June 8th, 2010

A Taste of Spanish Olive Oils


“Good oil, like good wine, is a gift from the gods.”
~ George Ellwanger

On my recent visit to Toronto, I was invited to attend an olive oil tasting and dinner showcasing premium Spanish olive oils. It was a wonderful evening at Frida Restaurant with dishes prepared by three area chefs: Jose Hadad of Frida Restaurant, Luis Valenzuela of Torito Tapas Bar and Lola Csullog-Fernandez of Pimentón.

This was my first serious olive oil tasting and after tasting the oils – which collectively have earned numerous awards and are used by some of Spain’s best chefs – I was convinced that I couldn’t have chosen a better introduction. Dolores Smith, olive oil expert and president of The Olivar Corp., led the tasting of three of the oils that would be featured in the dishes that evening.

So what do you look for when tasting olive oil? According to Smith:

  • A fresh and clean-tasting experience with no heavy, oily or pasty flavor.
  • Flavor notes as the oil is rolled around your tongue. The better the quality, the more complexity and depth of flavors one can discern and the more lasting they are. A poorer quality olive oil will, in general, have a flat, one-dimensional, fleeting flavor.
  • Bitterness – due to antioxidants – and pepper at the finish. Smith recommends always looking for some pepper at the finish. A well-balanced premium quality olive oil will have the same intensity of bitterness and pepper as intensity of flavors.

Ensalada de corazones with Full Moon olive oil

Ensalada de corazones with Full Moon olive oil

First, we tasted Dauro, an olive oil produced by Bodegas Roda. Claim to fame: used in six Nobel Prize awards dinners. I immediately detected the flavor of tomato vines that Smith mentioned would be present in this delicate oil. Dauro later made an appearance in an olive oil sorbet prepared by chef Valenzuela.

The following two oils, Full Moon and Oro San Carlos, are produced by Pago Baldios de San Carlos in Extremadura. Full Moon is made solely from aberquina olives and the olives are picked during the full moon in early October. This one had notes of green tomatoes and green grapes and was possibly my favorite for the night. The second oil, Oro San Carlos, is a coupage of arbequina and cornicabra. This one was richer than the previous two and had notes of ripe bananas.

A delicious six-course menu of Spanish-inspired dishes followed and I returned to Miami determined to put a little more effort into finding great tasting olive oils. Tomorrow, I’ll post some shopping tips provided by Smith after my visit.


Dauro olive oil sorbet

Frida Restaurant
999 Eglinton Avenue West, Toronto

276 Augusta Ave., Toronto

681 Mount Pleasant Road, Toronto

A big thanks to @maryluzonfood for inviting me to this dinner.

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7 Responses to “A Taste of Spanish Olive Oils”

  1. I’m curious to know where you’d go in Miami to buy olive oils. I am desperately searching for a gourmet store that carries interesting stuff…

  2. Funny, a couple of gourmet food stores I stopped in when we were in Montreal were sampling Spanish olive oils. I guess there’s a real push to sell in Canada.

    Saveur had a recent article on different olive oils (not just Spanish). A good place I found for them is Cheese Course in Midtown. Also Xixon has a few (I got a 100% arbequina one they had on sale for around $8 and it was really good.

  3. @L2M Probably. That Saveur article was waiting for me when I got back home from my trip. For some reason I struggled finding it online last night (maybe because it was 3 in the morning). My last really good olive oil was one I brought back from my honeymoon in Italy and my supermarket choices haven’t been the best lately.

    @rebecca – L2M has some good suggestions above. Here’s the site for Cheese Course. I would add Delicias de Espana for Spanish oils. A friend suggested Epicure Market on South Beach on South Beach but I don’t know what they carry.

    For those of you who haven’t seen Saveur article, here’s the list of recommended bottles and a glossary of olives.

  4. Paula- thanks for sharing this with your readers. Spanish olive oils are Not well known in Canada *yet*! Italian, Greek and even Turkish usually garner most of the limelight. Folks like Dolores Smith are working to change that by sharing her love of quality oils with the general public. I for one am a big fan of Arbequina olive oils – superior flavour to my palate.

  5. Thanks for the rec. I’ve been to Epicure but didn’t find that they carried a lot that isn’t available elsewhere. I didn’t realize Cheese Course carried olive oils–I’ll definitely check them out!

  6. […] the Spanish olive oils I tasted in Toronto were great, but as far as I know, the specific ones I tasted are not sold here (though I did see a […]

  7. Hi My name is Maria and i Live kalamata in Greece. I am farmer i have land with olive tree so year after year i make extra virgin oil. Kalamata has the most famous olive oil in the word due to his quality, nutritious and taste. I decide to send this messenger to you to propose my olive oil. if you are interested my product i can send you a representative sample. Thank you

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