Feast of the Olive: A Sonoma Valley Tradition

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Almost two weekends ago I had the pleasure of attending the Feast of the Olive, a dining event featuring the olives and olive oil of Sonoma Valley and the producers and restaurants that make and use this regional oil. Ramekins Culinary Center is beautiful on its own, but was further enhanced with olive branches and rustic-themed centerpieces that ran the length of the three tables that served the 250 attendees. The event is a draw for not only locals that are in the business of food and wine (and olive oil), but also visitors looking for a special night out. Seated amongst all of these new friends, my husband and I couldn’t help but enjoy the evening. The room was literally buzzing with excitement about this year’s abundant harvest. Each producer, including The Olive Press, Figone’s, B.R. Cohn, grows and blends their own distinct varietals amounting to a spectacular array of extra-virgin olive oils from which to choose.

With more and more regions producing excellent olive oil, there is no excuse not to enjoy the fruits of our area. Even as an ex-grocer who used to sell the inferior stuff, I get furious when I see row after row of cheap, adulterated olive oil at eye level for shoppers. Desirable price points, misleading labeling, and longstanding brands make it almost impossible to break through the barrier of bad oil. Do yourself a favor and stash away a few dollars a day, forgo your daily coffee run, pack your lunch…do whatever you have to do to spend ten or fifteen dollars on some good California or regional olive oil. Freshly pressed olive oil is full of health benefits, and your purchase directly impacts your state’s economy. Better yet, purchase it directly from the producer and cut out the big box stores that take a cut. I’ll get off my soap box and let you enjoy some eye candy from the evening’s chefs that produced the amazing dishes that we enjoyed, all with olive oil from the producers mentioned above.

LaSalette's Olive Oil Poached Salt Cod, Potato and Leek Cake and Black Olive Puree

LaSalette’s Olive Oil Poached Salt Cod, Potato and Leek Cake and Black Olive Puree

This fish course was perfect for those that like strong flavors. LaSalette is a perennial favorite for locals and visitors. I love the warm, welcoming dining room, especially on a cold winter evening with the fireplace going. Not many restaurants feature Portuguese cuisine, and they do it so well.

El Dorado Kitchen's Prime New York, Braised Short Ribs and Olive-Crusted Bone Marrow with Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes, Baby Carrots and Black Olive Bordelaise Sauce

El Dorado Kitchen’s Prime New York, Braised Short Ribs and Olive-Crusted Bone Marrow with Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes, Baby Carrots and Black Olive Bordelaise Sauce

Everyone flocks to El Dorado kitchen, whether it is to enjoy a formal meal in their dining room or a casual lunch at their adjoining wine bar. This was the highlight of the evening, especially the marrow.

The Epicurean Connection's Buratta with Fresh Pressed December '12 Tallgrass Olive Oil

The Epicurean Connection’s Buratta with Fresh Pressed December ’12 Tallgrass Olive Oil

I could eat this every day and be a happy girl. Just add some seasonal fruits and veggies like tomatoes, raspberries, asparagus, and baby squash and I’m set.

Carneros Bistro at the Lodge at Sonoma's Olive Oil Cake, Macerated Citrus, Marscapone, Candied Olive

Carneros Bistro at the Lodge at Sonoma’s Olive Oil Cake, Macerated Citrus, Marscapone, Candied Olive

This was a delicious way to end the evening. Yes, more cheese, but why not? Needless to say, we took a long hike the next day!