When my pal Luan from Foster & Dobbs said they had a few places left in their class on Italian olive oils, I thought, "Well, it might make a good blog entry..." and assumed we'd be dunking bread in bowls while someone waxed poetic about the green, peppery or whatever flavors are to be found in fine Italian olive oils.
Was I wrong. Ron Post of Ritrovo Italian Regional Foods is nothing if not hard core when it comes to sharing his passion for the oils of Italy. First, he laid down the basics: No clear glass containers; it's a sure sign of poorly made oil. And all extra virgin is first pressing; that's what makes it extra virgin. Make sure the oil is clear; if it's not, then the oil's got something added to it. Don't use cheap oil to cook with and good oil for dunking; use good oil for both. If a restaurant serves balsamic with their olive oil, there's a good chance it's cheap oil, since the balsamic masks the flavor of the oil ("It's better to bring your own.").
And he didn't stop there...when we actually started tasting the oils, he first had us smear a drop on the backs of our hands and smell it as it warmed up. Then he told us to rub some between our fingers to get a sense of the texture, whether it was slimy or grainy or thick or thin. Then we actually drank a bit of each oil (yes, drank it) while Ron said, "Now count to four while you swirl it around in your mouth...now suck in some air to aerate it." We went through five oils like this, and I have to say it was quite an eye-opening experience. From a late-harvest Ligurian oil made from taggiasca olives to an Etruscan Colli Etruschi made from Caninese olives to the "hard core" Umbrian Trampetti made with green Moraiolos, we were able to feel, smell and taste the differences among them.
Ya gotta respect a guy who's as dedicated to his products as this guy obviously is, and who loves to share the mysteries of olive oil with your generally ignorant (but interested) public. Props to Ron, and molto grazie for the evening!