I've recently been on a (too) short break spent researching Puglian hotel, Borgo Egnazia, for the JC.
I'd requested a gourmet itinerary. The trip was so food-filled I found myself deFressed - reluctantly turning down the odd fressing opportunity. That's rare.
Extra virgin olive oil (evoo); wine; cheese; pasta and ice cream all made an appearance. Not to mention pizza, tomatoes and fish.
A full review of the hotel will appear in the JC — i'll tag it when published — but in the meantime, i'll feed you a few tasty morsels. First up is EVOO:
1. At two tastings I learned good olive oil should NOT smell of olives. Tasting involves warming the oil, served in shot glasses by rubbing the glasses in our cupped hands. We swirled and (as wine connoisseurs do) inhaled deeply. The smells were grassy, herby and peppery. Each oil will has different notes. Apparently wine tasters have all the right skills for olive tasting.
2. Second olive oil surprise is that really good olive oil is not greasy in the mouth. We actually sipped it — which felt plain wrong; but any initial oiliness vanished, leaving a peppery throat-kick that made you cough, but no fatty feeling.
3. Puglia produces 40% of Italy's olive oil from millions of olive trees some of which are thousands of years old. Many of which are protected by UNESCO.
4. Olives must be turned into oil within 24 hours of being picked or the water in them causes them to turn rancid. The oil deteriorates on contact with air, light and heat. It will begin that process the minute you open the bottle or tin it is in. It takes time, but is at its very best when you pour that first glug. It's not a keeper.
5. For the best flavour, make sure your oil is marked as DOP - which means the production is controlled. It's the equivalent of kosher certification - a quality mark proving that the oil is what is says on the bottle. Beware of imposters. They could ruin your salad.
8. A kilo of olives produces only 15 litres of evoo. The owners of the Masseria we visited where they made the oil go through a bottle every few days. They use it on salads, over soups, to dip bread in, to season risottos or over fish or meat. It's the condiment of choice. The Borgo Egnazia serve it drizzled over pistachio gelato. I had my doubts but it was a nutty, smooth delight that I can only dream of now i'm home in the grey UK.
I have returned home, an oil snob.