Some people think I am being somewhat obsessive when it comes to olive oils. I have no less than 4 brands on hand at any one time.
It all started a long time ago when I was in Solvang, near Santa Barbara, California. I was in the area inspecting hotels for coach tours I was operating. The tours had been set up before I started with the company and I was also trying to learn more about the region.
At the time I really had no idea about olives, or olive oils except that they figured widely in biblical stories. I certainly did not know there were olive groves in California.
There was a small outlet store for the Santa Barbara Olive Company* in this cute touristified town and we wandered in to see that they had. Well, we were treated to the widest assortment of olives I had ever seen, from hot chili infused olives to the briny Greek style. There were garlic stuffed olives, mushroom stuffed olives, almond stuffed olives, beer style, cajun style, hickory smoked, wine cured and many more. There were handpicked natural tree ripened olives. There were also pressed oils.
It was an expensive stop.
Since then I have tried many types of oils and learned how the different growing regions and climatic variations each add a character to the olives grown there. Some are very fruity and aromatic, others are spicy. Some oils are deep green, others are more yellow. When you have 3 or 4 types from different areas, you can do some taste tests with just some plain dipping bread. If you pour the oil into some small white bowls you can see the colour differences.
I’m really no olive professional. I’ve just enjoyed discovering olives and oils as a part of my travel life. If you are interested in olive oils, here is a link to a good site on Greek foods and olive oils by Elena Paravantes.
I’ve been back to California several times but there are also some really amazing world destinations where olive oil is more than a food, it’s a cultural icon. Call me at our tour office toll free 888-778-2378 in North America or directly on my cell phone at 778-932-0028 and I can help you set up a private tour.
* The Santa Barbara Olive Company now distributes widely and has closed its store in Solvang, though you can still buy their Olive products in other stores. There is a search function on their website. Use the zip code number 934 to get a listing.