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Published on December 16th, 2010 | by Zoe

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EVOO — California Oil at Its Fruitiest

I was rather sur­prised to find out that olive oil has an ex­pi­ra­tion date. For most olive oil, it is rec­om­mend­ed as best con­sumed with­in a year for ide­al fresh­ness. Ap­par­ent­ly olive oil, like most all foods, be­come stale af­ter too long. Of course, if you’re cook­ing with the olive oil, fresh­ness mat­ters much less, but for dip­ping and as a condi­ment, you’ll be amazed at the dif­fer­ence a month or two can make. Ex­tra vir­gin olive oil (EVOO) is la­beled as such for hav­ing a low­er acid­i­ty. As the oil ages, it be­comes more acidic, los­ing fla­vor and aro­ma. At it’s best, olive oil is ac­tu­al­ly es­sen­tial­ly olive juice, and we been try­ing out sev­er­al va­ri­eties in a wide range of dish­es, hot and cold, as dress­ings and even in baked goods.

“Cal­i­for­nia Olive Ranch”:http://www.californiaoliveranch.com/products/default.aspx pro­duces an al­ready great ev­ery­day ex­tra vir­gin olive oil (al­so called “EVOO”, which I didn’t know un­til re­cent­ly). It’s pun­gent, smooth and works just fine as a dip­ping oil. How­ev­er, they have sev­er­al oth­er va­ri­etals that take it a step above, and even of­fer some tast­ing notes and pair­ing sug­ges­tions.

Their ex­tra vir­gin Ar­be­quina olive oil was sim­ply fan­tas­tic, made from small­er olives of the same name. It’s very fruity and is great as a dip­ping oil with a bit of salt, or just added on­to food af­ter it’s cooked for a bit of fla­vor. The Cal­i­for­nia Olive Ranch sug­gests it as a good oil for meats and as an in­gre­di­ent to pesto.

The Miller’s blend worked very well as a dip­ping oil, though it was slight­ly milder than the Ar­be­quina. We start­ed cook­ing more reg­u­lar­ly with this as a high-qual­i­ty cook­ing oil, and some­how it was bet­ter than the Ar­be­quina in that re­gard.

Cal­i­for­nia Olive Ranch al­so has a blend ex­clu­sive­ly pro­duced from Cal­i­for­nia groves, called their  Ev­ery­day Cal­i­for­nia. Con­sid­er­ing about 95% of olive groves are lo­cat­ed in the Mediter­ranean, that per­haps makes it a rare com­mod­i­ty in the world. More in­for­ma­tion and a won­der­ful­ly help­ful guide with rec­om­men­da­tions of pair­ings can be found on the “Cal­i­for­nia Olive Ranch site”:http://californiaoliveranch.com/products/consumers.aspx#Arbosana. It’s a lit­tle less ex­pen­sive than the oth­ers at $10.49 for a 500ml, while the oth­ers are about $14. Avail­able in se­lect stores, es­pe­cial­ly lo­cal spe­cial­ty gro­ceries, and al­so di­rect­ly from their web­site.

“Lucero”:http://lucerooliveoil.com/index.php/products has a wide va­ri­ety of oils on of­fer and tries to cater to in­di­vid­u­al tastes, and even pro­vides a sam­pler set for those who sim­ply can’t choose (fea­tur­ing 7 oils and 5 vine­gars). They al­so pro­duced what was the most in­ter­est­ing of the olive oils we tried, which was un­fil­tered, fresh, and best con­sumed with­in four months of har­vest- the Nov­el­lo has a very raw taste. It wasn’t fruity or fra­grant; the over­whelm­ing fla­vor was al­most grassy in na­ture. It was in­cred­i­bly dis­tinc­tive, but it was hard find­ing the prop­er venue for this oil, as it didn’t serve as a par­tic­u­lar­ly won­der­ful dip­ping oil. I found it work best with a fish that I baked where I driz­zled some olive oil on top of it be­fore and af­ter. It would work well when some­thing needs to be mar­i­nat­ed or sauced as it tast­ed best warm.

Be­sides the very dis­tinc­tive Nov­el­lo, Lucero pro­duces sev­er­al high-qual­i­ty blends. An­tho­ny’s Blend was my fa­vorite of the ex­tra vir­gin cold pressed olive oils from Lucero, and right be­hind it I would put the As­colano and the Man­zanil­lo. Tasters were mixed on the Mis­sion, which was nei­ther dis­tinc­tive nor fla­vor­ful. Lucero al­so had an Ar­be­quina, which tast­ed some­how sweet to me, but def­i­nite­ly had that ar­be­quina po­ten­cy I tast­ed in Cal­i­for­nia Olive Ranch’s.

Lucero al­so has two cit­rus va­ri­eties, in­clud­ing one lemon va­ri­ety and one man­darin or­ange va­ri­ety. The fla­vor of the lemon dis­si­pates slight­ly when cooked, but the man­darin stays quite strong. I found it to be dif­fi­cult to add to cook­ing, but great as an in­ter­est­ing olive oil to com­bine with vine­gar for dress­ing. But be­ware, the or­ange is quite po­tent. I found dress­ings were best with a tea­spoon of or­ange and a tea­spoon of an­oth­er oil to smooth it out a bit.

And speak­ing of dress­ing, Lucero al­so pro­duces sev­er­al in­ter­est­ing vine­gars to ac­com­pa­ny your olive oil- we couldn’t re­sist. The red ap­ple bal­sam­ic was per­haps my fa­vorite, but the cher­ry al­so had quite a kick. The fig was a bit sweet for my tastes, as was the blue­ber­ry, but both were round­ed out well when mixed in as a dress­ing. The peach was not at all my thing as it tast­ed too re­al, so the vine­gar taste gave it a slight­ly rot­ten peach smell. All are avail­able on “their web­site”:http://lucerooliveoil.com/index.php/, and range in price from the $60 sam­pler to in­di­vid­u­al 500 ML bot­tles for $12-$24 each.

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