` 'New Olive Oil Days' in Vodnjan, Croatia

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'New Olive Oil Days' in Vodnjan, Croatia

Nov. 21, 2013
By Petra Pilat Jakovcic

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The small Istrian town of Vod­n­jan hosted the ninth New Olive Oil Days this week. This year’s event was vis­ited by very many olive oil lovers who, dur­ing the three days, had the oppor­tu­nity to taste new extra vir­gin olive oils, attend spe­cial­ized lec­tures, taste top-qual­ity gas­tron­omy delights and, for the first time this year, take part in culi­nary work­shops.

Apart from 80 olive oil pro­duc­ers who pre­sented some 200 sam­ples of new olive oil from the 2013 har­vest and other indige­nous prod­ucts, this year’s New Olive Oil Days were marked by the par­tic­i­pa­tion of numer­ous cooks, chefs, cater­ing providers, restau­rants, tav­erns, stu­dents attend­ing tourism man­age­ment and cater­ing schools and many other vis­i­tors from the area of Istria and the Kvarner Gulf. They pre­pared over 8,000 fish dishes (by Cro­maris) and Boškarin (Istrian cattle)-based dishes (by AZRRI) with the empha­sis on new olive oil dur­ing a spe­cial culi­nary show­case.

The Oil Bar gave the oppor­tu­nity to all inter­ested vis­i­tors to assess the qual­ity of olive oil, depend­ing on the type, rang­ing from mild sorts to those bit­ingly spicy. Among other things, one could learn that the most impor­tant thing was to bal­ance spicy and fruity fla­vors by pre­serv­ing cru­cial fresh­ness of herbs or olives in the first scent of the oil. Guided olive oil tast­ings were orga­nized for vis­i­tors who wanted to learn more about the assess­ment process.

The edu­ca­tional part of the pro­gram included a num­ber of lec­tures whose aim was to improve and sup­port com­pet­i­tive­ness and devel­op­ment of olive oil pro­duc­ers. Dr. Mario Bjeliš intro­duced olive oil pro­duc­ers to bio-eco­log­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics of the olive fruit pest cur­culio (Rhyn­chites crib­ripen­nis). Dr. Davorin Bažulić held a lec­ture titled Waste Man­age­ment in Pro­duc­tion and Pro­cess­ing of Olives.” On Sun­day, vis­it­ing lec­turer Luigi Car­i­cato, the Ital­ian ole­ol­o­gist, pre­sented the topic titled Extra Vir­gin Oil at Your Din­ing Table: Rec­om­men­da­tions for Use.”

This year, a nov­elty was intro­duced to the gas­tro­nomic and edu­ca­tional part of the pro­gram: work­shops by the Lit­tle Acad­emy of the LF Cater­ing, which rep­re­sented a truly new trend at the New Olive Oil Days, which allowed vis­i­tors to acquire new skills and knowl­edge in prepar­ing pasta, rice, choco­late, olive oil, steaks and mari­nades.

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So, Which Olive Oil?” was a title of another inter­est­ing work­shop orga­nized dur­ing the event in Vod­n­jan. LF Cater­ing brought together an inter­est­ing mix of oenol­o­gists, gas­tro­nomic and oil experts who were assigned the fol­low­ing task: for one fish dish, one meat dish and one sweet dish they had to find an ideal match” among six olive oils pro­duced in the area of Vod­n­janština.

As evi­dent from the title of the over­all event, all the olive oils offered were new or young, i.e. made from 2013 har­vest. Local asso­ci­a­tion Agro­tur­ist” was in charge of selec­tion of oils that were used in the work­shop. The fol­low­ing oils were selected: Buža, Kar­bonaca, Istrian bjel­ica, Žižol­era, Rožin­jola and a mix­ture (blend) of Lec­cino, Pen­dolino and an indige­nous sort which the oil pro­ducer wanted to keep secret. Also, names of oil pro­duc­ers and oil mills whose oils were tasted were kept secret until the very end; they were revealed only after the jury announced the win­ners.

For pur­poses of such blind tast­ing” meals were pre­pared by chef Robert Perić. The jury was com­posed of: Dušan Čern­jul, the owner of the Velan­era hotel at Šišan, Franko Lukež, gas­tronome from Pula, Pino Kuhar, cook­ery teacher from Žminj, Denis Ivoše­vić, direc­tor of the Istria Tourist Board, Gior­gio Clain, wine maker from Kra­sica, Gino Cel­letti and Clau­dio Ipša and Livio Cis­sara, oil pro­duc­ers from Ipši and Vod­n­jan, respec­tively.

The floun­der fil­let was the first dish served. The orga­niz­ers had pre­vi­ously agreed that ther­mal pro­cess­ing should be used to a min­i­mum degree and that no spices should be added to the dishes being served, so that the promi­nent taste was that of olive oil. Ten­der floun­der, only slightly oven baked, goes well with Rožin­jola and Istrian bjel­ica from the 2013 har­vest, how­ever, it is best served with Rožin­jola. In other words, the floun­der fil­let and this year’s Rožin­jola were pro­claimed the first per­fect match at the ninth New Olive Oil Days in Vod­n­jan.

Fol­low­ing the floun­der fil­let, the jury was then served a medium rare sliced steak, tagli­ata, made from a four-year-old Istrian cat­tle boškarin, pre­pared at 64° C, juicy and evenly pink when sliced. The jury decided that its per­fect match was this year’s Istrian bjel­ica, and we must empha­size here once again – this year’s. So, Istrian boškarin likes the Istrian bjel­ica! The deci­sion was made for these rea­sons: firstly, the strong bit­ter fla­vor and medium spicy note of this oil are per­fectly blended with meat juices and sec­ondly, the major­ity of the jury mem­bers stressed that, of all olive oils tasted, the Istrian bjel­ica had the most promi­nent after­taste.

Finally, the dessert: Ten­der and not too sweet cocoa and almond souf­flé”, as the chef Perić dubbed his choco­late souf­flé, called for an olive oil with less promi­nent taste and bit­ter notes. This type of pair­ing proved to be most dif­fi­cult and the jury could not decide among three types of olive oils: Rožin­jola and blend of Lec­cino and Pen­dolino were con­sid­ered, but Kar­bonaca won” and was thus pro­claimed a per­fect match for this daz­zling dessert.

Next year, we will cel­e­brate the tenth anniver­sary of this event when the town of Vod­n­jan will host the tenth New Olive Oil Days.

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