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Every Wednesday afternoon, I have to go to a Wine Class at my work. It is here that I learn about wine, and also how to sell the particular wine we learn about to guests, along with food pairings, etc. (There really is a lot to know other than wine can be red or white). Well today when I went in, I learned we would not be having "wine class", instead we were going to learn about the new "foodie explosion" in the United States.
Today, we had an Olive Oil tasting! Apparently Olive Oil is in the United States now, what Wine in the U.S. was in the 70's; everyone knows what it is, but it's not fully appreciated. Being a member of the church, I figured I know A LOT about olive oil (we learn about it every time we learn of the atonement; what it's used for, along with how it's made, and symbolism).

Surprise! Just like wine, olive oil is very diverse and complex. There are as many varietals of olives as there are grapes. Also just as the French are snooty with Wine, Italians are with Olive Oil. For example; did you know an Olive Oil can ONLY be considered Extra Virgin olive oil if it is pressed from the first harvest of that year, and is under 18 months old?!?! After 18 months it is simply Virgin Olive oil, and after another year or so it technically can only be considered Olive Oil. In Italy, this rule is very strict, once their oil passes it's 18 months maturity, it is then shipped to the U.S., here the labels don't have to be changed to remove the "Extra" because we have no protocol about it!

Also have you heard of Light Olive Oil? Don't buy it, it's garbage! At the end of the pressing process, when there is hardly any of the good stuff left, the presses are filled with boiling water, which extract the last little bit of good oil, then the olives are pressed again. You get "light oil." Not less calories, just less flavor and less oil. You're paying the same price, if not more for water. Interesting...

Anyway, back to the class... I got excited because I love bread and olive oil, so it would be an excuse to eat. I was wrong. Apparently when at an olive oil tasting, you drink it!!! We poured about 2 oz. of each olive oil into a glass and learned the proper way to taste, before gulping it down! Here's how:

1. Pour the oil in a small glass and gently swirl in order to release all the various aromas
2. Inhale, first briefly, then deeply trying to capture all the different aromas ...
3. Sip a small quantity of oil from the glass trying to keep it in the front of your mouth between your lower lip and your tightly shut teeth....
4. Inhale breathing first delicately then more vigorously, so as to vaporize the oil in the oral cavity where the taste buds are...
5. While swallowing, try to identify and catalogue all the different aromas and flavors by exhaling from the nose so that the vaporized oil particles can reach the nasal membrane giving even more precise sensations... (if it's a good, young oil, you'll feel a "pinch" in the back of your throat!)
6. Once we have collected sufficient information we can expel the oil (either by swallowing or spitting)!!!!

Needless to say, by the end, I felt sick to my stomach. I'm not used to the texture, or the flavor. It was educational, but I won't be repeating the practice. So Nora's Wine Bar is now saying, "So Long" to two of our three olive oils (Frantoia, the house favorite, and the Ranniri, the guest's favorite). We will now carry three Sicilian oils, the Monini (eww, it tastes like grass), Bio (pronounced Bee-oh, an organic oil with aromas of clay, and walnut finish), and Molinazzo (a buttery oil, with spicy/peppery finish).

If you never tasted olive oil, I recommend it. I never knew until today that there were "aromas" and "flavors" in them. But the younger the oil, the stronger and more concentrated the flavor and "pinch". I hope you try this, and if you don't on your own, come see me at work! We offer a tasting of 3 oils with every meal!

PS. Don't ruin olive oil with Balsamic Vinegar. We learned about that in my food class too. Real balsamic vinegar sells for nearly $25/oz. The kind you buy in the grocery store, in bulk, or get at restaurants has more in common (chemically, and flavor-wise) with Coca-cola syrup than real Balsamic Vinegar!

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