Friday, November 09, 2012

Olive Oil from Spain


Next week I'll be in Spain, tasting the gourmet food and wines of the Basque region, then heading out into the country to visit wineries, a cheese maker and a fish cannery, finally ending in Madrid. But while I'll be indulging in all things Spanish, you can get a taste too. 

Olive Oil from Spain is highlighting different olive oil varietals during Olive OIl from Spain Restaurant Week from November 12 -18, 2012 here in San Francisco. Of course Spanish olive oils are not just used in Spanish cooking so in addition to Contigo and Canela, Atelier Crenn is also creating special dishes, inspired by the four most popular Spanish olive oil varietals, picual, hojiblanca, arbequina and cornicabra. 

I highly recommend dining at Contigo, I've loved it since day one. I celebrated a birthday at Atelier Crenn earlier this year and was really wowed by the experience, from the food through the service and wines. I've only been to Canela once, and it was right after it opened. It was a bit hit or miss, but it was early days. You can also find Spanish olive oils at local Draegers, Mollie Stone's or Whole Foods. 

I got a chance to try each of the varietals, which are often featured in blends so I really didn't know what each tasted like on it's own. Here are my tasting notes:

Arbequina 
- Buttery, mild, with a bite on the finish
Drizzle on raw or cooked vegetables and grilled dish, not recommended for cooking

Cornicabra
- Pungent and bright, fruity
Use with warm salads, cooked vegetables and sauces such as mayonnaise

Hojiblanca
- Mild, sweet, creamy and smooth
Recommended for frying and in making bread, pasta and pastries 

Picual
- Grassy, notes of hay
Best used for frying also it was suggested paired with orange and chocolate

I also got a sneak peek at the dishes that will be served at Atelier Crenn. As you might expect the dishes that chef Dominique Crenn created were wildly creative, beautiful and exciting. 

Clockwise: Hamachi, caviar, beet gelee and celery sorbet, Tomato, olive rock and chèvre, Squab, sunchoke and huckleberry, Fallen olive dessert

Courtesy of Olive Oil from Spain, here are some very cool ideas for ways to use olive oil you might not have considered:

* For a fast appetizer, pour it over fresh chevre or feta cheese with some pepper flakes and chopped herbs. 

* Use instead of mayonnaise in your egg salad sandwich or deviled eggs. 

* Dress up chocolate ice cream by scooping into small rounds and placing them atop a small pool of olive oil.  Sprinkle with Maldon salt. 

* Mix with honey and orange juice. Serve over chilled orange slices with julienned mint. 

* Toss on popcorn with a little salt and hot or sweet pimentón for Spanish-style popcorn. Goes especially well with Almodóvar films.