2016 – A Challenging Season

In November of 2014 we posted an entry with the same title as this one. Once again we face a similar situation that demands the use of all our talents and resources in order to meet our production needs.

Olive trees have a natural tendency to be bi-annual. If consistent and clever pruning does not take place, orchards over-produce one year and under-produce the next, as happened this time.

On top of that, the same factors we mentioned in 2014 keep defying the viability of the good value our olive oils have been known for. Climate change is one of those. Due to winters not as cold as before, trees don’t rest enough and thus became less productive. Continue reading 2016 – A Challenging Season

Posted on Categories General, Harvesting

Herb “Jam” from Chef Russell Moore

A perfect, simple recipe for enjoying olive oil: Herb Jam

This Moroccan recipe appeared first in Paula Wolfert’s book “The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen.” More recently chef Russell Moore enhanced it by exploring other greens and herbs. Eventually, his own versions of the herb jam became favorites at his celebrated farm to table restaurant Camino, in the Lake Merritt district of Oakland, California.

Russ, for many years the sous chef at legendary Chez Panisse in Berkeley who generously opens his place for internships and for other chefs to cook with him, uses Pacific Sun Farms olive oils on a regular basis. I know firsthand that he’s been also a great teacher for younger chefs. In fact, some of them, now in other excellent restaurants or new places they’ve opened themselves, are also our clients and their work carries the spirit they learned at Camino.

I suggested to Russ to try the recipe with our Proprietor’s Select and with another Italian olive oil of a friend of mine with similar characteristics. He kindly accepted the suggestion and liked the results in both cases: “Given the fresh leafy perfumes of these fine olive oils, I found them ideal for this recipe.”

Continue reading Herb “Jam” from Chef Russell Moore

Posted on Categories General, Recipes

Black Olive Tapenade

Years ago, because of my job, I visited the Southern area of France known as the Cote d’Azur, also referred to as the French Riviera. In my free time I enjoyed visiting open air markets, and my memory of them inevitably brings the image of this bright, glowing black olive purée displayed in ceramic bowls. It was tapenade.

Some foods have the distinctive characteristic of expressing a sense of place. Tapenade is one of them. The way its ingredients blend together always reminds me of those lively markets in beautiful Nice or Antibes and of something with a long, long history.

Though olives (most of the time black olives) are the main ingredient in tapenade, the name comes from another essential Mediterranean ingredient: capers. “Tapeno” was the word for capers in the Occitan language, a Romance language spoken in Southern France and parts of bordering Italy and Spain. Continue reading Black Olive Tapenade

Posted on Categories General, Recipes

Tomato Soups for The End of Summer

We’re again at that time of the year in which tomatoes offer their best. And once again, we’re amazed how much can be done when tomatoes and olive oil get together, as we’ve shared in previous articles (Tomatoes, Again!, Tomatoes and Olive Oil: Best Friends Forever).

The simplicity of these dishes reminds us how many good things came out of making the best out of challenging times. In Italy they refer to this as “Cucina Povera” (Poor Kitchen”, or the cuisine of the humble people). Of course this was not something that happened only in Italy. Many of the great dishes from the Mediterranean, China or Brazil, just to mention the first cases that come to my mind, are a result of the creativity with which hard working people met the challenge of making the most out of what they had at hand. In most cases these people were peasants who were close to scarce though sound ingredients.

Two summer tomato soups offer testimony to that spirit. One, a Tuscan classic: Pappa al Pomodoro (tomato and bread soup). The other one, Cold Tomato Soup, that with variations, you find in many places of the Mediterranean.

Two of Pacific Sun Olive Oils (Proprietor’s Select and Tehama Blend) have distinctive tomato leaf aromas, and they’ll pair nicely with both soups.

A reminder that olive oil makes lycopene—an antioxidant presents in tomatoes—much more bio-available for us. The more you drizzle these soups with olive oil, the better. And of course we recommend that you get your tomatoes from farmer’s markets or from stores that source local, fresh tomatoes.

Continue reading Tomato Soups for The End of Summer

Posted on Categories Recipes

Good news for the California Olive Oil industry

IMG_2373The Advanced Milling Seminar at Fresno State University

Last week, something truly unusual happened: a large group of millers, producers and tasters from California gathered for sharing and discussing their experiences.

The opportunity was provided at the brand new, beautiful building of the Jordan Institute at Fresno State. It was thanks to the dedicated and thoughtful efforts of organizers Kathryn Tomajan, a taster at COOC, and Vincent Ricchiuti, the Director of Operations at Enzo Olive Oil, in Clovis, California.

The Advanced Milling Seminar was such a positive surprise in terms of how easily different friendly voices in the industry could present their work and be listened and appreciated.

Many producers presented their practices and experiences including the largest in the industry such as California Olive Ranch and Corto, some smaller ones such as Pacific Sun and Temecula Olive Oil, and some even smaller such as Apollo, Massiglia and Dogtown. Given the radical differences in all of the current approaches to olive oil making, this possibility of meeting to listen to each other was something I never experienced, as it happened in such a cordial and earnest fashion. Continue reading Good news for the California Olive Oil industry

A Taste of Japanese Olive Oil

Shodo Island, (Shodoshima for the Japanese), is located in the Seto Inland Sea of Japan. Even when its name means literally “Island of small beans” it is also known as “Olive Island”. Yes, there are olive trees in Japan. So far most of them are on this little island, and now some have recently been planted on the main island as well.

After being part of the jury for Japan Olive Oil Prize 2016, the prestigious olive oil competition held in Tokyo, I flew to the city of Takamatsu. From there I took a ferry boat-which properly displayed a giant painted olive-towards the port of Ikeda, in Shodoshima.

Continue reading A Taste of Japanese Olive Oil

Posted on Categories Awards, Milling

Tasting at Japan Olive Oil Prize

Tasting at japan2This year I was invited again to be a member of the judging panel for the new edition of the Japan Olive Oil Prize. This is an olive oil competition which takes place annually in Tokyo. It is organized by the Italian Chamber of Commerce in the city.

This judging panel is one of the strictest that I participate in, and its tasting is the most exhaustive and comprehensive. The competition is strictly for EVOO of great quality. Only 155 entries were submitted this year. The vast majority were from small to medium producers from Italy, who use cutting edge technology to produce their olive oils. As Marzia Migliorini, the panel leader, said in front of journalists and members of the Japanese industry during the awards ceremony: “These olive oils are not only made by producers of quality olive oil, they’re made with technology of the highest quality”. This technology consists mostly of new generation crushers, instead of the traditional hammer-mills. They use vertical or hermetic maloxors that often use a vacuum system and decanters that work without a final separator. They also filter the olive oil as soon as possible once it has left the decanter. On a side note, the discussion on filtration and its benefits has just started in California. Only Pacific Sun Farms and a couple of companies, or around 2% of the market use filtration. However, it is also worth noting that all the winners and awarded olive oils were filtered.

Continue reading Tasting at Japan Olive Oil Prize

Posted on Categories Awards, Olive Oil 101

Olive Oil Tasting in Verona, Italia

Last March I was invited by Marino Giorgetti, the panel leader of Sol D’oro (Golden Sun), to be part of the judging panel of the 2016 edition of this prestigious competition held in Verona, Italy.

As always, participating in an international competition is both exciting and challenging at the same time.

In the olive oil world, the education of each taster is rather personal. Though progress has been made, we don’t yet have a solid, universal approach to tasting. The way each taster judges oils depends on the teachers they had, their country of origin, their country of learning, their levels of exposure to quality production, the amount of panel participation, etc. All these factors create an opportunity for an encounter of relatively uneven backgrounds. Given that, along with being confident in my own good education, I was still pondering how I was going to blend in with this new panel.

Continue reading Olive Oil Tasting in Verona, Italia

Posted on Categories Awards, Olive Oil 101

Pacific Sun Farms Wins Best of Show, Best of Class and 4 Gold Medals

Pacific Sun Farms Proprietors Select has won the Best of Show award for the large producer category at the California Olive Oil Council competition. It’s the third time that this olive oil has won this recognition at this competition (previous wins were in 2013 and 2015).

The Tuscan Blend, which won Best of Show at LA International, was also awarded the Best of Class at NYIOOC, along with Gold medals for Eva’s Blend, Proprietor’s Select and the Organic Blend. Pacific Sun Farms was the most awarded company at the latter competition (one Best of Class their highest award and 4 Gold medals).

Continue reading Pacific Sun Farms Wins Best of Show, Best of Class and 4 Gold Medals

Posted on Categories Awards, General