Thanks to the courageous olive farmers, olive oil entrepreneur/retailers, and chatty food writers and cookbook authors, people are starting to understand the difference between a mass-produced bottle of inexpensive olive oil and an in-house produced bottle of luxurious extra-virgin olive oil. Come November, these artisanal in-house olive oil producers are releasing their first press of olive oil, known as olio nuovo.
Il Fiorello Olive Oil Company just sent me a sample of their olio nuovo and we cracked it open last night and tasted it with a fresh loaf of whole grain bread. It was utterly sublime. Tasting fresh-pressed olive oil, the first olive oil of the season, is akin to tasting freshly uncovered truffles. You can literally taste the provenance in each bite.
All over the world where olives are milled, there’s a half-eaten piece of fresh bread (and spoon) resting near the milling equipment as there is nothing like sampling oil straight from the source as soon as the olives are milled. Procuring a bottle of olio nuovo is the next best thing. Unfiltered and cloudy, Il Fiorello’s olio nuovo is milled in their state-of-the-art facility using machinery that self-regulates things like temperature and output. Heat is enemy number one when processing olive oil and if the oil gets too hot during the process, all the good in it like antioxidants are destroyed. So the next time you pour that $5 bottle of olive oil over your salad, well, you might as well use any other oil because practically all of the health benefits are lost. Manufacturers and bottlers that sell olive oil that inexpensive are using a different type of pressing system that elevates temperatures to the point of no return.
With olive oil this fresh and good, it must be enjoyed unadulterated and drizzled on foods where its grassy, herbaceous, and buttery flavors can be enjoyed. Ann Sievers, owner of Il Fiorello, recommends drizzling her olio nuovo over vanilla gelato and finishing with a sprinkle of sea salt. I couldn’t agree more.
There are only a handful of olive growers that also mill on-site in the greater San Francisco Bay Area, and Il Fiorello welcomes visitors to taste and tour their facilities. It’s the only way to procure a bottle of this first-of-the-season treat so book your visit now before it sells out.
To learn more about California olive oil, visit the California Olive Oil Council.