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I now recommend going to T.J. Maxx for those rare hard-to-find items.

One bottle of what is apparently a REALLY good oil produced from Taggiasca olives in Liguria (birthplace of pesto) was on sale at the store in Friendship Heights. Its expiration date is late in 2007 and the price seems to be a bargain. :)

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Dean and DeLuca have an excellent selection of olive oils; second would be Balducci's. Also, don't hesitate to buy these over the internet. Generally, with olive oil you should not even concern yourself with expiration dates; you want the most recent bottled oil you can find. This is more about oil made from olives that had yet to be picked a few months ago and less about a year, two or three in the bottle. The best olive oil I have ever tasted is the "family" olive oil of Romano Dal Forno. For several years I have been fortunate to receive several bottles of this only a month or two after going into the bottle. A spoonful of his olive oil is something that I savor, literally tasting naked without anything to color its flavor. An oil on this level isn't even about cooking; it's about tasting it for its own flavor and silky, unctuous texture.

As for Ligurian olive oils vs. Tuscan, if you can find Castella di Ama I will put this against ANY Ligurian olive oil that you can find. In general there is a whole school who believe the BEST olive oils are Tuscan-not Ligurian, Grecian or from anywhere else. It is also an experience to watch olives picked and, several weeks later, taste the oil from those olives. In Tuscany and Verona.

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Since I am participating in a project in which everyone is cooking the foods of a particular region of Italy each month, I was seeking Ligurian oil specifically to use throughout May.

Litteri seems to have built its inventory on the kinds of foods that Italian-Americans could not find in this country long before there were places like Dean & DeLuca's. Its Italian olive oils tend to come from Sicily or Apulia if not Tuscany...or abroad since Italy is the largest importer of olives in the world according to one of my sources. The olive oil sold under the 365 label at Whole Foods is produced in Italy, lately, from Tunisian fruit.

It does seem as if larger manufacturers are starting to realize the potential market for regional specialties, so that even Colavita is labelling its oils from Apulia, Umbria and Tuscany as distinctly desirable commodities.

However, yesterday, my good fortune at T.J. Maxx struck me as one of those perfect little moments when the lesser gods of the universe answer one's prayers since my sleek elegant bottle is from Casa Olearia Taggiasca. Thus, no need to search farther afield.

And, yes, I am in agreement with you regarding the pleasures of new olive oil. My first taste was of unfiltered, brilliant green oil in the central market of Florence, cloudy in the cold, dank days of winter.

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Some interesting information on storing olive oil from Harold McGee's blog:

Refrigeration usually slows the deterioration of our foods by slowing the chemical reactions that cause it. But extra-virgin olive oil turns out to go rancid at about the same rate in the cold as it does at room temperature.
Read the rest here.
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Chicago Trib article on Olive Oil. (hat tip MeMc)

Does anyone have favorites for basic home usage in cooking & salad dressing? I've been using the Kalamata one that TJs stocks for cooking, but I've yet to pick a favorite for drizzling over salads etc.

This sounds like a question that could be answered at the spring picnic. We've had butter tastings before, why not olive oil tasting?

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Chicago Trib article on Olive Oil. (hat tip MeMc)

Does anyone have favorites for basic home usage in cooking & salad dressing? I've been using the Kalamata one that TJs stocks for cooking, but I've yet to pick a favorite for drizzling over salads etc.

For all-around use we really like Frantoia, a Sicilian oil available at the Italian Store for about $25 a liter. Nice fruit with a hint of pepperiness. Holds up well to sauteing; doesn't overpower salad dressings; and makes a nice finish on pastas, meats, and veggies. I think Batali used it on his old "Molto Mario" show.

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Bella Italia (Bethesda Ave., Bethesda) carries an interesting selection of Italian olive oils for dipping/drizzling/dressing and not only maintains a set of tasting notes on them, but also offers on-the-spot tastings of pretty much all of them, so you can decide exactly which combination of fruity, spicy or grippy you prefer.

Ligurian olive oils seem to be held in particularly high regard, but I haven't tasted enough of them to have formed my own opinion yet.

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Ligurian olive oils seem to be held in particularly high regard, but I haven't tasted enough of them to have formed my own opinion yet.
I bought it only once--a really good bottle at TJ Maxx for about half Balducci's price--and liked it a lot. It was softer than most. No edge. Makes sense to use the oil Genoa uses to make its pesto once basil season arrives, especially if you're like Porcupine and grow the city's type of basil. Also great in maro--a wonderful purée made of fava beans, mint and pecorino.
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My obsession began with the Berrio jug at Costco, and I washed out an old bottle of wine, filled the bottle with the Berrio, put in a wine stopper, et voila, I had my first stove-side extra virgin olive oil, ready to sprinkle here, there and everywhere.

Then I picked up a bottle of my old stand-by, the Lebanese extra virgin olive oil Saifan, placed a stopper in it and now I had two bottles, side-by-side.

Then the nice man behind the counter at Victor's Pizzeria in Springfield showed me the bottles of Greek Karousos that he had next to the cash register. They are from olives grown on his property in Greece, and every year he goes back to supervise the pressing and bottling. His recipe for eggs cooked in Karousos and then topped with feta is one of my favorite weekend breakfast treats. So...a bottle of Karousos with a stopper joined the party, and eight more bottles of Karousos were purchased as Christmas presents.

With Greece, Lebanon and Italy covered, I next found Columela (thanks to a comparative tasting on America's Test Kitchen) and Mas Portell Arbequina, and thus Spain was covered.

Morocco joined my mix when I stumbled upon Mustapha's First Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I forget where I found it, but it's very good, even a little spicy. Drizzled over cous-cous is its calling.

Here and there I picked up another Spanish bottle at Trader Joe's, an entirely Kalamata extra virgin olive oil, a Kirkland brand Tuscany extra virgin olive oil, and a Berrio spray for quick and light applications.

Then two weeks ago, I visited Sonoma County, and tasted my way through some of the fruitiest and spiciest extra virgin olive oils I have ever experienced, some of them very bold, and a few of them crafted as heirs to their various European roots. These are very artisanal, and I find myself sipping them by the tablespoonful (when nobody is looking). I shipped a box of them back to Virginia, put stoppers in them, and they joined the club.

There are 20 bottles next to my stove now, and there is no dish I prepare that can be spared an adequate drizzling or sprinkling or pouring of these treasures from the olive tree. My girlfriend suggests that professional help may be required, and wonders why I occasionally smell like olive oil (OK, so I occasionally dab some behind my ears). There isn't anything I won't dip into their nectar, from bread to cheese to my neighbor's dog.

I'm actually running out of stoppers, but I'll probably never run out of extra virgin olive oil! Oh yeah, here's a picture....

post-3563-126824819816_thumb.jpg

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It's so much easier just to type, "EVOO". I'm lazy, besides all the cool interweb kids are doing it that way, with all kinds of things..

My point about the dreaded "EVOO" refers to the obnoxious, raspy-voiced and talentless television personality who uses it as one of her badges of faux cuteness that makes most of us barf...

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She certainly seems to have a talent for making money.

And not one nickel came out of my pocket.

You just described America, where getting rich without talent is an industry. Paris Hilton. Kim Kardashian. Zsa Zsa Gabor. The Jonas Brothers. I certainly hope you're mocking this phenomenon, not extolling it....

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And not one nickel came out of my pocket.

You just described America, where getting rich without talent is an industry. Paris Hilton. Kim Kardashian. Zsa Zsa Gabor. The Jonas Brothers. I certainly hope you're mocking this phenomenon, not extolling it....

While I am no fan, at least RR actually worked to get where she is today. And where is Mr. Cole with her back?

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Telluride, in fact. ;)

Wherever my heroes are defamed, I shall be there. But if you want to talk trash, take it to the RR thread. This is supposed to be about EVOO.

Answer this there: in what way is she untalented?

(in case anyone wants the link to that thread.)

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While I am no fan, at least RR actually worked to get where she is today.

I agree. While I can find her annoying, her recipes work, and 30 Minute Meals is a decent cooking show. I don't have any interest in watching a full talk show with her doing talk show hostess things, but I enjoy most episodes of 30MM. She's not a chef but has enough of a food background to know what she's doing.

I've always been annoyed with the spoken "EVOO," (especially because she often follows it by saying: "extra virgin olive oil") but it's a helpful written shorthand.

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I was given a bottle of a Texas-produced olive oil called "Sola Estella" (Lone Star). I was very impressed by the flavor, even color. It was assertively on the nutty side, with layers of grass. Has anyone else tried or heard of it? I have included a picture of the bottle.

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Motivated by this article in the Post a couple of months ago, I reached out to the company cited in the article (olio2go.com) to see if they offered any way for someone to appreciate a better olive oil by comparing with a lesser one side by side. I wanted to learn more about the oils. They're a small business but invited me out. We tasted 6 or so oils and brought home two:

- Principe di Mascio EVOO D.O.P. Umbria (smooth, silky, nutty and peppery especially on the aftertaste)

- Trapppeto Di Caprafico EVOO Colline Teatine D.O.P. Da Agricoltura Biologica (tasted it, really liked it, can't recall the profile though and haven't opened this one yet)

...along with a couple of delicious balsamic vinegars that make including Modena or Reggio Emilia on a future Italy trip more likely. I'd recommend olio2go.com as a good source for interesting, quality oils, vinegars and other imported Italian foods. You can pick up orders in NoVA or have them shipped.

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There's a shop on the corner of Pennsyl\vania Avenue and Eastern Market called Sapore which -- while arguable ludicrously expensive (but, aren't all olive oil shops) has an excellent if small selection apparently personally selected by the proprietrice. I was personally charmed by their excellent Greek oil, high quality versions fo which are hard to find.

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There's a shop on the corner of Pennsyl\vania Avenue and Eastern Market called Sapore which -- while arguable ludicrously expensive (but, aren't all olive oil shops) has an excellent if small selection apparently personally selected by the proprietrice. I was personally charmed by their excellent Greek oil, high quality versions fo which are hard to find.

Let me put in a special plug for her walnut oil. It smells amazing.. I've never found walnut oil that aromatic before.

The author appeared on "The Splendid Table" during his book tour and recommended three brands including California Olive Ranch. The other two were Spanish and very pricey.

I can't recall how I first came across the California Olive Ranch brand, but I saw some at Giant earlier this year and have been buying it ever since. It seems good quality to me and is reasonably priced. I'm glad to know it has more knowledgeable fans out there ^_^ .

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Olive oil shops do seem to be taking off in the DC metro area. Last weekend, we tried Sapore in Capital Hill and Under the Olive Tree at Tysons Corner Mall in McLean. Secolari will haven't tried yet or some of the other local places such as Ah love Oil and Vinegar or Mediterranean Bakery & Cafe.

So far, surprisingly Under the Olive Tree in a mall was to our liking the most since they listed the polyphenols (health benefits) in each extra virgin olive oil and used Veronica Foods from LA as a purveyor. Extra Virginity has a chapter or so on Mike Bradley's (Veronica's CEO) world journey to teach himself what makes a the best extra virgin olive oil.

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Thanks for all the earlier replies. I've been enjoying using extra virgin olive oil instead of butter the past few weeks. Normal regular food like toast taste a little new and exciting with oil instead of butter.

We tried Secolari, and it reminded me of Sapore. Apparently all of the new extra virgin olive oil places use the same style bottles and sizes. It's hard to believe stainless steel dispensers costs $120-150.

Does anyone have recommendations for shopping at Turkish grocery stores? I would like to try some Turkish olive oil.

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...

Does anyone have recommendations for shopping at Turkish grocery stores? I would like to try some Turkish olive oil.

Yes! You mentioned it already, not sure if you have been able to visit....

Mediterranean Bakery and Cafe

I stumbled into it recently and found a treasure trove of Turkish, Greek, and other well-stocked delights in Alexandria. It's hidden away in a Home Depot shopping center.

Don't let the name fool you, this place is packed with olive oils, vinegars, pickled everything, countless canned and bottled goods, many of which I have not seen in years. The pastries and quick meals looked inviting. It's well-arranged, with friendly staff, but I was running low on time and traveling light so I could not procure much. I keep meaning to get back over there and stock up. If you go, I would welcome hearing what you discovered.

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^I haven't been in a while, but imo their olive oils and vinegars (oil especially) are overpriced, and there doesn't appear to be a lot of turnover in their stock. Many oils have a harvest year or date on the label--you can get a sense of how long that bottle has been sitting on the shelf when you check the label.

The best stuff at that place are the pastries, both sweet and savory, and pita when you can get it still warm from the oven.

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Under the Olive Tree in Tysons Corner Mall has a wide variety of incredibly fresh and tasty extra virgini olive oils. Right now they are getting just pressed oils from the lower hemisphere.

The displays tell you the polyphenol level, the level of oleic acid, the free fatty acid (FFA), and other information.

This is the good stuff.

Parenthetically, the similarity between the photo for the Sapore store and Under the Olive Tree makes me wonder if they are both customers of Veronica Foods' "open a store" promo? Never been to Sapore, no desire to park on Capital Hill.

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^ Mr. lperry emailed this article to me yesterday, and, apart from loving the animation of the little policemen and the smoking, martini-swilling bad guys, I was surprised by the near 70% rate of bad oil.  It seems quite a bit like the "truffle" oil exposé a few years back.

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^ One of the reasons I rarely buy Italian olive oil. The really good stuff is way too expensive, and the affordable stuff doesn't come from Italy anyway. I prefer the flavor of Spanish oil--especially arbequií±a and hojiblaca oil, which are buttery and soft. Not a big fan of the aggressively grassy and spicy flavor of many Italian oils-- in Spain, picual would be the close equivalent in flavor, so I only go for that olive oil if it is in a blend with arbequií±a and hojiblanca.

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^ This is the reason why I only buy California Olive Ranch olive oil. Independent tests showed that it is 100% olive oil (along with Corto which is supposed to be sold at Costco and I'm not sure if the Kirkland brand is the same stuff or not).  My local Safeway carries it and I try to get some when they put it on sale. The Columbia Heights Giant had it really cheap for a short time. It is significantly cheaper than MacAvoy (sp?), which is also pure.  I first read about the adulteration of olive oil in The New Yorker a few years ago; so, this is an ongoing saga.

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You are not likely to taste a better olive oil than the one you will find next to the cash register at Victor's Pizzeria in Sprinfield (next to Whole Foods). It was called Karousos in its 12.7 oz. bottling a year or so ago, and it is now bottled in .5 liters and called "My Greek Olive Oil"....it's from their own family's trees in Greece, and is bottled and sold by the family. It's the only olive oil I will use directly for dipping or anything where I want its flavor to come through -- like driizzling it over kibbeh nayyeh....

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My agency recently completed a competitiveness study for the US Olive Oil industry, to examine and report on the

conditions of competition between U.S. and major foreign olive oil supplier industries. The study was at the request of the Committee on Ways and Means (the US International Trade Commission carries out most trade-related economic and industry studies for the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees and the US Trade Representative).

For any trade nerds out there, enjoy:

http://www.usitc.gov/publications/332/pub4419.pdf

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In general, Tuscan oils are very grassy; Greek oils tend to be more unctuous and less straw-like. This is obviously a gross generalization, and it's not a difference of quality so much as style.

(Many people think Tuscan oils are the best in the world; I prefer ones from Provence for their balance - it also seems like good winemakers make good oils, something about the mentality or maybe even the equipment.)

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