Olive oil maven-share tips

Dawn Foster imports these fine olive oils form Chile I love good olive oil; just a touch can elevate a simple dish such as a soup or salad from good to sublime. It makes vinaigrette special, and just a little can finish a sauce to perfection. Used sparingly, at 110 calories a tablespoon, it is a healthful way to add a lot of flavour.

 
Fine wines from Chile are now a favourite of many connoisseurs, and now Chilean olive oil is getting accolades from both chefs and foodies. I recently tried award-winning Las Doscientas single varietals extra virgin olive oil from Chile and was very impressed.
 
I sampled Las Doscientas Arbequina. It stood up well to the delicious olive oils that I have tasted from California. The flavour is rich and almost buttery. I used it in vinaigrette for this week’s recipe for white asparagus salad. The buttery oil shows off the earthy taste of the Asparagus and the fresh citrus in dressing. I also added a small amount of the oil to a fiery red seafood pasta sauce to give it depth and richness.
 
According to Dawn Foster, “Las Doscientas” means "the 200" in Spanish.  It represents the 200 plots of farmland that were joined together to make the current Las Doscientas estate in the MauleValley in Chile.  The olives are estate-grown, handpicked, and then, for maximum freshness, first cold pressed literally within minutes of harvest. "Just as the various grape types determine a wine,” she says, “the characteristics of different olives create vastly different styles of oil, each with distinct flavors and ideal uses.”
 
Foster imports Las Doscientas extra virgin olive oil from Chile. She imports two different types of olives or varietals Arbequina, which Dawn characterized as “fruity and smooth and perfect for salads, vegetables, poultry, and fish”.  She also imports Picual, which she describes as “intense and peppery and best used for roasted meats and stews.”
 
Here is a crash course on tasting and buying fine olive oil from Dawn Foster, of Foster Fine Foods:
·        Pack your passport: Many people hear extra virgin olive oil and think instantly of Italy.  But there are other countries, such as Spain, Greece, and most recently Chile, which are also producing high-quality and very interesting olive oils, some of which are new to the U.S.  Expand your horizons.  You might even organize a multi-national olive oil tasting one night for your friends! 
·        Ask Their Age: Check the date of bottling, or “use by” date.  Unlike wines, olive oils do not improve with age.  Olive oils are generally good for two years after bottling.
·        Insist on the Real Thing: Many olive oils on the shelf today are not — frankly – authentic, not really extra virgin, or not even all olive! Look for brands and retailers you trust.
·        Pay Up: Unfortunately, but understandably, the best indicator of real extra virgin olive oil is price.  Expect to pay at least $15 to $20 — up to even $40 — for some Italian oils, for a 500 ml bottle to really get 100% extra virgin olive oil. 
·        Bypass the Bread – at least at first: To truly taste oil, try pouring about an ounce in a glass, covering it with one hand to warm and bring out the aromas, and then swirling, uncovering, and sniffing. 
·        Your Nose Knows: What do you smell?  Is the oil fruity?  Does its aroma perhaps remind you of raw almonds, or fresh green apples, or tomatoes?  Or perhaps something more intense, such as freshly-cut herbs or grass, or a really earthy artichoke.  There’s no right answer here. Have some fun with this!
·        Before You Swallow: When tasting fine olive oils, just as with wine, don’t simply swallow.  Go slowly — swirl it around your mouth a bit and hold it.  This will allow you to fully sense all of its aspects, including the sweet, the salty, the acidic, and the bitter.
·        Slurp. Seriously!  With the oil still in your mouth, breathe in sharply to blend some air in with the oil.  The oxygen will bring out the more subtle tastes of the oil. 
·        Time to Taste.  Now pay attention. What do you taste? Is your oil smooth and light, perhaps fruity or buttery or even nutty? Or is it really peppery and sharp, almost shockingly so?  If the latter, don’t be alarmed.  Some of the finest olive oils are extremely strong and peppery.  An acquired taste, perhaps – but worth it, the closest you will ever come to biting into an olive.  Or you may simply prefer lighter oil.
·        Get Cooking.  Now that you’ve truly tasted your oil, break out the bread – and, while you’re at it, your pots and pans too. Light oils (like white wines) work well with salads, vegetables, and poultry and fish.  Stronger, more peppery oils are great with roasted meats, fried potatoes, and stews.  Experiment! 
·        Enjoy!  Now go ahead and impress your friends with your new olive oil knowledge, and perhaps some delicious new gourmet finds.
 
For more information, or to find the oils, go to    www.fosterfinefoods.com
 
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