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Why olive oil is like wine

The Oliviers & Co. 2015 Grand Cru Collection Oils(left), Oliviers & Co. Agrolaguna Olive Oil from Croatia(right)

One of my favorite dishes at Vask Modern Tapas & Gastronomic Cuisine (not to be confused with their fine-dining Gallery Vask next door) is the Torrija, a silky smooth brioche soaked in milk, cream and eggs 24 hours before being caramelized in butter caramel, and torched with sugar for that smoky, crunchy glaze. At the Oliviers & Co. launch, where a special five-course degustation menu of the restaurant’s signature dishes was prepared, this brioche was glazed with the brand’s Soler Romero Organic Olive Oil from Spain. Likewise, executive chef Jose Luis “Chele” Gonzalez whipped the Spanish olive oil into an emulsion, creating an olive oil ice cream. It was already a favorite then but with the inclusion of olive oil, the layers of the flavor were heightened, and the delicately sweet sensation lengthened. I wiped the dessert out immediately, short of licking the spoon. Wow. The wonders that come with just the addition of a “grand cru” olive oil to the dish!

Oliviers & Co. Singapore general manager May Tan; Oliviers & Co. director of international sales Melanie Costaris; and Oliviers & Co. Singapore managing director Michel Beaugier

Oliviers & Co., while a French company, differentiates itself from the lot in that it is the only company sourcing olive oils not just from its country of origin, but from around the world, including Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal and Croatia. All olives are hand-harvested and measured “by taste, by nose and by luminescence” according to sensory analyst Eric Verdier. Each bottle is labeled with the producer, the maker, harvest and expiration dates. They are limited edition productions, with “new collections” launched yearly, just like that of a fashion brand. “The idea came after a trip to Greece by the owners of the company and they found out that olive oil was like wine,” shared sales director Mélanie Costaris-Novais. “And then because of Mother Nature and the harvest every year (for instance, this year there were was a severe drought in Tuscany), every year can be different. One producer (this year), if you taste it the following year, it can be different. The good part is that most of the producers we are working with know what we are looking for.”

For instance, this year’s collection features the Agrolaguna — a rare oil from the Istria region of Croatia where leccino and picholine olives create a flavor that’s both vegetal and nutty, making it a versatile ingredient for vegetables, meat, cheese and even desserts. “Croatia is really similar to Italy as they are (geographically) close,” continues Mélanie. “It’s vegetal, very green. This is exactly what we want to educate our consumers about — that you can also have good olive oil from Croatia and Tunisia.”

The 10 new varieties for 2015 are all labeled “grand cru” as they are excellent expressions of the beautiful Mediterranean terroirs. At the launch at Vask, executive chef Chele Gonzalez selected six of his favorite ones and incorporated them into his signature dishes. “Olive oil is really part of our culture in Spain,” shares Chele. “We grew up learning that olive oil is healthy; that there are different olive oils, and when you cook, you should taste it as it will give you different layers of flavor — that’s the importance we give to olive oil. We also value olive oil like wine — they are very similar; different kinds of olives and varieties, and each give different particularities, acidity, aromas, etc.”

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In the Philippines, Oliviers & Co. is exclusively distributed by Specialty Food Retailers Inc. (SFRI), a member of SSI Group, Inc. Boutiques are located at Central Square, Bonifacio High Street and Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center

You can reach me at inbetweendeadlines@gmail.com, on my blog www.cheryltiu.com, on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cheryltiu or on Instagram at www.instagram.com/chertiu

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