`Extra Virgin at Gastronomika

Fairs, Competitions

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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