This week the demonstration kitchen in the back of Pimenton (681 Mount Pleasant Rd.) was filled by more than a dozen food writers and other assorted gourmands. We were gathered to taste the olive oil offered by The Olivar Corp. Even with the tasting mat for notes and Dolores Smith’s professional guidance it still seems a little odd to do shots of olive oil straight up. (Not to worry, Dolores, I wasn’t actually shooting the oil; I swirled and tasted as directed.)
The first oil we tasted, Full Moon, is the newest addition to Olivar’s stable and was the night’s main event. “What does everyone think of this olive oil?” Our trained safari guide (sans pith helmet) asked the group.
My inner food nerd ventured, “I’m reminded of a tomato patch in July.” Yeah, not to worry, after this outburst of pretense I did my best to keep my mouth shut for the rest of the tasting. But it really is what I perceived and the lists of descriptions from the “professional tasters” usually led off with “green tomatoes” or “green tomatoes and their vines”. This was a new angle for me as far as olive oil is concerned. Sampling the oil on its own helps the unique characteristics stand out and facilitates the comparison to other oils.
I noticed for the first time the “peppery finish” of really good olive oils. It happens at the back of the throat and the very back of the tongue and is more a sensation than a true taste. I wonder if this results from the chemical that is removed from olives by curing them?
The Full Moon had almost no peppery finish compared to the more robust Oro San Carlos, Dauro, Ame, and Rincon offerings. I noted green tomatoes in all four but found this augmented by an herbal note (oregano in particular) in the Oro San Carlos; watermelon rind and corn silk in the Dauro; a subtle reminder of black tea in the Ame’s slight bitterness; and a floral scent from the Rincon.
Taken on its own the subtle, smooth, and refined Full Moon was my favourite of the tasting with the Rincon running a close second.
If shooting olive oil from plastic cups takes some getting used to, eating the tapas prepared by chef Lola Csullog-Fernandez of Pimenton with it definitely did not. I followed Greg Bolton’s (from Pantry TO) lead in commending the cold mussel appetisers. The cool flavours of celery and apple along with the rich Gasull alioli really highlighted the mussels. Greg is going to start carrying both the Full Moon and the Oro San Carlos at Pantry.
As a sucker for most things deep-fried I couldn’t stay away from the Salchichon Iberico Popcorn Croquetas or the Deep Fried Pimenton Chickpeas. Both strong reminders that, yes, olive oil can be used for deep-frying.
A heated debate broke out over the group’s preference between the charcuteria offerings. The avowed meat-heads preferred the straight Iberico Salchichon while others backed the Chorizo Iberico. I waffled back and forth: the straight-up is meatier by the pepper in the chorizo creates more contrast and interest.
With such a packed house of hungry tasters there were bound to be a variety of opinion. Here are insights and great photos from:
- Joel at Get the Foodie 411
- Mark and Stacey at Tasting Toronto
- Andrea the Gastronaut
- Mardi at Eat. Live. Travel. Write.
- Bonita at BonEats
- Neil from Communal Table
Just as a really good aged balsamic should be a pantry staple a few drops of a special olive oil can play a similar, welcome role.