`Restaurant, Wine Retailer Team Up to Pair Wines, Olive Oils and Foods - Olive Oil Times

Restaurant, Wine Retailer Team Up to Pair Wines, Olive Oils and Foods

Jan. 10, 2018
Alison Sandstrom

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Leonard Young is excited about olive oil.

A great olive oil tastes bet­ter, it smells bet­ter, peo­ple get some­thing out of it. It’s not just this greasy liq­uid that you’re dunk­ing your bread into before din­ner,” he told Olive Oil Times.

One of the things that I’m really work­ing toward is increas­ing peo­ple’s recog­ni­tion and appre­ci­a­tion of olive oil as a won­der­ful prin­ci­ple thing, just the same as you’d look at a great bot­tle of wine or a great plate of food.- Leonard Young, Waterstreet Cafe

Now, the recently cer­ti­fied olive oil som­me­lier is shar­ing his pas­sion with a series of spe­cial events in Olympia, Washington. Starting Saturday, Jan. 13, he’ll host four food, wine and olive oil tast­ings in part­ner­ship with Grand Vin Wine Merchants, a local wine retailer.

Diners will be able to tastes triplets” of spe­cially-selected food, wine, and olive oil com­bi­na­tions.

Leonard Young at the Olive Oil Sommelier Certification Program in Campbell, California

Young, who has been the wine direc­tor of three restau­rants in Olympia, includ­ing his cur­rent posi­tion at Waterstreet for fif­teen years, said the prin­ci­ples for pair­ing olive oil and food are more or less the same as those for pair­ing wine and food.

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Both olive oil som­me­liers and wine som­me­liers ana­lyze aro­mas and fla­vors, the main dif­fer­ence is their use of unique vocab­u­lar­ies. According to Young, the main char­ac­ter­is­tics to con­sider with high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil are fruiti­ness, bit­ter­ness, pun­gency and bal­ance.

With a very bold dish like a grilled steak, you’d want to use a more fruity oil — a more robust oil with more promi­nent fla­vors, maybe some­thing where the bit­ter­ness and pun­gency ele­ments are more promi­nently expressed. Whereas with a del­i­cate dish, you’d be look­ing for sub­tle oil where the fla­vors and aro­mas are less pro­nounced,” he said.

While Young may sound like an olive oil expert, he’s the first to admit he’s just at the begin­ning” of what he hopes will be a life­long learn­ing process.

In the spring of 2017, while brows­ing the Internet, he had the idea to intro­duce an olive oil tast­ing menu at Waterstreet Cafe. But after order­ing some award-win­ning olive oils online, he quickly real­ized he needed to learn more about extra vir­gin olive oil to do it prop­erly.

I real­ized I really didn’t know what I was doing and I needed to increase my knowl­edge,” he says.

It was that desire to learn more to do a bet­ter job at the restau­rant that drew him to a course Young now calls trans­for­ma­tive.”

During a week-long Olive Oil Sommelier Certification Program orga­nized by the International Culinary Center and the Olive Oil Times Education Lab, Young and his class­mates learned about olive oil his­tory, cul­ti­va­tion and pro­duc­tion, as well and received inten­sive train­ing on rec­og­niz­ing olive oil defects and sen­sory attrib­utes through taste and smell.

Young was amazed by what he learned.

It’s like hav­ing some­thing where your eyes get opened and you’re walk­ing into some­thing that’s so much more com­plete and more won­der­ful and big­ger than you could have imag­ined — my con­scious­ness around olive oil has increased so much,” he said.

Waterstreet Cafe

One of the first things he did upon return­ing to the restau­rant was taste the olive oil Waterstreet was serv­ing with bread. Discovering it was defec­tive, he quickly switched it out for a high-qual­ity oil of his own choos­ing — and he was just get­ting started.

One of the most fun and reward­ing things right now is to con­tinue to work with our chef on how olive oil is used in all aspects of our cui­sine. Changing the bread olive oil was rel­a­tively quick and easy, but kind of decon­struct­ing our use of olive oil in all of our cook­ing and try­ing to match the right oils to the right uses — all of that has been a lot of fun and that’s an ongo­ing process,” he said.

The Waterstreet Cafe menu now fea­tures a rotat­ing selec­tion of seven high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oils for tast­ing.

Young said what he views as the seri­ous under-appre­ci­a­tion of olive oil is one of the things he’s try­ing to address with the Wine + Food + Olive Oil” series at Grand Vin.

In the United States, at least, olive oil is gen­er­ally viewed as a condi­ment like mus­tard or ketchup,” Young said. One of the things that I’m really work­ing toward is increas­ing peo­ple’s recog­ni­tion and appre­ci­a­tion of olive oil as a won­der­ful prin­ci­pal thing, just the same as you’d look at a great bot­tle of wine or a great plate of food.”



Waterstreet Cafe
610 Water Street
Olympia, Washington
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