Apr 292012

While I was writing my last article I kept wondering about the bergamot-flavored olive oil I bought from Oliviers & Co. The scent and taste of bergamot is not foreign to me. I have smelled it in some perfumes and it is in Earl Grey tea, which I love.

I have wondered about bergamot before but quickly forgot about it. This time, though, it was in my face for a few hours. First, when I was examining each tin of olive oil before I staged them for their iPhone photo shoot. On the bergamot-flavored tin was a circular yellow thing. Was it a fruit? a nut? a ? I couldn’t tell.

Later I cropped the photo of the tins into separate photos of each tin, just in case I needed them. I found myself staring for quite a while at the circular yellow thing. What the heck is that?

When I was writing the article I got to the point of searching the Oliviers site for their recommended uses for the bergamot-flavored olive oil – nothing. That was odd. I bought the tin at a US store.

When the US Oliviers website search didn’t come up with anything, I went to the French Oliviers site and there it was. I assume bergamot isn’t a popular flavor in the US, mainly because we don’t know what it is.

Finally, after the tasting and writing were done I opened another tab in Google Chrome and searched. Here is the definition from the Google dictionary:

  1. An oily substance extracted from the rind of the fruit of a dwarf variety of the Seville orange tree. It is used in cosmetics and as flavoring in tea.
  2. The tree that bears this fruit.
  3. An aromatic North American herb of the mint family, grown for its bright flowers and traditionally used in American Indian medicine.

Here is the description from Wikipedia:

“Citrus bergamia, the Bergamot orange, is a fragrant fruit the size of an orange, with a yellow colour similar to a lemon. Genetic research into the ancestral origins of extant citrus cultivars matched the bergamot as a likely hybrid of Citrus limetta and Citrus aurantium. Citrus bergamot is a native hybrid of and commercially grown in Calabria, southern Italy, where more than 80% are found. It is also grown in southern France and in Côte d’Ivoire for the essential oil. The fruit is not grown for juice consumption.”

I also found out from clicking on the little speaker links that I’ve been pronouncing the word wrong. I have been saying ber-ga-mow and it is ber-ga-mott. Olive Crazy stands corrected.

Now we know – ber-ga-mowwwwwwwww (one last mispronunciation for old times sake).

May the sun shine through your branches.


Apr 262012

Now it’s time to try each of the flavored extra virgin olive oils I purchased from the Boston location of Oliviers & Co. My intention is to give you an idea of how I might use each in cooking everyday dishes. I will also let you know what the folks at Oliviers suggest. I’m going to taste and give my suggestions before I read their’s. Let’s see how I do.

1. Huile d’Olive Vierge Extra et au Citron (Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Lemon)

Olive Crazy – Perfect for baking bready-textured cakes and cookies that aren’t very sweet. Pour some of this olive oil in chili paste (like my favorite, harissa) and eat it with a fresh baguette.

Oliviers & Co. – Use in salad dressing, marinades, grilled fish, pasta, fresh goat cheese, fruit salad, baking, or pour on vanilla ice cream.

2. Huile d’Olive Vierge Extra et au Basilic (Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Basil)

Olive Crazy – I can imagine this oil poured over freshly cooked, al dente pasta and tossed with sun dried tomatoes, pecans, and big chunks of roasted garlic.

Oliviers & Co. – Pour over a slice of green apple. Use in fruit salads, on tomatoes, cheese, pasta, pizza, chicken, and vegetables.

3. Huile d’Olive Vierge Extra et a la Bergamote (Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Bergamot)

Olive Crazy – Massage a piece of beef with the bergamot-flavored oil and peppercorns, wrap in plastic, let marinate for about 15 to 20 minutes, and grill.

Oliviers & Co. –  Use with grated carrots, in celery remoulade, pasta salad, leeks, poultry, green vegetables, and fruit salad.

4. Huile d’Olive Vierge Extra et a la Mandarine (Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Mandarin)

Olive Crazy – When I tasted this oil, I imagined cupcakes with orange marmalade centers, soft cheese frosting, and a mandarin slice on top.

Oliviers & Co. – Great on roasted vegetables, drizzled over fruit salads, and even in chocolate brownies or cakes.

5. Huile d’Olive Vierge Extra et a la Menthe (Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Mint)

Olive Crazy – I was apprehensive about tasting this oil. I couldn’t imagine how I might use it until I tasted it. The verdict – chicken salad. Make a mayonnaise with the mint olive oil, mix it with chilled chicken breast, add some chopped mint leaves, water chestnuts for crunch, salt and pepper. Place some chicken salad on a lettuce leaf, roll it up and eat it.

Oliviers & Co. – Drizzle over tabouleh, couscous, chickpea salad, lamb dishes, tomato and feta pasta salad. Also delicious for desserts. Drizzle over pineapple and mango, even in brownie mix.

6. Huile d’Olive Vierge Extra et au Citron presse Vert (Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Green Lemon)

Olive Crazy – Pour over dark bread add sliced, ripe tomatoes, sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Oliviers & Co. – Delicious drizzled over salads, on fish, pasta, vegetables, strawberries, and sorbet.

7. Huile d’Olive Vierge Extra et au Piment (Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Chili Pepper)

Olive Crazy – I saved this oil for last. I knew it would ruin my ability to taste any of the other oils and boy would it have. This is some powerful stuff. I love spicy foods and would use this oil on anything. But, the first food that popped in my mind was eggs, fried, scrambled, poached, or however you eat them. Just drizzle this oil on your eggs and enjoy.

Oliviers & Co. – Try on steak, burgers, fried potatoes, pasta, pizza, and omelets.

May the sun shine through your branches.


Apr 232012

The children scattered to the four winds over spring break and Mr. Olive Crazy and I hit the road. Our first stop was Boston. Mr. Olive Crazy’s friend, fellow engineer, and U Mass grad, Vinod A. acted as our tour guide.

Vinod was great. He knew where everything was and at the critical time (just when we needed to park) Vinod secured us a parking spot on Boston’s chic Newbury Street. What a guy!

Even the location of the parking spot was perfect. I’ve had my eye on a Kate Spade purse and we parked directly in front of the Kate Spade shop. Of course I am always on the hunt for anything to do with olives and just beneath Kate Spade was the French olive and olive oil merchant, Oliviers & Co. The main photo is of Oliviers & Co.’s front window.

What good fortune. Inside Oliviers & Co. was a wonderland of olive spreads, pickled olives, olive oils, and other interesting condiments. I chatted with one of the sales clerks for quite a while. She was very helpful. She knew a lot about the company and didn’t seem to be merely repeating corporate catch phrases. I found her knowledge refreshing.

My husband and I sampled a few oils, which indeed tasted fresh and delicious, but there were many and I wanted to try something different. The clerk suggested the flavored oils. I couldn’t decide which one to try, since they had several, so I bought one of each. I figured they’d make a good subject for an Olive Crazy article or two. Apparently flavored olive oil is not the same as infused, but more on that another day. Mr. Olive Crazy and I made our selections and had it all shipped home. As for the Kate Spade purse, it had a big bow on it – ick!

Oliviers & Co. was started by two guys from Mane which is in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region of France. This is the region where I spent many-a-happy-day fishing in a mountain lake with my friend, Chris, who lived in Valence, France. It is beautiful and peaceful with fantastic restaurants tucked in the most unlikely places.

The guys from Mane wanted to select small-batch olive oils directly from groves and producers, and sell them from retail shops. This is what they say in the ‘Values’ paragraph on their original website (if you’d like to read this website in English or German without using Google translate there is a drop-down box on the top right of the Home page):

“It began with a true fascination with the Mare Nostrum, its countryside, its light, and its legendary tree, the olive. A very human adventure, built on happy accidents, decisive meetings, and relationships between gourmets. An immense respect for people and their expertise, an insistence on quality, and real concern for authenticity and sharing in an increasingly divided world. A sense of and respect for tradition, revisited in the light of modernity and originality. A demanding future, a desire for transparency and traceability for a consumer who respects nature and the environment. And finally: places for discovery and conviviality, where unimagined tastes and smells come together.”

I like it.

Tom and I have since returned from our adventures and the box of olive tapenades, salt, and olive oils was waiting for us. Tom immediately tucked into the tapenades. I am waiting until just before I am ready to write about the oils to open and taste them. Some of the flavors in the olive oils I can easily imagine, lemon and basil, others I can’t, bergamot and mint. Here is a photo of the Oliviers & Co. flavored olive oil line up along with a container of salt neither Tom nor I recall purchasing. Our taste buds welcome it into our home just the same.

Oliviers & Co. Flavored Olive Oils

May the sun shine through your branches.


Jul 122011

We all know that Napa Valley California is best known for its vineyards and wine estates. I was there yesterday with the youngest of my young olives, hunting for local extra virgin olive oil, and we found some. Actually we found more than some but I’m going to mention just one place and that is the St. Helena Olive Oil Company in Rutherford.

At various wineries I saw lots of bottles of evoo, but I didn’t give them a second glance. Why? Because they were in clear, glass bottles, displayed in direct sunlight. Sure, I know that grapes for wine production are “the crop” in Napa and olive oil is considered a diversion by wineries (otherwise they wouldn’t have so many sad, unhealthy-looking olive trees lining their main drives), but for Pete’s sake, why sell it if you are going to spoil it.

Rutherford is a picturesque village on Highway 29 north of the city of Napa, and the St. Helena Olive Oil Company is located on the main road directly across the street from the Rubicon Estate. St. Helena’s building used to be an old tractor manufacturing company that now houses not only a large store but St. Helena’s production facility as well.

The store was beautifully laid out, with display tables of dark-bottled olive oils, wine vinegars and condiments. Each bottle had a separate, small, lidded jar with a sampling of each item inside. There were tiny, disposable, plastic spoons for transporting samples into your mouth. There was even a guy with a rag to tidy up behind messy tasters.

I got carried away. So carried away, that I forgot my mission: to find and taste extra virgin olive oils that were grown and milled locally, with the identity of the grower and the olive variety easily obtainable. I was almost all the way around the room, my white shirt stained with evoo drippings, when I spotted a flavored olive oil that, besides garlic, I was powerless to resist – jalepeno. Yes, I have given in to the lure of flavored olive oils.

I was blinded by desire. Without thinking, I dipped the little plastic spoon into the oil and put it in my mouth. At that point the jalepeno kicked me in the brain and reminded me that I had not yet made it to the main tasting bar to make a purchase – my taste buds were now useless (but happy – the jalepeno evoo was really delicious).

I straightened myself up with all the dignity a 53-year-old woman with an olive oil stained shirt can muster and walked over to the tasting bar. I introduced myself, confessed my sin (it’s a Catholic thing), and asked for help from younger taste buds.

The young man who helped me told me I had just missed meeting the owner, Peggy O’Kelly. That would have been a bonus, but the young man was very knowledgeable,  and helped me settle on two bottles of extra virgin olive oil.

I am not going to tell you the names of the oils yet, since I tasted them with a jalepenoed mouth, but I will taste them when I get back to Georgia. I’ll give you a report then on the St. Helena oils. I’ll also do a recap on all the other extra virgin olive oils I put on Visa and MasterCard. Stay tuned.

May the sun shine through your branches.


Jul 032011

Olive Crazy was day dreaming when Mr. Olive Crazy spotted Figone’s Olive Oil Company, and again the young olives groaned as Mom stopped in to Figone’s to continue her hunt for great extra virgin olive oils.

Figone’s building is a rustic, wood-planked, stand-alone store across the street from Kenwood Vineyards on Sonoma Highway just north of the city of Sonoma and Aqua Caliente (Hot Springs). The building looks like it comes off the set of an old western film.

When I went in to Figone’s there was one couple waiting to taste the olive oils and vinegars. I spoke briefly to a lady behind the counter and she asked the owner, Frank Figone, to come and speak with me. Just as that happened, the front door opened, and lots of prospective customers poured in. It was apparently not a good time for me to be on my appointmentless mission, to find and taste extra virgin olive oils that were grown and milled locally, with the identity of the grower and the olive variety easily obtainable.

Frank was very gracious and wonderfully helpful. He was obviously used to the such hubbub and took it in stride. I tried two of his extra virgin olive oils: the Mission-Manzanillo and the Tuscan Blend. The Mission-Manzanillo was rich, grassy, and peppery – fabulous. With the Tuscan Blend, Frank had me pour some in one of my palms, then vigorously rub both palms together. He then had me cup my hands and sniff the fragrance. It was lovely – so fruity and alive. I then tasted the oil (by now I am getting used to all the mouth noises involved in extra virgin olive oil tasting) and wow! The Tuscan Blend was indeed fruity, with a delicious bitterness as it went down my throat. (Note: I put the links to purchasing the Figone’s products I bought because I really liked them, not because I am making any money off them).

So, what did I do next? Whipped out the plastic and bought a bottle of each, but before I left, Frank gave me a taste of his Traditional Balsamic Vinegar, oh my was it good. I had to have a bottle of that too. After the purchases were completed, Frank brought me over two other treats to try, a garlic and herb flavored extra virgin olive oil, and a pear and cinnamon flavored balsamic vinegar. Both were magnificent and I will definitely go back to Figone’s for more treats before I return to the east coast.

You might find this strange but as I’ve mentioned before I have never tried a flavored olive oil. The reason is simple, I will not try a flavored olive oil until I taste the oil the flavored oil comes from. It wasn’t until Figone’s that I was able to taste the base oil and the flavored oil one-after-the-other. I have always been suspicious that flavored olive oils are masking some defect. I do not know this to be true, but it is one of my concerns.

Do take a look at the Figone’s website and read their story. It is interesting.

Next stop was Muir Woods Sequoia Forest and hiking. This time it wasn’t the young olives who groaned, it was Mr. Olive Crazy.

May the sun shine through your branches.