Olive oil from Spain and tapas!

What were YOU doing at 6am on October 4th, 2009?  Chances are you were sleeping but the hard-working folks at olive oil maker Pago de los Balidos de San Carlos were up and picking arbequina olives for producing the extraordinary Full Moon olive oil, appropriately under a full moon.  I was lucky enough to taste this and a number of other varieties at a tasting put on by Sizzling Communications for the Olivar Corp Inc. last week at Pimentón, here in Toronto.

“An olive oil tasting?” I hear you ask?  Yes, they exist and operate in a similar fashion to a wine tasting.  You get your sheet for tasting notes…

And you taste in tiny tiny sips…

Olive Oil expert, Dolores Smith led us through the tasting. Having completed the Professional Olive Oil Tasting Programme in Europe (Savantes, 2009) herself, her goal is to bring the best olive oils from around the world to Canada.  She firmly believes that some of the best olive oils in the world come from Spain, a country whose olive oils are often overlooked – and she is looking to change that!

The oils we tasted:

Full Moon ($45 bottle)

The arbequina olives grown in family-owned orchards in the Extremadura region of Spain are picked on the full moon and pressed within one hour of harvest.

Tasting notes: This was a very delicate tasting oil and perhaps my favourite of the night.  We cupped the small tasting glasses in our hands for a few minutes to warm the oils to better appreciate the flavours.  It smelled faintly of green tomatoes and certainly tasted like them.  It was sweet, which makes sense since it has extremely low acidity (0.1%)  and the pepper is very delicately present.  The more you swirled it around in your mouth, the more other flavours like banana and almond stood out.  This oil is best suited for raw use.

[Edited to add: Dolores read this post and added the following information – useful for those of us who don’t have a refined palate as hers for tasting olive oil…

Acidity cannot be tasted in terms of flavour.  It is a chemical analysis showing the amount of degradation in the fatty acids of the oil based on the quality of the olive and processing… so that higher degradation means higher percentage of acidity and poorer quality fruit and processing.  The sweetness comes more from the flavour profile of the olive…levels of particular types of polyphenols, or minor components in the fruit juice.

When we taste good quality extra virgin olive oil  there are three attributes:  fresh fruity flavours (whatever the varietal offers), level of bitterness and level of pepper.  The latter two can be expressed in continuums  the continuum of delicate & sweet at one end and strong and bitterness/pungent at the other;  and  of low pepper  to intense pepper] Thanks Dolores!

Next up, Oro San Carlos ($22 bottle).

Unbelievably, I do not have a photo of this or the lovely bottle…  This oil is produced from a coupage of arbequina and cornicabra varieties of olives, also grown in the Extremadura region of Spain.  Again, they are pressed within one hour of harvest.  As we were tasting this one, Dolores informed us that this oil would be suitable for cooking and even poaching something as delicate as salmon!

Tasting notes: This was more herby than the Full Moon, with more pepper and less apparent sweetness.  More leafy than tomato-ey.

The third oil we tasted was the Dauro ($30 bottle).

This oil is very popular in Japan and is often mixed with wasabi to cut the bite.  Dauro, is a coupage of arbequina, Greek Koroneiki and Spanish Hojiblanca olives and produced using absolutely no pesticides at all with the producer managing the crops under the Integrated Crop Production Program, based on sound ecological principles.

Tasting notes: This unfiltered oil was cloudier than the other two and I also found it much more peppery on the finish and quite green tomato-ey.

Lastly we tried the Rincón.

Having won 65 awards from 2006 to the present day, this was also one of the more expensive oils we tried ($36 – $40 a bottle). I found the flavour to be very intense and peppery and feel that it would be a great oil to finish a salad or a dish – certainly a small drizzle, not a large glug would be enough to bring out flavours in, say pasta or salads.

The last oil we tried was the Ame (not yet available in Canada)

The Ame is produced from Italian, Greek, Portuguese and Spanish olives. This tasted grassy and bitter at first but smoother the longer you held it in you mouth with notes of sweet melon and then a heavy accent on the pepper.  Spicy, even.

After all that tasting and photographing, we were pretty hungry but luckily, Chef Lola Csullog-Fernandez of Pimentón had prepared a wonderful Spanish tapas spread featuring the Gasull (which we didn’t try) and the Oro de San Carlos oils.

As we ate, we admired the lovely Spanish decorative accents of the store, which sells prepared foods and pantry items, does catering and hosts cooking classes…

The wines for the evening were provided by Lifford Wine Agency.

And how was the food, I hear you asking? Spectacular.  Some highlights:

The charcuteria – salchichón (in the back) and chorizo Ibérico Fermín, both made from the famous black Ibérico pig.

Spanish potato and onion omelette – tortilla.  What a great way to serve this at a cocktail party!

Lamb meatballs with Membrillo Oro de San Carlos Alioli, a wonderful dipping sauce. Again – what a fun way to serve them!

My absolute favourite of the night – deep fried pimentón chickpeas.  Oh. My. Goodness.  These were out of this world and I could have eaten the whole tray.  That nutty flavour fried in olive oil works so well and it’s a perfect bar snack, we decided and SO much healthier than peanuts…  I will be attempting these…

Since everyone there was a food writer or blogger, there were photos a go-go..

You know, as you do…

It was a fun night and I am glad I got to finally meet some online friends in real life – Joel, Bonita, Andrea, Mark&Stacey and David.  Thanks to Dolores for imparting her knowledge about olive oils, Lola for feeding us and the always fabulous Mary-Luz for organising the event.


And for all of you who didn’t get to sample the oils but would like to – head to Frida Restaurant on April 28th for the FULL MOON FEAST where the oils will be sampled and used in the preparation of 6 divine culinary creations! Full details here.

47 thoughts on “Olive oil from Spain and tapas!”

  1. Your pics are beautiful! Spanish olive oil is wonderful. We had some last night that we brought back from Mallorca. Yum! By the way Oct. 4th is my birthday and I still don’t remember what I was doing! 😉

  2. We did some olive oil tasting last year in Napa Valley, at Jacuzzi Cellars, I believe. I was amazed at how different they can taste, plus they had flavored oils as well. Thanks for the informative post.

  3. Oooooh… I absolutely love olive oil tastings. I did one in Boston’s Italian North End last year, and it was so much fun. Of all of the ingredients in my kitchen, I think I probably use olive oil the most (with the exception of Kosher salt, maybe…). Great post about the event. I will have to keep an eye out for some of those oils!

  4. Aaaaah, to be sleeping at 6am, what bliss that would be, 4am starts through the week make Saturday and Sunday just another day!!

    Olive oil tastings are fun, did one Easter last year on a food and wine break to country Victoria. Now I know why I only buy Spanish olive oil, thanks for the enlightenment and fun pics.

  5. Well Tami, am just reading your comment – and Mardi’s reply – now.

    She of the no faith….guess what I walked home with tonight? Yes indeed, a luxury Aussie olive oil. (Pukara Estate Robust Premium EV)

    So there! 🙂

  6. I love tasting the different oils on offer at farmers’ markets, so I’m sure I’d enjoy something like this. I fear I have a stupid palate, but I can hope that maybe it just needs to be educated and it will learn to pick up all the little nuances.

    I saw a bottle of olive oil in a shop the other day that was terribly expensive, and the bottle was just like a Chanel No. 5 one. I’d be too scared to use it in case I dropped it on the floor.

  7. Another terrific post, and it was educational as well! I use olive oil every day, it seems, so I could do with some learnin’. Thanks. OH! I forgot! Thought of you yesterday when I was shopping and saw a jar of Ficoco.

  8. This post reminded me that, about 10 years ago while living in the UK, my company promoted the launch of an avocado oil. From memory, the manufacturer was called “The Grove” and they were based in New Zealand. The avocados were cold pressed.
    What made the oil exceptional (I was told by people who tried it) was its healthiness, its great tolerance to heat so it’s smoke point was at a higher temperature than olive oil.
    I don’t know how well it has done in the ensuing years and I do remember some quite noteworthy chefs in the UK saying that while the avocado oil was great, it could not easily replace olive oil in some dishes.. flavour being the key determinator.
    Thought it might interest some of your readers.

  9. Wish I had the privilege of attending this EVOO-y event! I have been wanting to try Ines Rosales Olive Oil Tortas for quite some time now… and this article reminded me to get on that. Recently saw ’em at Leslieville Cheese Market if you’re interested… I believe it’s $10 for a pack of 5 tortas, I guess ‘cuz they’re imported from Seville, Spain. These tortas have been recommended as a must-try by Saveur Magazine, and for that price here in Toronto, I sure hope they’re amazing!

  10. I love tastings. I do one a month. I find they really help me understand my palate and my personal preferences… and also continue to amaze me by how simple I think something is, and find that the simplest of items are so complex. This month I am doing butters. January I did procuittos, February was single origin chocolate, March was apples…. and April will be butters… I also plan to make my own. I love olive oils and have compared and tasted several for years. I always buy them when I travel – especially if it is Italy. Yet, find that when I return, most often, and compare what I have purchased to what I buy and use at home… (also from Italy), mine is every bit as good, and infinitely cheaper. Interesting, though. Always.

  11. so interesting – and educational! i’m curious – what olive oil do you use for everyday cooking? do you have a favorite brand that you always have on hand?

  12. Just returned from Spain where we tasted Ame olive oil. Was fabulous – a whole new experience for me in olive oils. How do I get some in the United States?


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