Papa explains his passion.

Discussion in 'Pairing Food and Wine' started by papa, Mar 26, 2001.

  1. papa

    papa

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    Dear CoolJ:

    Your comment about olive oil in the "Good Wines for $10-$12" subjest made me realize that I need to explain my passion for this gift of nature.

    Each one of my olive oils has a distinct personality. I usually recommend to clients that they select a certain olive oil according to the particular use to which they will put it (such as used raw or in cooking) and also according to the richness, flavors and textures of the foods which will be enriched by the olive oil. Some recipes require an extra virgin olive oil from a variety that has a higher smoking level, some others require one that is fruitier or more spicy. Here is the story of how I discovered ROMEU, one of my most beloved extra virgin olive oils. I think that it is going to give you a good insight into olive oil selection and my passion.

    A year ago I received a sample bottle of certified organic, extra virgin olive oil from the Casa Meneres in the area of Tras-os-Montes in Portugal. I had been importing wonderful olive oils for quite some time, and during my career I have tasted hundreds of samples from producers all over the world.

    My interest in contacting a Portuguese olive oil producer to request a sample of his oil was inspired by a description of the Tras-os-Montes olive oils that I had read in the newly published "Olive Oil, A Gourmet Guide" by Olivier Baussan and Jacques Chibois. In the section of their book entitled "The World's Finest Olive Oils", the writers describe the organoleptic characteristics of the Tras-os-Montes olive oil as "Yellow with green highlights. Aromas which range from almond and sugar to the bitter and spicy. Very low acidity. Balanced and sweet. Reminiscent of fresh fruit." I was a little skeptical because the writers had put so much emphasis on the color of the olive oil. All olive oil tasters know that the color of an olive oil has absolutely nothing to do with its quality and according to the International Olive Oil Council evaluation guidelines, dark glasses should be used in olive oil tastings and evaluations in order to avoid any influence of the judges’ opinion by the olive oil's color.

    I was born and spent the first twenty five years of my life in Greece. My parents kept a small olive grove on the island of Salamis, which was our source of table olives and olive oil. My taste was sculpted to appreciate dense, deep, fiery and fruity olive oils. I had also developed a taste for delicate Italian olive oils, but nothing had prepared me for the sensation that accompanied the experience of tasting that bottle of ROMEU olive oil that arrived one afternoon in our laboratory, as my wife and I refer to our kitchen.

    I faithfully adhered to all of the teachings of the International Olive Oil Council concerning the recommended manner of tasting and evaluating olive oils. As I opened the bottle and poured a sample in a warm glass which I then covered with my hand to trap any aroma, the distinctive bouquet and fragrance of ROMEU should have been an indication of what was to come. I put my lips to the glass; the buttery smooth oil glided slowly into my mouth and began to fill my senses with delight ... a sensation of almond and herbs on the palate, a burning sensation that was very deep in my throat and an overwhelming sense of a bouquet of flowers and fruits that returned from my stomach to fill my palate. My wife looked at me with surprise. My face revealed an expression of absolute bliss. I had finally found my favorite olive oil. I described my sensation of the tasting to her and she was eager to try it, too. After tasting it, she admitted that she had to agree with me. I got on the phone immediately to my friend and Canadian client to share the good news of my discovery. He immediately expressed an interest in trying ROMEU. So did another ten of my clients whom I contacted that afternoon. That bottle of olive oil must have been the most traveled bottle in the world as people kept trying the oil and mailing it to one another. I felt like the sailor who writes a letter describing his dreams and aspirations and encloses the letter in a bottle before he throws it with high hopes into the sea. That bottle was carrying my reputation and credibility that I had worked so hard to build during all of the time that I had been in the olive oil business. The excited feedback began to arrive. Everybody loved my new discovery.

    So, in ROMEU I had found one of the best olive oils that I had ever tasted. For someone who is as passionate about olive oil as I am, this is comparable to finding the girl with whom you want to spend the rest of your life. But this is also when my personal tragedy began. Greeks are as proud of their olive oil as they are of their history. When I announced to a group of Greek friends that my favorite olive oil was from Portugal, they responded with surprise and some anger at my apparent betrayal. That was a very serious statement and a challenge to our heritage as well as to our own cultural fiber. I had to work hard to convince them to try my new discovery. After they tasted ROMEU, they all agreed that we can remain friends as long as I never tell anyone in our Greek community which olive oil they now use for many of their culinary creations.

    I hope that this gives you an insight into my passion.

    :)
     
  2. layjo

    layjo

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    I can understand you passion most definately! Thanks for the great explanation Papa. I have grown to enjoy the different charecteristics of an olive oil wheather it be fruitiness or the spiciness it offers. I enjoy more, a fruity flavored olive oil though, sofar! But I would like to do some more exploring. Look forward to visiting your site more often!
     
  3. elakin

    elakin

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    hi papa

    thanks for the great insight.... very inspirational when someone is so passionate.

    can you recommend any high-quality italian olive oils i could look for?
     
  4. papa

    papa

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    Dear Elakin:

    I would like to thank you as well as everybody else for your nice comments.

    Choosing an olive oil for a dish is such a personal affair! It is personal not only in relation to the taste preference of the cook but also to the dish that the cook is preparing. (For more on this subject please check out my previous posting under the heading "How many olive oils do we need, anyway?)

    On the other hand, I could give you some general ideas about my preferences. I love olive oils from (listed in line of preference for each country):

    GREECE:
    1. Mani (Southeastern Highlands of Peloponese),
    2. Kolymbari (Western Highlands of Crete),
    3. Kalamata (Southwestern Lowlands of Peloponese)
    4. Lesvos (Aegean island)

    ITALY:
    1. Tuscany
    2. Apulia (The Highlands only)
    3. Sardinia (Mediterranean island)

    FRANCE:
    1. Southern Alps of Haute Provence

    SPAIN:
    1. Andalusia (The Highlands of Jaen)

    PORTUGAL:
    1. Tras-os-Montes (The Highlands of northeastern Portugal)

    This is a list indicative of personal preferences. There are a lot of good olive oils that do not come from any of the regions that I mentioned above. Northern Africa and the Middle East for example. Once again I refer you to my previous posting for a complete answer.

    I hope this is of assistance.