ISSUE 100  |  Thanksgiving Feast

How to Choose a Good Olive Oil

November 26, 2013 2:00 PM

BY Sarah Lonsdale

On my recent visit to Storm Olive Ranch where owners Bonnie Storm and Nena Talcott make their blend of Grove 45 extra virgin olive oil, I found myself wondering how one picks a good olive oil. Luckily Bonnie and Nena were happy to educate me. Read on for their advice:

Above: Grove 45 Olive Oil at Murray Cheese.

Oil is very much like wine with lots of different varieties, and depends upon individual tastes and preference. The best way to discover what you like is to taste it. Sitting in Bonnie’s kitchen, Nena poured a small amount of olive oil into a small shot glass and with one hand had me cover the top while the other cupped the bottom to warm it. I swilled it around a bit whlle Nena explained that “tasting oil all happens in the nose, but you feel the oil in your mouth.”

She then counseled me to “take a tiny sip, swill it and move it around the tongue and coat the inside of the mouth. Breathe out through the nose to get the retronasals, then move air through the sinuses. Suck in air from the sides to help the aromatics move. You’ll find fruit in the front, bitter on the sides, and pepper and pungency when you swallow.” I was tasting oil from olives that had been picked and pressed the prior day, and it tasted spicy but also green and apple-like sweet; in short, delicious. 

Above: Grove 45 uses aluminum containers with pewter labels for the oils.

At $43 a can, Grove 45 is not cheap. But as Bonnie points out, “Our oil should be used as finishing oil for salads or as a condiment oil.” Here’s what else they had to say on the topic:

  • Avoid larger containers of oil. Buy small amounts of fresh oil and use quickly. After it comes in contact with oxygen, it quickly deteriorates. In short, use, use, use. 
  • Keep your oil in dark containers away from the sun; the darker the container the better (or in their case aluminum).
  • Don’t store next to the stove (too hot).
  • Never put oil in the refrigerator (or worse still, the freezer). 
  • Buy extra virgin olive oil, which usually signifies that it has been pressed immediately after harvesting.
  • “Cold pressed” means nothing. None of it is cold pressed; even stone milling creates heat. 
  • On anything you eat with butter, substitute oil.

Above: Olives from the 2013 harvest.

Bonnie and Nena’s favorite way to use their oll? Air-popped popcorn with Grove 45 and truffle salt. “This way,” Nena tells us, “the pepperiness really comes through the popcorn.” 

If you are looking for wine tasting tips, check out our prior post on Identifying Floral Notes.