LTH Home

Olive oil tasting, Aug. 26, Chez Gypsy Boy (Andersonville)

Olive oil tasting, Aug. 26, Chez Gypsy Boy (Andersonville)
  • Forum HomePost Reply BackTop
  • Olive oil tasting, Aug. 26, Chez Gypsy Boy (Andersonville)

    Post #1 - July 31st, 2006, 7:41 pm
    Post #1 - July 31st, 2006, 7:41 pm Post #1 - July 31st, 2006, 7:41 pm
    Lovely Dining Companion and I will host a small gathering to taste some olive oils on Saturday, August 26. That is the last weekend in August and is the weekend before Labor Day weekend. Since it is chez nous and since we really would like to do it here (for the first round, anyway), that necessarily limits attendance. The more so since respondents to the original post several months ago were given priority in RSVPing prior to this post. Eight intend attendance and we have room, I fear, for only another six elaiaphiles. (I made it up, Antonius, but I used real Greek words!)

    I have a genuine tasting in mind, not a meal (though, of course, a meal could follow....) I'm mostly interested in tasting "everyday" olive oils. There are, without doubt, some unique, distinctively flavored, fascinating, intriguing, and delicious oils out there. But they are generally reserved for special uses. I'm more interested in tasting the range of "general" or "mainstream" oils. (Recognizing, of course, that there is no such thing).

    I haven't had time work out every detail but the the guest list comes first. So: the first six to PM me will ensure their attendance at what is, no doubt, certain to be the first LTH event to include use of the word "esparto." (Lest I be unclear, those responding as a couple count as two, not one).

    Elaiaphilicly yours,
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #2 - July 31st, 2006, 8:07 pm
    Post #2 - July 31st, 2006, 8:07 pm Post #2 - July 31st, 2006, 8:07 pm
    HI,

    I would like to attend. You don't mention time, but I have commitments until at least 4 PM.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #3 - July 31st, 2006, 8:36 pm
    Post #3 - July 31st, 2006, 8:36 pm Post #3 - July 31st, 2006, 8:36 pm
    Late afternoon had already been our intention, but a specific time hadn't yet been set. (FWIW, those who have already responded privately need not do so again.)
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #4 - August 1st, 2006, 1:56 pm
    Post #4 - August 1st, 2006, 1:56 pm Post #4 - August 1st, 2006, 1:56 pm
    I would like to attend.
  • Post #5 - August 7th, 2006, 6:33 am
    Post #5 - August 7th, 2006, 6:33 am Post #5 - August 7th, 2006, 6:33 am
    Just a note to those planning on attending: a private e-mail has been sent with some pertinent details. Please contact me if you didn't receive it. Thanks!

    Dave
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #6 - August 27th, 2006, 3:39 pm
    Post #6 - August 27th, 2006, 3:39 pm Post #6 - August 27th, 2006, 3:39 pm
    LTH,

    The Olive Oil Tasting was interesting, educational, well organized and just plain fun. Sincere thanks to Gypsy Boy and Renee for hosting the OOT at their lovely home and going the extra mile, including a quintet of olives, Molinari salami and one of my all time favorite cheeses, Humboldt Fog, not to mention wonderful aged parmesan.

    After the OOT we slid* over to Carthage Cafe where, following in CoCo and Howlop's footsteps, we had an incredible Tunisian meal. A terrific evening all around, the interesting company of LTHers adding much, as always, to the enjoyment.

    Participant posts, comments and pictures to follow.

    Enjoy,
    Gary

    *Olive oil humor
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #7 - August 28th, 2006, 8:08 am
    Post #7 - August 28th, 2006, 8:08 am Post #7 - August 28th, 2006, 8:08 am
    This just in: for those of you who didn't happen to see yesterday's New York Times articles on the Great Olive Oil Tasting (a/k/a GOOT) and Daley's response, you may want to click on this link to get the complete scoop.

    The article on the right mentions, in passing, the top finishers (and the least popular, as well). Once I have had a bit more time to go through the score sheets and commentary, I will post in more detail about the result. In the meantime, our thanks to all those who attended and helped make this a most enjoyable few hours.

    Special thanks, also, to Gary for organizing the spectacular multi-hour extravaganza at Carthage Cafe that followed. A true Tunisian feast, it lacked for nothing: great food, great company, great drink!
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #8 - August 28th, 2006, 10:58 am
    Post #8 - August 28th, 2006, 10:58 am Post #8 - August 28th, 2006, 10:58 am
    I'm waiting for Gary's pics to provide all the details I'm already forgetting, but thanks again to Gypsy Boy and Renee for organizing the event so well, and hosting it so graciously. More to come...
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
    New episode: Soil, Corn, Cows and Cheese
    Watch the Reader's James Beard Award-winning Key Ingredient here.
  • Post #9 - August 28th, 2006, 12:29 pm
    Post #9 - August 28th, 2006, 12:29 pm Post #9 - August 28th, 2006, 12:29 pm
    And big thanks from me to Gypsy Boy and Renee for hosting. It was really nicely organized - with scoring sheets and vocabulary guides! You would think with 8 oils to taste I would get beyond grassy, fruity, peppery, bitter in my notes, but I seemed to get stuck there. And bravos also to Gary for organizing a very festive, incredibly varied and delicious dinner at Carthage Cafe. It was such a treat to meet people whose food advice I've been taking for the past year and half!
  • Post #10 - August 28th, 2006, 1:59 pm
    Post #10 - August 28th, 2006, 1:59 pm Post #10 - August 28th, 2006, 1:59 pm
    Splendid event on all counts. And while the general readership doesn't have everyday access to an event as thoughtful and interesting as the tasting, they can go to Carthage Cafe and dig into some of the great food -- and I think all at the dinner would encourage a trip to the restaurant. Ask for the Tunisian Specials menu.

    Thanks again to Gypsy Boy and Renee for their hospitality and to Gary for planning the feast.

    And bravo to Gypsy Boy for the great "New York Times" article on our party.
  • Post #11 - August 29th, 2006, 11:15 am
    Post #11 - August 29th, 2006, 11:15 am Post #11 - August 29th, 2006, 11:15 am
    Very educational -- thanks to David and Renee for organizing this. It was a treat to meet and remeet some of the finer palates around, I welcomed the opportunity to experience Tunisian food.
  • Post #12 - August 29th, 2006, 8:12 pm
    Post #12 - August 29th, 2006, 8:12 pm Post #12 - August 29th, 2006, 8:12 pm
    Hi,

    As many have expressed, this was a very educational evening and very well thought out by Gypsy Boy/David and Renee.

    When we arrived last Saturday night, we spent time in the living room meeting old friends and soon-to-be new friends. There were two kinds of cheeses to sample: Humboldt Fog and a parmesean, I believe, plus a salami. In bowls were a variety of olives of all sizes and colors with their names clearly labeled.

    When we retired to the dining room for the tasting, it was a true double-blind tasting: green bowls (yeah, to hide any recognizable color) labeled 1-8, which were known only to the hosts. Plenty of excellent bread in small chunks to dip into the olive oils. A score sheet taking into account:

    Aroma/Olfactory: rank for Fruit and/or other pleasant
    Palate/Gustatory: rank for fruit, bitter and pungency
    Overall/final: rank for intensity and harmony

    If one did not have vocabulary to express their taste, no problem because each person was provided an olive oil tasting reference.

    Closest to me, unfortunately, were the least pleasant olive oils: #4 Calaveda from Dominicks and #2 Carlini from Aldi. The Calaveda was simply harsh, which I didn't like at all though Gwiv and SGFoxe didn't share my dislike. Carlini began well enough until the oil hit the back of my mouth, which really reacted to the bitter strong taste.

    Later everyone was asked to announce their favored candidates. I honestly stated I was more affected by what I didn't like, than what I liked. It was like the flavor memory simply lingered casting a pall on lighter tasting olive oils.

    To appreciate the detail GypsyBoy put into this event, I would like to highlight the olive oil I brought: L'Estornell from Spain, which was ranked second in preference by attendees. The general opinion this olive oil had the best taste of olive from the group. When we were preparing to depart, GypsyBoy commented the smallest olives in living room were the olives used to make the L'Estornell: arbequina olives. This made a profound impression because the choice of olives in the table were not simply best tasting pr chosen randomly because of unique shape and color, rather they had a connection to the olive oils we enjoyed. Clearly GypsyBoy and Renee had put considerable research into this olive oil tasting.

    Other wonderful sidelights of the evening:

    - GypsyBoy and Renee are good friends of the Sazerac and his wife. We learned they had delivered a daughter the evening before. Our sincere congratulations!

    - Gary had gone to Cheese Stands Alone earlier in the day to get several different loaves of bread from Crust. His arrival to the shop coincided with Charles' delivery, making this bread the freshest examples. My favorite was the Apple Cider Rye/ Flax Seed, though we also sampled sour dough baguette and the third whose name I am not quite sure.

    The evening concluded with dinner at Carthage, which I hope someone will report in detail.

    Again, this was another fine evening of LTHforum generosity both in effort and shared knowledge.

    Best regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #13 - August 29th, 2006, 9:01 pm
    Post #13 - August 29th, 2006, 9:01 pm Post #13 - August 29th, 2006, 9:01 pm
    Cathy2 wrote:- Gary had gone to Cheese Stands Alone earlier in the day to get several different loaves of bread from Crust.

    Cathy,

    Actually, I went to the farmers market in the 6000 N block of Broadway, where, on Saturdays, Charles sells his bread directly, not the Cheese Stands Alone, which also sells Crust bread.

    Charles, Crust Bread
    Image

    As mentioned the OOT was the picture of organization.

    OOT
    Image
    Image

    Line up of Olive Oils tasted
    Image

    Along with a number of delicious snacks.
    Image
    Image

    Thanks again Renee and Gypsy Boy, I'm looking forward to the tally of results.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #14 - August 30th, 2006, 6:51 pm
    Post #14 - August 30th, 2006, 6:51 pm Post #14 - August 30th, 2006, 6:51 pm
    The previous posts in this thread explain the Great Olive Oil Tasting (a/k/a GOOT) pretty well. To spell it out in a little more detail, I want to explain more carefully what we did and why and how the tasting itself was conducted--and what resulted.

    To welcome everyone and get palates whetted, we offered some appetizers or vorspeisen. We thought a selection of olives would help discussion get started and we provided five kinds: Cerignola, Castelvetrano, and Gaeta (all Italian), Arbequina (Spanish), and Picholine (a French olive but likely an American version). All were purchased at Sam’s Wine & Spirits. There was also a chub of Molinari salami (a garlicky Genoa style sausage) from San Francisco and two cheeses: a mild chevre called Humboldt Fog (from Humboldt County, California) and an aged Parmegiano Reggiano. The Humboldt Fog disappeared. We also served a Sangiovese and a Vouvray, though many opted for water.

    We tasted eight oils, probably a few more than advisable. It’s very difficult to keep track of so many. We learned a number of things in the course of this little exercise, including that using small pieces of bread while marvelous as a vehicle, has other drawbacks. You fill up pretty fast. And even with “neutral” bread (we had LaBrea Bakery baguettes), the taste of the bread intervenes. Most, I think, found it extremely difficult to get a true sense of the flavor of the oils because of the bread.

    One of our many lessons is that next time I think we would use small plastic (i.e., disposable) spoons. That way one can savor small quantities without any other flavors getting in the way of tasting the oil itself. Drinking olive oil from wine glasses and spitting is just way too much trouble for the home host, no matter how much it may be common among professional tasters.

    Our eight oils were all extra virgin oils and were (in alphabetical order):

    Carapelli (Italy)
    Carlini (Italy)
    Colavita (Italy)
    DeCecco (Italy)
    L’Estornell (Spain)
    Horio (Greece)
    Kolymvari (Crete)
    Martinis (Greece)

    We provided modified score sheets. There is a wide variety of score sheets available on the Internet and some of these are highly professional. Most sheets break the scoring into three categories: aroma/olfactory; palate/gustatory; overall. These categories are sometimes broken down into subcategories and scoring methodologies vary enormously. I think most of us would have agreed that we fourteen tasters simply aren’t that sophisticated (yet). Lovely Dining Companion and I also provided a page of adjectives from a formal tasting “wheel” I found on the net. We made it available to everyone more to offer suggestions for sensations and tastes one might have without having a formal tasting vocabulary in place. The range of terms is extraordinary. For those who are interested, you can find the wheel here and yet another similar wheel here. And here is a sample of various olive oil descriptors.

    As it turned out, some tried to score every oil, some gave up early on. I scored the oils, for example, but don’t have great confidence in my scoring. And I have complete and total sympathy with those who did not feel they could score. As a result, therefore, we cannot offer definitive rankings. Instead, my comments will be based on the sheets themselves: so had complete scores, some had partial scores, some had none. Most had comments. At the end of the tasting, after the oils had been identified, I took an informal poll.

    As Cathy2 noted above, there were many who nodded in agreement when she said that it was easier to identify those oils that were disliked than those that were. Perhaps that reflects on the relatively mediocre quality of the major brands like Colavita, Carapelli, and DeCecco—although, as I will note later, each brand had at least two who listed it as one of their top choices.

    There was, not surprisingly, general agreement about the opposite ends of the spectrum. Two oils were named by five (of fourteen) people as in their top few. (Only one person named both “top” oils—me.) I didn’t ask people to name their top oil. That would have been too hard. Instead, I asked for everyone to name their “favorites,” leaving to them how many they wanted to single out. All (save one), received at least two mentions. The top two were L’Estornell and Kolymvari, neither exactly a household regular (at least judging from what’s available at Jewel and Dominick’s).

    The Kolymvari from Crete earned comments such as “fruity,” “bland, inoffensive,” “green,” “slight bitter finish” (bitter, it is to be noted, is uniformly considered a positive characteristic and was mentioned in connection with this oil several times), “buttery,” “earthy,” and, “weak.” Still, it was singled out by five tasters and seemed, subjectively speaking, to have the greatest consensus behind it. At least three of those who actually scored all the oils ranked it number one.

    The L’Estornell is a Spanish oil made from arbequina olives (of which we had a sample at the outset). Comments on it included “smooth,” “flowery, pleasant” “tasted most like olive.” Someone found it “very light,” and then the comments slid to “oily” and “pungent, vomit.” Kind of a range there.

    There was greatest consensus on Carlini, the Aldi house brand. It was the only oil to receive no mentions. Its descriptors included “harsh, chemical,” “really bitter,” “metal,” “industrial,” “harsh, definitely bitter” and the catch-all “blech.” The remaining oils all had their partisans, but few felt particularly strongly. And, according to my notes, no other oil was mentioned by name by more than two people. Among the descriptions of these various oils were:
    “well-balanced,” “peppery,” and “very bland” (of DeCecco)
    “bland, peppery,” “stale walnut,” and “very neutral” (of Horio)
    “unpleasant,” “metallic,” and “fresh, grassy” (of Martinis)
    “metallic, harsh,” “astringent,” “medicinal” (of Colavita)
    “smooth,” “weak, slightly bitter,” “nice in a bland way” (of Carapelli)

    I want to mention one other point: somone (Hellodali, if memory serves) pointed out that we shouldn’t ignore the built-in “recognition” factor for a familiar taste, for better or worse. We mostly brought the oils we use and so, perhaps only subconsciously, may have been predisposed to them.

    Lots of things to think about in any tasting. Since we had never conducted one (or even attended one), we've learned a lot.

    And look forward to the next one! Thanks to all who attended for making it such a success.
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #15 - August 31st, 2006, 11:48 am
    Post #15 - August 31st, 2006, 11:48 am Post #15 - August 31st, 2006, 11:48 am
    Thanks again for organizing the tasting. I am one of those who found it impossible to come up with enough different sensations to mark all the boxes on the score sheet; it quickly became clear that I just don't taste enough olive oil (as opposed to wine, say) to have that many different opinions about the same flavor. I stuck to a few comments and checking off the ones I liked.

    I think if I was going to go buy one it would be the L'Estornell; it had an actual flavor of olives, something that was surprisingly rare otherwise. Not sure if that makes it too aggressive for many uses, but that's something I wouldn't mind finding out. I liked Martinis as well but mostly for its kind of clean, neutral flavors, which makes it hard to get enthused about searching it out by comparison.

    The next morning, flavors fresh in my mind, I tried a couple that I had at home. The Erkence from the Taze store on Michigan Ave. I think may be over the hill, as it was down to about the last quarter inch or less in the bottle, the best you could say was that it was clean-tasting. (I think it had more character than that once.) And the Costco Tuscan stuff in the square, pressing-dated bottle stood up well as a quality olive oil for a modest price, having at least as much character as most of those we tasted. I was glad to know that, as my modest-priced everyday oil, it seemed a good choice.

    Anyway, thanks again for organizing it, an interesting and educational event.
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
    New episode: Soil, Corn, Cows and Cheese
    Watch the Reader's James Beard Award-winning Key Ingredient here.
  • Post #16 - August 31st, 2006, 11:54 am
    Post #16 - August 31st, 2006, 11:54 am Post #16 - August 31st, 2006, 11:54 am
    Glad you could join us. Just a note on the Martinis: when someone else said that they were bringing our regular oil, I went out to Dominick's to find the cheapest bottle I could. Martinis. It won't be hard to find at all. And it's cheap. I only wish I could agree with you about its quality.
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #17 - August 31st, 2006, 12:02 pm
    Post #17 - August 31st, 2006, 12:02 pm Post #17 - August 31st, 2006, 12:02 pm
    Thanks for the hard work and effort. Having been stumped a lot, by olive oil choices, I eagerly awaited the results. Still interesting if somewhat inconclusive. I guess the bottom line, perhaps, is that it was not an apples to apples comparison, like comparing Bordeaux to Barola to "Hearty Burgundy".

    Mike, I've had some fantastic olive oils from Ta-ze, some of the best I've tried, but I've also others that ended up tasting well past their prime--of course I was a victim of trying to buy some of their close outs.
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #18 - August 31st, 2006, 12:05 pm
    Post #18 - August 31st, 2006, 12:05 pm Post #18 - August 31st, 2006, 12:05 pm
    Well, in my case it was simply that I've had it since last August.
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
    New episode: Soil, Corn, Cows and Cheese
    Watch the Reader's James Beard Award-winning Key Ingredient here.
  • Post #19 - August 31st, 2006, 1:44 pm
    Post #19 - August 31st, 2006, 1:44 pm Post #19 - August 31st, 2006, 1:44 pm
    Chiming in a little bit late....

    Again, thanks to Gypsy Boy and The Lovely Dining Companion for their planning, hospitality, organization, and enthusiasm which made the olive oil tasting a big success.

    Besides learning that my wife hates the everyday inexpensive olive oil we use at home (Colavita), I did learn a few other things:

    You can find decent oil for a low price: OK. I knew this already, but it's nice to have it confirmed.

    Blind tastings are difficult: It's very challenging to taste a variety of similiar items at one sitting and discern differences, without some prior preparation. If I had to do this tasting again, I would probably spend the preceding month tasting different oils over different periods of time. Callibrating and acclimating one's palate to the food is critical.

    Blind tastings are fun: OK. I knew this one alread too, but it really is fun to sit around with a group of like-minded people, taste stuff, and talk about it.

    We had a blast. Thanks again.

    Best,
    Michael
  • Post #20 - August 31st, 2006, 1:53 pm
    Post #20 - August 31st, 2006, 1:53 pm Post #20 - August 31st, 2006, 1:53 pm
    Mike G wrote: I am one of those who found it impossible to come up with enough different sensations to mark all the boxes on the score sheet; it quickly became clear that I just don't taste enough olive oil (as opposed to wine, say) to have that many different opinions about the same flavor.


    I suspect that the issue is not that you haven't tasted enough oils, but rather that we were sampling a fairly narrow spectrum of oils. If we had a broader spectrum of oils, you probably would have noticed bigger differences. Overseas, I've had many "wow, I didn't know olive oil could taste like that" experiences, most recently last March in Morocco, where the Berber olive oil is rich and flavorful and varies from town to town. Nothing is blended for consistent taste, so taste is, well, not consistent, which makes it more interesting, but less reliable for the average home cook shopping at Jewel.

    This tasting was interesing largely because there was, in such a limited range, still enough difference to have some opinion. I think if you went and hit the olive oil wall and Fox & Obel, you'd find some bigger differences.

Contact

About

Team

Advertize

Close

Chat

Articles

Guide

Events

more