What is with the Olive Oil?
Why can't I find a really good Olive Oil for salad like the ones they serve in restaurants? Any Olive Oil I have purchased cheap or really expensive is always too heavy and has an after taste to it. I have done a lot of research on olive oil (not to start any battles or anything) but contrary to popular belief that the best olives are from Italy many conniosseurs consider Lebanon to have the best olives and best Olive Oil. I recently purchased some Lebanese at an ethnic grocery store where the owner was extremely helpful. It was the closest thing to what I was looking for. So instead of mixing half Olive and a Neutral oiI I mix 3:1. It stll has a bit of an after taste and is heavier than I would like. I am beginning to wonder if restaurants mix their Olive with another type of oil. Any recommendations or thoughts on this matter would solve a couple years of perplexity.
The kitchen I used to work in, run and owned by Lebanese family, used nothing but the lebanese brand Saifan/al- koura (extra virgin first cold press etc), and it was extremely good... Much better than the 'more expensive' supermarket italian brands and it came in nice wine style glass gallons.
I don't enjoy too strong of a peppery afterburn in olive oil, and this one was very fruity and olive-y, I guess you would call it full bodied. I had always wanted to buy some from them at cost but never got around to it, not sure if it's a really expensive one in ethnic markets or not.
For people in Canada who can get the "CLIC foods" in their imported section from normal grocerie stores, they sell a brand called Rashaya's or rashaya's best which is also lebanese and quite good in price and taste. (ie cheaper and better than the typical italian ones). Its label is nothing special and would make one think it's nothing fancy but it's quite the opposite.
I'm in southwest VA. I swear by CA olive oil. I order this product: http://www.sciabica.com/products/Marsala-Varietal-Combination.html for daily use every 4 months and this product: http://www.sciabica.com/products/Sevillano-Variety-Fall-Harvest.html once a year for other uses, from this company: http://www.sciabica.com/ because I really like the quality and flavor of their products, superb customer service, and the fact that I know it hasn't been adulterated somewhere along the line. Is the carbon footprint smaller than imported? I don't know for sure but I'm betting it is even if marginally so. Even if it isn't my purchase is supporting a good product that is made here in the US. I always recommend them to people exploring olive oil. I have no commercial stake in the company, I'm just a very satisfied customer. Does that make me a shill?
If I lived on some other continent I'd be looking for a quality oil for the same reasons near there. Since the OP lives on the same continent as CA, I see nothing wrong with recommending a California oil.
there goes that whole thing about terroir again...
The best olive oil is the one that YOU like -- different regions produce different-tasting oils, and what is heaven on earth to one person is nasty to someone else.
My personal preference is for Italian olive oils, specifically Umbria -- I just like the taste. Then other Italian oils, then Greek, then Spanish. I don't care for the grassy flavor of French olive oils -- again, it's just a personal preference. (rather a bummer, as Provence is a lot closer than Umbria!)
A friend of mine ADORES Provencal olive oil, and is rather 'meh' about my Italian oils.
So...taste a few... see what YOU like and how they marry with what YOU cook (a good place to start is to taste olive oils from the same country/region as your favorite foods -- love Greek food? Try a Greek oil. Can't stand Spanish food? Spanish oil might not be on your favorites list)
and while I'm sure your Lebanese grocer carries really good oil, everyone swears that *their* oil is the best in the world...it's all on the tongue of the beholder.
Try other oils, as well -- you might find you like grapeseed or light sesame oil even better than light olive oil.
Someplace like Cork & Olive might be a good place for you to start - they'll let you try as many of their oils as you like...then you can buy as much or as little as you like.
I must be so used to the taste of olive oil that I don't notice the flavor anymore in cooking.
I use inexpensive ones for general cooking / saute (Kirkland or T.J. brand type brands).
I have specialty olive oil where flavor actually does count (for finishing or salads). I like Spanish oils for salad dressings.
Actually, cutting EVOO with a neutral oil can be very appropriate if your salad is relatively mild. Unfortunately, many American foodies (for whom Bigger! Bolder! Flavor! is often an uncritical good) assume that a powerful EVOO is always most appropriate for all salad situations. A refined palate would actually try to match the personality of the EVOO with the greens or other dominant salad ingredient, and modulating it by cutting it with a neutral oil is a good practice.
I have not found an aftertaste in the many inexpensive store brands at supermarkets. It's only when I spend more that I get an aftertaste - which might be good or bad depending on the flavor profile you're looking for.
Of course it is a myth that Italian Olive Oils are better. Does anyone here really believe that?
Couple this with the fact that "Italian" olive oils need not be made from Italian olives. All "Italian olive oil" means is the oil was made in Italy. The olives can come from anywhere. In truth, there aren't enough olives in all of Italy to produce the amount of olive oil that is "Italian".
There are many different kinds of olive oils. They're not interchangeable. Some are very peppery and bitter; others are intensely olive-y; and others are nearly neutral. I did a taste test of the olive oils I had on hand yesterday, and the differences were astounding. Deborah Krasner has an interesting book called "The Flavors of Olive Oil" that sheds more light on this topic.
Anyway, you should seek out "light olive oils" or try buying a mix of virgin olive oil and canola oil. While EVOO is widely considered superior, you may prefer virgin olive oil due to the lower extraction of harsh flavors.
I have two olive oils I keep on hand at all times. One is a darker more pungent (and expensive) brand and the other is an extra-light Bertolli which is less viscous, has no aftertaste and very little olive taste in general. I use it when I need a neutral oil, as it's easy to find, relatively inexpensive, and cooks up nicely (or is delicious at room temp with some balsamic and crushed garlic on fresh bread).
I went through a whole bunch of olive oils before I settled on the two I use now. Sometimes cheap doesn't equal bad, imho. I'm no olive oil expert, but I'm Greek and I have taste buds. Using Bertolli would be blasphemy according to my family, but to each his own!
Have you tried Bertolli Light? I haven't, either because my taster has gotten less sensitive (and it has) or I've just come to like the flavor of olive oil, but my impression is that this was developed for those Americans who hate olive oil but feel duty-bound to get the healthy stuff.
If you lived near an area where a lot of it was produced, as I do here in SoCal, it's possible to find tasting rooms. Otherwise, what you're doing is probably the most useful strategy: ask the Church!