Extra virgin olive oils (regional or estate-bottled)
I thought that I would rekindle an old thread originally title "Extra Virgin". The challenge was to find reasonably priced olive oils. Since most of my family has given up on butter, I've been keeping my eye out for olive oil that is used primarily (1) for dipping fresh crusty bread into; and (2) for salads.
I somehow didn't make it to the Danforth -- parking has been tight the few times that I passed by -- so since we were up at the Eddie Bauer Outlet on Aviva Drive (Weston Road, north of Steeles, west of the Toronto Star plant facing the 400), I took the suggestion of dropping by Seafood Depot next door.
Seafood Depot has changed a lot since I last entered it, probably 2 or 3 years ago. They used to have retail in the front. Now the entry to retail is on the east side, towards the back. In addition, when I was there before, it seemed to be primarily frozen seafood. Now, the Italian roots appear to be showing, as there are gifts and cooking ware, as well as a good choice of Italian foods.
As indicated in previous posts, my usual olive oil (from No Frills) is Carapelli. When Knob Hill Farms was around, I used to get Colavita, which didn't have quite as strong a taste as Lupi, but was cheaper and easier to find.
I now have a large inventory of olive oils -- $70 worth -- and maybe I'll have to schedule an olive oil tasting with friends! I'm not in a hurry to try these all, but will open them over time. In addition, I borrowed a copy of "The Olive Oil Companion" (1997) by Judy Ridgway, that is in circulation from the Toronto Public Library. I didn't actually take the book with me to Seafood Depot, but since it will take me months to even taste a lot of these oils, I'll provide the Ridgway tasting notes.
Horio Extra Virgin, 3L $19.99: This was what I was looking for, although I wasn't immediately looking for this much. Seafood Depot didn't have a smaller size. I'll open this after I've drained a few of the other bottles.
Mantova 1L $8.49: Ridgway says "aroma of sweet apples and lemons, smooth, sweet, medium pepper and some grassiness". Seafood Depot had the single-estate bottled Colle Monacesco which was a little more expensive, which I'll try another time I feel extravagant.
San Giuliano 1L $7.99: This is the first oil I've opened and tried. Ridgway says "lemons, apples, tomato skins, depth of fruit with complex wild flower flavours and light peppers". I think that this is a good Italian olive oil -- remember, I was looking for heavier Crete-style flavours. I find that pepperiness seems to improve after the oil has been sitting in a dish for 20 minutes.
Bertolli Rocca Oliveto 750ml $6.49: This looks to be an estate-bottled oil from one of the more recognizable names in the business. (I haven't got more information on it, or tasted it, yet).
Iliada 750ml $6.19: Ridgway says a regional (rather than estate-bottled) Greek oil, from the Kalamata (Peloponnese) area. It's described as "strong aroma of hay and dried grasses with an aromatic but fruity taste, unusual".
Ardoino Fructus 500ml $8.99: This is an estate-bottled brand, and Ridgway cites the sister Ardoino Biancardo as "probably the rarest oil in the world". Fructus is described as "lightly fruity with a touch of grassiness and a peppery aftertaste". This sounds like a step up. It comes wrapped in a gold-colored foil, and would probably make a nice gift to a gourmet.
Michelotti Extra Vergine 750ml $7.49: My searches haven't uncovered anything on this brand. Tall, rectangular bottle.
Mantova Grand Aroma Picante Flavoured Oil Oil 250ml $3.99: Probably not estate-bottled, but has chili flakes floating in it. I've been looking for some chili olive oil -- Il Fornello on Danforth used to serve it and sell it, but doesn't sell it anymore. I've seen recipes to do it at home, but cautions on the leaving oils in the sunlight to develop botulism scare me.
This wasn't the full range of olive oils at Seafood Depot, just the most interesting to me. There were more expensive oils into the $20 range for 500ml or 750ml sizes. (After I educate my palate a bit more, I would need to take some books with me when selecting those oils). They had large sizes of Colavita, as well as a Portuguese brand.
So, that's the list. I'll try to give impressions over the next few months, but would also encourage Chowhounds who have tried more than a few oils to contribute their own comments.
I haven't finished the 1L bottle of San Giuliano -- I've been using it both for dipping and cooking -- but I have finished the open bottle of Carapelli that has been the household standard. (I note that over the holiday season, Carapelli 750ml was only $3.99 at No Frills on Carlaw).
I opened the 1L Mantova extra virgin -- remember that this isn't the single-estate bottled Colle Monacesco, but "normal" extra virgin. I tried dipping some fresh Calabrese bread into it -- and I'll now be using this oil only for cooking. Compared to the San Giuliano, which has aromatic up front and pepperiness in the aftertaste, the Mantova tastes just like ... olives. It's a flat oiliness that sits around on the back of the throat, that doesn't drive me to dip into it again.
I actually prefer Carapelli -- which has a lighter taste that is less olive -- to the Mantova. It may take a while to open another bottle, since I'll be using the Mantova for cooking and the San Giuliano for dipping. Live and learn.