`Extra Virgin at Gastronomika - Olive Oil Times

Extra Virgin at Gastronomika

Oct. 13, 2014
Luciana Squadrilli

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Extra vir­gin olive oil is con­sid­ered by more chefs as a high­light of con­tem­po­rary cui­sine, a mul­ti­fac­eted ingre­di­ent for imag­i­na­tive dishes as well as for every­day cook­ing. So, it’s no sur­prise that it played an impor­tant role dur­ing the 16th edi­tion of Gastronomika, the International Gastronomy Congress held from 5 to 8 October 2014 in San Sebastian, the beau­ti­ful sea­side town in the Basque Country.

While Italy was this year’s guest coun­try, with impor­tant Italian chefs and spe­cialty food ven­dors invited to present their recipes and philoso­phies on stage along­side their Spanish col­leagues, the exhibit­ing area dis­played mainly prod­ucts hail­ing from Spain.

The main Spanish oil-pro­duc­ing regions as well as sin­gle pro­duc­ers had their EVOOs on dis­play while no Italian rep­re­sen­ta­tive was to be seen, proof to some that Italy does not give suf­fi­cient atten­tion to the impor­tance of extra vir­gin olive oils for haute cui­sine.

The Jaén province, known as the world cap­i­tal of olive oil and the biggest pro­ducer in Spain, had a large stand show­cas­ing the best prod­ucts of the region. Among them, we tasted the Bravoleum Picual made by Hacienda El Palo, a pleas­ant and slightly spicy oil with fla­vors of green olive, sweet almonds and a del­i­cate banana fruiti­ness, com­ing in a styl­ish vio­let bot­tle.

The PDO Sierra de Cazorla — a nat­ural enclave of the province of Jaén, with a total sur­face area of 37,500 hectares of olive groves where Picual and Royal olives thrive — had its own stand, to present a num­ber of tra­di­tional extra vir­gin oils and some pecu­liar prod­ucts.

Aceite Verde Quesada – a mer­chant and bot­tling com­pany led by José López – pre­sented an extra vir­gin oil with tiny gold or sil­ver par­ti­cles float­ing in the bot­tle. The pre­cious met­als don’t change the taste of the oil, they’re sim­ply bling to impress the con­sumer (and increase the price).

López also proudly pre­sented what he claimed was the first nat­u­rally smoked extra vir­gin olive oil. A Picual oil is cold-smoked at around 14 – 18 (C) degrees for 8 hours with an organic” smoke obtained from the shells of dried fruits such as nuts and hazel­nuts, giv­ing the oil an entan­gling aroma, while dis­guis­ing the taste of the Picual.


The Caceres Province, in Extremadura, pro­posed sev­eral prod­ucts fea­tur­ing extra vir­gin olive oil of the Gata-Hurdes PDO. Mainly obtained from cen­tury-old olives of Manzanilla Cacerena vari­ety, Caceres oils are intensely fruity with nice fla­vors of banana, apple, tomato and freshly cut grass and a very well-bal­anced taste.

El Jardin de Alamayate, a com­pany which runs sev­eral farms in the areas of Madrid and Andalusia, brought to Gastronomika excel­lent extra vir­gin olive oils labeled Alma de Jerez, made at the Los Rachiles farm in Jerez de la Frontera. Apart from the company’s two blends made from Verdial, Hojiblanco, Picual and Arbequina olives, which won Gold and Silver Awards at the 2013 New York International Olive Oil Competition, they also pre­sented a spe­cial early har­vest, unfil­tered Picual freshly made for the fair.

Caviaroli with quinoa

Caviaroli pre­sented a new ver­sion of its inno­v­a­tive prod­uct — an olive oil caviar made using a spe­cial spher­i­fi­ca­tion tech­nique devel­oped with the col­lab­o­ra­tion of the chef Ferran Adrià and his Alìcia Foundation. Beside the Picual extra vir­gin oil spheres, they now pro­duce an Arbequina, for a gen­tler touch to both salty and sweet recipes, and vari­eties fla­vored with basil, chile and rose­mary.

A new recipe book made with Eduard Xatruch, chef at the Compartir restau­rant in Cadaqués together with Oriol Castro and Mateu Casañas — all of them for­mer chefs at El Bulli — offers ideas for using Caviaroli in the kitchen.

Finally, an Italian chef offered extra vir­gin olive oil as a main ingre­di­ent, not just a fat,” in a dish he pre­sented at the con­gress. Salvatore Tassa, acclaimed and respected owner and cuciniere” (he does­n’t want to be called a chef” but a cook) at Colline Ciociare in Acuto, not far from Rome, pre­sented a con­tem­po­rary ver­sion of an old clas­sic of Italian cui­sine, pasta al pomodoro.

In his ver­sion, how­ever, the freshly made pasta is emul­si­fied with extra vir­gin olive oil at a tem­per­a­ture of 40 ºC, (104 ºF) at which the oil mol­e­cules open” and thor­oughly pen­e­trates into the pasta, thus becom­ing part of it. The dish is then com­pleted with dried toma­toes and a sprin­kle of aged Parmesan: totally Italian.

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