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Best olive oil?

My husband and I were recently in Italy, where we had olive oil like we've never had in the US -- smooth and spicy, with a very distinct taste. We took cooking lessons while there, and learned that often they dress salads simply with this divine stuff.

The problem is, we haven't been able to find comparable oil on our return. We live in NYC and have ran the gauntlet trying olive oils at Fairway but to no avail.

Do any of you have a favorite brand of olive oil that is truly superb and distinct? Thanks in advance!

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  1. Well, it is widely believed (and Italian oil merchants apparently anonymously agree) that that US gets the runt of the oils - even from the pricy boutique estates.

    Where was the oil you liked from?

    9 Replies
    1. re: Karl S

      I read with great interest the article in the New Yorker about 6 months ago that purported that most "Italian" olive oils are a) from neighboring countries and imported to Italy to be bottled and b) contain a large measure of hazelnut and other oils; suggesting sadly that most olive oil we get in the US is pretty inferior.

      The oil I am specifically thinking about was in Florence, but I am keen to know what other regions oils taste like!

      1. re: chompchomp

        Some regional tendencies are noted in the sidebar:


        And don't neglect French, Iberian, Greek and North African olive oils under the mistaken idea that they are inferior. They don't have the marketing identity, to be sure, of Italian oils, but they don't lack for quality. I've had superior oils from all of those areas, and often better than what passes for Italian.

        And don't forget California, too. I've had great oils from Sonoma County.

        What I would caution is that you pair oils with the foods they complement. A powerfully peppery Tuscan oil will, undiluted, not really suit certain foods. Americans tend to be indiscriminate in our amplification of BIGGER! BOLDER! FLAVORS! Which is a big mistake. Powerful oils may need to be diluted (up to a half) with neutral oils in order to truly enjoy them well.

        1. re: chompchomp

          If the olive oil is mixed with other oils it should say so on the label. Are you suggesting that Italians are fraudulently selling mixed oils as "olive oil"?

            1. re: chompchomp

              Yes, that article was quite disturbing. Not as disturbing as the French putting glycol into their wine a few years back, but when some stores are charging $50 for a 1/2 litre for "Italian Extra Virgin First Cold Press" oil, I'd like to have some faith that I'm getting the real thing. Same thing with balsamic vinegar; I was quite surprised to find many so-called "balsamic" vinegars are nothing more than cheap ordinary vinegar with sugar and caramel added, and that famous Italian houses were bottling these and passing them off as their regular product.

              I had to laugh when I read someone's advice to "read the label". When the bottlers are committing fraud, they usually don't advertise it by putting it on the label. And since no one has yet invented a gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer that I can carry in my pocket, I can't exactly do an analysis at the store, either. That's why we depend on the FDA and other organizations to spot check products, and ensure they are what they say they are.

              FWIW, in Toronto, I'll buy cheap "Italian" oil for sauteeing, but when I want a quality oil, I go to the Greek section of town. The grocers are happy to discuss want I want, I'm pretty sure I'm getting what I'm paying for, and the prices are 1/3 to 1/4 of Italian oils that may be of suspect origin.

              1. re: KevinB

                The point is that either it's on the label (and sometimes you do see a bottle of what looks like olive oil, but when you read the label you see that it's really a blend) or the company is committing fraud. Then it all comes down to whether or not you trust the company you're buying from that, in the very least, it wouldn't be in their best interests to commit a crime by intentionally mislabelling their product.

                I just get annoyed when I see people on this board who just assume that there's something (usually "preservatives") in their food -- often when they haven't even looked at the ingredients label. Maybe the Italians are adulterating their olive oil (although I suspect the scandal was a bit overblown), but I think on the whole that labels on American products are honest -- if they weren't, they wouldn't be listing all the icky things they do list!

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  Ruth, will all due respect, because I like your posts, have you been paying attention to what's been going on on Wall Street lately? You would think it wouldn't be in the best interest of Merrill Lynch or Bear Stearns or Goldman Sachs to intentionally mislead their customers as to the safety and marketability of certain products, but that's exactly what they did. The companies might get fined, but somehow the traders and brokers and partners never have to repay the huge bonuses they earned, and in a few celebrated cases, after losing billions of dollars for shareholders, the CEO's are rewarded with severance packages in the tens of millions.

                  This is exactly what happened with the olive oil/balsamic vinegar frauds. The people in charge figured "Eh, who's gonna know?", and in the meantime, they pocketed millions. And, if you do read the link provided by chompchomp, you'll see that many of the companies involved were, just as the Wall St firms mentioned above, considered the leaders with the best brand names.

                  I tells ya, it's gettin' so you can't trust nobody!

                  1. re: KevinB

                    The firms involved weren't the leaders with the best brand names, they were the huge multinationals essentially selling commodity oil. As with wine, the good stuff is producer-grown.

          1. re: chompchomp

            For tuscan style oil, you can get very good oil in that style made in California. Just be explict about it, don't say you want "really good" olive oil, say you're looking for peppery, tuscan style oil, and you shouldn't have any trouble finding it. Also look at southern Spanish oil, which is very very green-fruity, very different from toscan style, but sooooo good.

            Oh, and spend a lot of money on the oil, then use it in small quantities. "Holy oil" is the term -- you bless ready-to-eat foods (salads, pastas, meats, etc) with it, like how christians bless themselves with holy oil. Don't try to find something that tastes good but you can afford to sautee with, you won't (unless you're Chompchomp Hilton).

        2. olive oils are like wine in Italy, with all sorts of regional varieties. In the states (especially in supermarkets), we don't see much variety.

          As far as the big brands go, I buy Colavita for extra-virgin, and it's good enough for salads and finishing dishes. It's also not too expensive ($17 per liter).

          I buy a cheaper brand (usually Filipo Berio $11/L) for my regular sauteeing olive oil.

          2 Replies
            1. In the store I hold the olive oil bottle up to the light. The greener the better. Golden olive oil is not what I'm looking for. Whole Foods extra virgin olive oil is good enough. I have some Carapelli that's very green and delicious

              3 Replies
              1. re: gafferx

                Color is not a good indicator of quality. Olive variety, ripeness, time of year, amount of leaves in the mill, even artificial color can all effect color. It is a poor indicator of quality.

                1. re: ChefBoyAreMe

                  Thanks. I will read some more on this

                  1. re: ChefBoyAreMe

                    Seconded. For instance, the TJ's Sicilian Selezione is a golden color, while at the same time is a very usable oil.

                2. Gonemon is the best that we have tried in the States. It is very rich, very full flavored and fruity. Great stuff.

                    1. I like olive oil from Crete. I've been using the Aria brand that I found at Cost Plus World Market.

                      Many Spanish oils are also good...usually not as sharp as most we get from central Italy. I currently have a botte of Trader Joe's Organic EVOO open...it's pretty good...from Spain.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: JoeyH

                        I will second the rec. for Aria. I bought some after tasting it at Minibar in Washington, DC and fell in love with it. Extremely smooth with an explosive, concentrated olive flavor.

                        I also enjoy Bariani olive oil from northern California. This is the best American brand I have tried. http://www.barianioliveoil.com/catalo...

                      2. Mancianti's Affiorato from Umbria may be the best oil commercially available in the U.S., and it is incredibly well-priced for its quality.

                        1. I'm a big fan of Fruttato, but I've only tried a Sardinian one - don't remember the brand.

                          Here's a Tuscan one:


                          Edit - actually, the one I use is San Giuliano:


                          1. I have been enjoying the peppery Spanish EVOO from Trader Joe's. It's not the organic, it is the bottle with the cork. Nice on greens with their White Basalmic Vinegar

                            1. I really like extra virgin olive oil from DaVero. I believe it is what Mario Batali uses in his restaurant(s) (not sure if all of his restaurants, but at least Babbo, I think)

                              Another of my favorite is Round Pond. It is quite expensive, but the quality is outstanding.

                              1. I haven't liked any of the olive oils that Fairway has set out to taste.

                                I really like McEvoy Ranch from California. It's supposed to be in the Tuscan style. In NYC, I believe they have it at Whole Foods and Dean and Deluca.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                  We also like McEvoy, and order their unfilitered "new" oil every November from their website.

                                  We like the Fairway Baena DOC as a general purpose/salad oil. It's lighter (in flavor) and sweeter than the Tuscan-style oils; their Kalamata is good for that as well.

                                  1. re: Striver

                                    I lived 20 miles from McEvoy and tasted there several times... not particularly impressed, I found numerous olive oils from the Santa Maria / San Luis Obispo and Baja California Norte areas much more compelling than McEvoy's stuff.

                                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                      Olive oil, like wine, is very personal. We all have our preferences.

                                      1. re: Miss Needle

                                        Didn't mean to doubt your preferences... more of a "bait" so that you might become curious about the "other" olive producing regions of the Californias.

                                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                          I haven't done olive oil tastings in other regions of California. But I've done olive oil tastings in a few Italian restaurants, and have learned that I have a preference with olive oils. I don't like strong, assertive, peppery ones (which is probably why I have issues drinking young cabs). I prefer the smoother, richer, silkier ones. McEvoy fits the bill for me.

                                          But I'm always open to trying new olive oils. I'll be on the lookout for the oils you mention next time I'm out on the West coast.

                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                            I've done tastings in N. California, and - in fact - first had the McEvoy as part of an OO tasting at the MacCallum House in Mendocino. Don't get down south when we're out there (from NYC).

                                            We're happy with McEvoy's nuovo; YMMV, of course - and BTW, aren't you the guy who noted that he doesn't find much in estate OO's that beats Trader Joe's Sicilian? :)

                                            1. re: Striver

                                              Yup... and I stand by the superiority of TJ's version versus McEvoy... but we all have personal tastes and I really do sip Olive Oil... the TJ's Sicilian - I prefer.

                                  2. I have no idea if this is available to you but Nabali Palestinian OO is organic, fair trade and INSANE! A deep chartreuse with a very peppery finish.

                                    It's my new fave!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: purple goddess


                                      Here's the link. It's hard to find but one of the best. Not a traditional oil at all, Very fruity and peppery. A finishing oil mostly I think. I had the privilege of visiting their farm last January. Nice folks!

                                    2. I am no expert, and I am not interested in blowing $30 for a bottle of Olive Oil. With that said... my "sipping" Oil of choice is Trader Joe's Sicilian Olive Oil at $6 for 750mL... I can afford to sip it. Honestly, I have tasted a few estate oils at the origin and still think this stuff is pretty respectable... and superior to much of the "gourmet / specialty" brands marketed at us ignoramuses by the Whole Foods, Dean & DeLuca etc., jokers of the world.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                        I use the Sicilian Selezione as my everyday oil, which I think is perhaps different than the one you are referring to (it comes in 500ml bottles, $8). Good to sautee with, decent enough (not great, but good) to splash finished products with.

                                        $30 bottles of olive oil are intended for small-portion usage to top off dishes, and for me are worth it if they are truly great oils. The problem is that I've yet to find such a truly great oil from a store in the US. They just don't compare with the oil I have tasted fresh off the orchard in Europe.

                                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                          I agree with you. I bring EVO from TJ's when we come down to FL. from MI. in the fall, as unfortunately TJ's has not made it down here yet. I bought one bottle of Sicilian Olive Oil with me, and am kicking myself that I didn't buy at least a half a dozen bottles. I love it in my salad dressings, among other things.

                                        2. I visited a boutique olive oil producer in Tuscany years ago, I have it mailed to me each season, late Nov, awesome. I'll get back with the email address if your interested, it's not cheap but, it's great.

                                          1. You should try Rachael Ray's new brand of EVOO. I'm sure it is the best quality or she wouldn't put her name on it.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. is there a Willams and Sonoma nearby? They have a little olive oil/vinegar tasting bar that has different varietals, my favorite is one called Chianti something or other, from the Chianti region...blah blah blah. It's around $40 a bottle, and to me describes what you're looking for, smooth and spicy.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: TarheelYankee

                                                I buy Lungarotti from Williams Sonoma for my sipping oil. It is a product of Umbria Italy and $40 a bottle for 750 ml. I have tried others but I keep coming back to this one. Not too peppery, not to buttery, just right. Of course all things are subjective.

                                                1. For regular cooking I'm not too particular but often choose a Spanish EVOO for everyday use.

                                                  For a finishing oil I have found this one at The Fresh Market for $10.99/16.9 oz Arbequina from the California Olive Ranch Inc. Not exceptionally expensive but really fruity and tasty.


                                                  1. I know it's not the "best", but I use Kirkland brand from Costco or 365 store brand from Whole Food.

                                                    1. Have you tried going to O & Co http://www.oliviersandco.com/FO/ ? There you can sample all of their oils before choosing one. They have several very good Italian oils, ranging from very mild to quite peppery. Yes, the prices are high, but I think that it is worth it if you are going to use the oil itself as a flavoring, rather than just for sauteeing.

                                                      1. If you want the Best olive oil you have to go for the International Award Winners. Spain produces about 40% of the world's olive oil hence you have a better chance of finding an award winning olive oil from Spain at a reasonable price. Some of Spain's most awarded olive oils are: "Rincon de La Subbetica", "Melgarejo Delicatessen", "Cortijo de Suerte Alta", "Masia el Altet" and "Oro Bailen"