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Good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)--Recs?

I'm a girl who is happy with Trader Joe's EVOO for regular cooking. However, I have a suspicion that when a recipe calls for "good quality" EVOO, they were not thinking of Trader "Giotto." Does anyone have good recommendations for good quality EVOO (and perferably something that doesn't break the bank)? It would also be good to recommend something that is available nationwide in markets or something I can get in the Los Angeles area where I live. Something available only regionally in, say, New Jersey doesn't help me much (unless I can mail order it). I would appreciate any thoughts or suggestions. Thanks in advance.

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  1. Actually, Trader Joe's has some nice higher quality EVOO's. They're not exactly artisanal, but, you can find a nice one for dipping bread or dressing salad. I particularly like their Manzanilla EVOO. It's very similar to Spanish oils, very buttery, and nice when drizzled on things.

    1 Reply
    1. re: vickib

      My favorite TJs olive oil - which I've heard is from Sonoma but don't quote me - is Trader Joe's Extra Virgin California Estate Olive Oil. Arebequina olives. In a tall, thin 16.9 ounce dark bottle with black label. This stuff is deep green and very flavorful. I use it for cooking AND drizzling.

    2. Williams Sonoma stores have a tasting bar for all of their oils and vinegars -- literally dozens. You might call ahead and make sure the bar is up; sometimes they take it down to make room for seasonal merchandise (like Christmas).

      1 Reply
      1. re: maestra

        I have used the tasting bar at WS before and that's how I found the olive oil that I buy. I think it's called Lungarotti or something like that and costs about $36 for the bottle, but it lasts me a pretty long time since I don't use it for cooking, only for drizzling and dipping.

      2. Round Pond in the Napa Valley makes exceptional EVOO. It is available at Say Cheese market in Los Angeles. Their new harvest Italian blend is incredible.

        1. I use a lot of olive oil, so I happen to love discussing olive oil and trying new stuff.

          If you are going to cook with olive oil, then it doesn't really matter what you buy, because exposing good olive oil to heat will destroy the characteristics and the benefits of extra virgin, raw olive oil. On a lot of labels, you will find it says that olive oil can withstand low to medium heat (I personally don't believe that to be true). So, if that's what you're going for, then Trader Joe's will be fine.

          However, if you're going to use the oil as a topping for a salad, or for your burrata/caprese salad and you want your prize winning heirloom tomatoes to shine, then you want to break out the fancy olive oil. Manni is used by a lot of the top restaurants around. It has too much of a kick for me, so I don't use it at home (not to mention it's like $150). You can special order it from Le Sanctuaire in Santa Monica.

          The oil I use for everyday is Le Palombe or sometimes I buy Bariani. Le Palombe is Organic. I think it's like $30-$40, and it's really mild. Both you can find at The Co-op in Santa Monica.

          Perhaps the best place to buy olive oil is Bay Cities Deli in Santa Monica. The owner guy there has a wide range of high quality, well-priced stuff. Pretty much anything he has there will be good.

          13 Replies
          1. re: Frank_Santa_Monica

            Gotta disagree with you on this one, Frank. It's true that certified EVOO is cold pressed, and cannot be heated during processing. It's also true that by heating EVOO you are changing some of its characteristics. But the flavor of the olive oil still comes through in cooking, so the quality of olive oil you cook with most definitely matters. I cook with EVOO, because it tends to be the highest quality olive oil, with the best flavor profile.

            It's similar to the myth that the quality of wine you cook with doesn't matter. The fact is, great chefs cook with great EVOO and great wine, because those flavors are part of what makes their cooking taste great.

            1. re: Morton the Mousse

              ASARO BROTHERS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OLIVE FROM SICILY. 25 FOR 3 L
              MARCA VERDE EVOO FROM CHIANTI $8.99 FOR 1 L
              COLUCHIO EVOO FROM BROOKLYN USA 14.00 FOR 1L
              HAS ANYONE TRIED UNFLITERED EVOO ? ( THE BOMB)

              1. re: FAL

                I just bought a lot of olive oil from Sicily, from several different farms. Each one is for a different purpose. I agree with Morton in that you should use good oil to cook with. However, it will lose some of its flavor when its heated. For this reason, I cook with good quality stuff, but not the "best." I save the really good stuff for drizzling over everything. Olive oil is a lot like wine... different people like different flavor profiles. Its really all about tasting different oils and seeing what you like best (personally, I really like the unfiltered, super flavorful cloudy stuff). In LA I'm sure that there is some specialty store that does a good EVOO tasting. I'd look into that if I were you. Good luck!

                1. re: FAL

                  Did you go to Sicily and do this or did you find a way to shop online?
                  RADADD

                  1. re: RADADD

                    I found it in my Middle Village where i live? Tey the Asaro Bros Brand, Fair Way carries a few good Evoo, and so does Colucchio in Brooklyn.

                    1. re: FAL

                      Second the Fairway olive oil rec. Their regular evoo is fantastic for most everyday cooking uses. And it runs only about $9 for 1L. They also have a line of specialty olive oils (regional) and I particularly like the Sicilian Barbera which has a fantastic peppery quality to it. It's super for drizzling on mozzarella or on salads. These only run between $16-$20 for a litre. Also a great value for the quality. (And they have them all out for tasting, at least at the 74th St. location.)

                2. re: Morton the Mousse

                  I use a less expensive EVOO for cooking where I will put it in the pan first. I also keep a bottle or two for salads or finishing dishes. This bottle is inevitably much more expensive, and often from Spain.

                  I read that many Italian brands are less relaible about the sources of the olives, that they will import oil and brand it theirs. This seems contrary to the whole "denominazione" idea, and I've not further researched it. Have you all found Italian oils that are demonstrably from Italian olives?

                  1. re: amyzan

                    The Sicilian olive oil Titone has recieved a lot of awards. Titone is an organic, minimally-filtered oil made from three varieties of olive (50% nocellara, 25% biancolilla, 25% cerasuola) produced by a family-run farm near Marsala, Sicily. The best way to research an oil is to find and research the source, but to be honest, its prolly a crapshoot in a lot of cases. http://www.farawayfoods.com/titone.html

                  2. re: Morton the Mousse

                    Edit: This was supposed to post as a reply to "Morton The Mouse." Don't know why it didn't. Sorry!

                    There was an interesting article in the NYT on this subject, "It Boils Down To This: Cheap Wine Works Fine", March 21, 2007, by JULIA MOSKIN (NYT).

                    What the author said, essentially, was that using a great wine (read "expensive") to cook with wasn't worth it, in her view, because the process of cooking mutes the very qualities that make a wine great in the first place and is a waste. (She also wasn't advocating using supermarket "cooking wine" either, mostly because of the high sodium content.)

                    1. re: flourgirl

                      Yeah, I read that article. Experience in my kitchen tells me that Moskin is wrong. I mean, sure, you shouldn't be cooking with a $200 bottle of wine, but using a $30 or $40 bottle will inevitably be better than using a $10 bottle (unless you've found an incredible $10 bottle).

                      1. re: Morton the Mousse

                        Yikes, I'd never use a $30 bottle of wine to cook with (but I would never use supermarket "cooking wine" either -- is that even real wine?). I'm willing to bet that you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a good $10 wine and $30 wine in a home-cooked recipe.

                    2. re: Morton the Mousse

                      I think the topic called for an oil that wasn't going to "break the bank". But, hey, I guess more power to you if you cook with top shelf stuff. I really like the Trader Joe's Extra Virgin when I need something to glaze a low heated pan. It's like $25 a bottle, and my friends from NY buy it by the case when they are here in LA. Great value.

                      I also really love Montevertini ($62 a liter, but it's not organic), that I use for salads, topping, dipping. And, sometimes for pasta, I'll top it with Manni (which is $150 for a tiny bottle).

                      I guess it's like if you're ordering a strawberry margarita, are you going to use $500 tequila? I guess, yeah, you could taste the difference. Sure. But, to really experience the quality of the tequila, use fresh lemons and limes to make the mix. (actually $500 tequila is probably a sipping tequila).

                      On a side note, Extra Virgin organic olive oil is one of the most beneficial raw fats along with organic raw almonds, which is why I only use it in its purest form.