottle. In the villages where this is done the oil already needs to sell for 8 Euros a bottle. By the time it crosses the Atlantic, properly handled and put on a grocery shelf, the price is at least $20!

L: Curtis Cord, President-NYIOOC; Steve Jenkins-Fairway; Liz Tagami, President-Tagami International; Photos: NYIOCC

John Akeson, Deoleo; attendees; Photos: NYIOOC

And no two oils are alike. Similar to wine. The difference between a mediocre and a great olive oil is night and day. The flavor profile, the slight peppery burn, the mellowness allows a personality that is not afforded to many products. Freshness is so key that some people argue that you should only eat Northern hemisphere oil in the summer (since it is harvested and ground in December) or the Southern hemisphere in the winter (for the obvious correlation).

Photos: NYIOOC


Photos: NYIOOC

Have you taken your olive oil as seriously as your wine? You should. The education is similar. I say to people who want to study wine that the best teacher is pulling corks, and think about the wine as you drink it. The same holds true for the olive oil taster. Unscrew those tops! Buy the expensive bottles. Don’t cook with them but drizzle the liquid gold on bread, raw vegetables, grilled fish and vegetables and be ready to smile. Fat is what gives you the feeling of satisfaction in your mouth. Nothing does that better than olive oil. It is the nectar of the gods. Greeks and Romans obviously had refined palates!

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Judging olive oil

Last month in conjunction with The Olive Oil Times and Fairway Markets, The New York International Olive Oil Competition was held at The International Culinary Center. Over 800 oils worldwide were submitted. The judges came from Chile, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Japan, Spain,Turkey, Tunisia and the United States, with the ultimate olive oil maestro, Italy’s Dr. Gino Celletti, Chairman of the Monocultivar Olive Oil Council, presiding. Some astounding statistics were:

  1. Over 50% of the oils were tainted and thus disqualified.
  2. Over 25%  were not virgin olive oil!
  3. The US is now the third largest consumer of olive oil in the world, after Italy and Spain.

Some other points and details regarding the competition:

653 samples from around the world, 75 from the Southern Hemisphere

261 medals conferred- 16 Best of Class, 146 Gold, 99 Silver

Our panel had to eliminate 379 defective oils which in majority had muddy sediment and were rancid.

You can find the winners here. They are truly artisan and worth it. And I am proud to say that 33 American olive oils won medals.  You can find them at Fairway (if available).

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