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A little less than a happy high
And it has a story.
At some point I came to the conclusion that butter and onions were the olive oil and garlic of French cuisine. Actually, conclusion may be the wrong term because really, the idea was more a flawed and overly broad generalization used as a shorthand for the kind of flavor profile I wanted. That said, even though I don't rely a whole lot on the Sicilian-American fare that made up some of my earliest formal kitchen experiences, I use a lot of olive oil. A lot.1

Several years ago, I found myself in a Whole Foods and in the market for a new bottle of olive oil. Staring at the shelves, my eye kept coming back to a this one glorious wax-sealed stoneware bottle with subdued print declaring that it was A L'Olivier, produced in France since 1822. Not one to turn my nose up at nigh-on two centuries of continuous production, I reached for the bottle and didn't really care what the price was. I was certain it would be great.

"You're not seriously buying that are you?" asked my SO-at-the-time. "It's $27.00."

I looked down in the basket to confirm that yes, the price was $27.00. I hesitated, but then responded, "It is spendy, but I don't have a problem with spending that for a half liter of good oil."

She rolled her eyes at me. "You have no idea if it's good oil, though. You're just a sucker for packaging."

"That might be the case,2 but I want to give it a try."

She reached for a bottle that has since cemented itself in my memory as Rachel Ray's EVOO, but was probably something far less problematic. "This will be just as good."

Now, just so you understand, I have a thing about shopping, especially when I'm shopping for something for me. I spent so much time having choices questioned by my mom when I was growing up that I already run a whole series of second guessing and guilt protocols any time I try to make a purchase.3 Add an external voice embodying the dialogue already running in my head and I completely shut down. The result? I put the bottle back on the shelf, and settled on something much less exciting. I didn't stop thinking about it, and it became one of those watershed moments where I knew I had made the wrong decision. The worst thing was that in spite of it, I couldn't bring myself to buy it. For years.

Faux heard this story, and recently brought some home. Having used it a couple of times, I have two things to say... First, it's probably not ideal for cooking since heat takes away from some of the subtleties of the oil. That said? There are plenty of subtleties to the oil. It is fruity, distinctly aromatic, and sports a cool, clean flavor that doesn't linger overlong. Frankly, it's some of the best olive oil I've had.


1I blame Provence.
2In all seriousness, it was beautiful. Practical, too. Stoneware will naturally protect the oil from light and heat, and the seal will keep it from oxidizing.
3This has, incidentally, affected my ability to get a replacement camera.
8 comments or Leave a comment
faux_eonix From: faux_eonix Date: July 26th, 2008 04:23 am (UTC) (Link)
Admit it, I kinda rule.
gatz From: gatz Date: July 27th, 2008 12:22 am (UTC) (Link)


This may be true, but ALL HAIL PRETTY PACKAGING!!

I still can't believe I turned this down the last time I was at Newbury. O, if I see it again...
schizohedron From: schizohedron Date: August 1st, 2008 06:38 pm (UTC) (Link)

It burns us, precious!

I find extra-virgin olive oil is the only food that gives me heartburn. However, I suspect this may be because I've only ever had very cheap product (e.g., Bertolli or similar). Would you imagine that purchasing a higher quality oil might eliminate this? I'd prefer to use this for all "cold" oil use ("cold" only in the sense that I do little sauteeing, but would probably use the basic Bertolli stuff were I to do so), as I've heard the earlier pressings have the most healthful fats.
komos From: komos Date: August 1st, 2008 07:43 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: It burns us, precious!

I don't really know, honestly, and it may depend on what it is in the oil that's setting you off. While olive oil was traditionally used as a remedy for stomach ulcers (amongst other things), I know from my own experience with GERD that fats themselves can be a trigger. Since it's just the olive oil, however, it's probably something else.

Outside of an intolerance/allergy to olives, the biggest potential culprits are the peroxides that form as the oil is exposed to light, heat, and air. The peroxides can give the oil an off taste, and if there are enough present, the oil will go rancid. They are present in all oils, but because early pressings will have less initial exposure, and because artisanal oils will (generally) have more care put into their production, better oils should have fewer... assuming proper storage.

Again, though, I don't know if that really is the problem. What I can say is that a better oil will give better flavor, which might make any resulting heartburn more worthwhile.
schizohedron From: schizohedron Date: August 1st, 2008 08:15 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: It burns us, precious!

Thanks for the insight! There's no real telling how long the Bertolli's been sitting on the shelf before I get to it (tho' the regular stuff is usually intact, perhaps due to higher turnover), and combined with the carelessness they're stored and displayed at the local supermarkets, I could've gotten a couple of bum bottles. As for fats, fortunately that's the only one to give me any grief, including the later pressings of olive oil, and I've not run into any trouble with olives. So that helps to narrow it down to specific extra-virgin oils and my own storage practices.

I need to keep an eye out for an oil tasting somewhere around me! Also, perhaps, to dig through Mom's stash of Cooks Illustrated issues for some info on the extra-virgin oil.
schizohedron From: schizohedron Date: August 1st, 2008 06:46 pm (UTC) (Link)

On the camera count. . .

A blogger I read who collaborates with a pro photographer just bought the Canon PowerShot SD1100 as his new point-n-shoot. My guess is the pro would've steered the blogger to another choice had there been one at his desired level of picture need and camera utility. So that's one opinion.

I personally have the 750SD. Still need to get all my Vegas pics up, but you can hit up Flickr for three faux-Paris shots I took with it. Good so far; might've gone with the 1100 for the image stabilization, esp. for shots close to the lens. Still, not bad for ~$160.
komos From: komos Date: August 1st, 2008 07:53 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: On the camera count. . .

I actually really like that line, though I understand that they have some depth of field issues. Still, it's not a huge limitation, and I did buy a SD630 for someone a little while back.

I think what it comes to is that I need to bite the bullet and get a digital SLR and then a point & shoot I can sling easily in a pocket or bag for when the mood strikes and I'm not hauling gear.

Better still, I should just stop making excuses.
schizohedron From: schizohedron Date: August 2nd, 2008 12:11 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: On the camera count. . .

Your SLR/point & shoot combo sounds solid.

When I queried my gang about their own cameras (I was just about the last to get one, largely b/c I was overwhelmed w/ options), someone sent me a stunning pic from a Canon A620. It was about twice my price limit, but had I my Bush check in hand, it would've been tempting. I figured if I wanted to school myself seriously in digital photography, I could always upgrade and sell the previous one.
8 comments or Leave a comment