I’m finally writing a real entry into my new food blog – only 2 weeks after setting it up. Given my teen/tween-filled life, I consider this timely and a success.
So my first question to throw out to the blog-reading foodie public is about olive oil. Is it “PC” to spend lots of money on shipping to enjoy the flavor of really fantastic olive oil from Italy? Or am I letting my country down by ordering olive oil from Italy when there is lots of great olive oil produced in this country, especially right in my “back yard” in California?
Some background: In the summer of 08 my family (husband and two children 13 and 10) travelled to Europe, with the last leg of the trip in Italy. On one fabulous day in the Umbria region (thanks to Anne Robichaud of Anne’s Italy; www.annesitaly.com), we spent the afternoon at an “enoteca” (local wine shop in Italy) tasting fabulous wine, olive oil, and various food delicacies such as white and black truffles (in abundance) and lardo (a fatty but fantastic cured pork delicacy). Part of the tasting included sampling various olive oils served on warm country bread with just a hint of salt. We tasted 3 olive oils, each one better than the last. The final oil is the one we fell in love with – the buttery richness against the warmed Umbrian bread was, we thought, like nothing we had experienced before. It tasted so much like butter that we asked if there was butter on the bread. But there wasn’t, it was just part of the flavor of that particular oil. Our whole family thought it was OMG Yummy! – my husband, myself, and both of my kids (who happen to enjoy food that you would expect to be of absolutely no interest to them at their ages).
As if that wasn’t enough, the rare white truffles followed and then were almost outshone by the lardo (available only once a year) topped with shavings of black truffles. We were drunk enough from the food, but to embellish that feeling, Roberto was pouring several locally-produced delectable and rare red wines; one after the other. Roberto described one of the wine’s color as black; it was so deep and rich in color. It was a small-production Montelpulciano called Kurni. We also tasted the Tili pictured above – some of which, along with the Kurni, is still in our wine refrigerator waiting to be shared with family and friends.
Besides the fabulous food, wine, and olive oils, Roberto, the proprietor, treated us as though we were part of his extended family, including a visit from Roberto’s brother to serenade us. The afternoon was the essence of what you expect to experience in Italy and the reason most people return so many times to that country after their first visit.
So rather than bringing back a fine piece of art as a memento of our trip, we bought wine and olive oil. The exchange rate was at an all time high so the prices in US dollars for the wine, olive oil, and shipping were crazy. But we haven’t regretted the investment even once.
Every bottle of wine we brought back has been enjoyed with friends and family and we are still anticipating several more bottles aging for future enjoyment. We have used almost every drop of the 6 liters of olive oil we bought. We gave some to friends as gifts but mostly we used it ourselves to simply enjoy on toasted bread or any other of the myriad foods we eat that are enhanced by the fabulous and unique flavor of a great olive oil.
I’ve emailed the proprietor of the enoteca to inquire about ordering more of the organically produced oil we purchased the first time. He wrote back saying that there was a new batch of it available along with an oil that the great French chef Alain Ducasse uses and he recommends we try that as well. The price per liter of the oils is comparable, perhaps less, than many I have found in this country. But with the shipping, the price is increased by 45% per bottle for quantity 6 and 33% per bottle for quantity 12. So being the frugal person that I am, I am having a hard time pulling the trigger and ordering the oil. Is it worth it to me for the flavor and memories it brings to mind every time I use it? Or should my foodie frugality steer me to find something comparable made in the US that is more easily and cheaply acquired as needed?
Hope to hear opinions and feedback and will let you all know whether my memories and taste buds win out over my logic and beer pockets.
(Photos courtesy of Douglas Lee)