When the University of Victoria needs a reliable olive oil personality to dispense expert advice and samples, they call the best in town – Andrew Moyer – one of the owners from Ottavio. His easy-going nature, expert pallate and first-rate knowldge of oils made a lecture given my CBC foodie Don Genova even more interesting.
This is Andrew……
The lecture was part of a curriculum at the university – Don teaches a course in Food Culture – why didn’t they have that kind of course when I went to school!?
Anyway..since I’m no longer a student I won’t regale you with the ins & outs of olive oil, but here are a few interesting bits and bites (these are in no particular order – just random things I remembered):
In ancient Rome, before a fight, gladiators would get a shiny rub with olive oil. After the fight – the oily/sweat mixture from the winning warrior would be auctioned off – now that’s not something I’d like to put on my salad!
Spain produces the most olives in the world, but Italy somehow takes credit for producing the most olive oil. Hmmmm…..I’m not a genious at math, but those numbers don’t add up. Apparently, Italy imports olives from many countries, but because they bottle it on home turf, it’s sold as a product of Italy. Lesson learned: know your supplier – as a consumer – buy from a good store from people who know! If you live in Victoria – come in and talk to Andrew!
Get more dirt on this nasty business here.
Olives are grown here in BC. Yes, it’s true. There is a grove on Pender Island – and the thought of local olive oil someday (they aren’t selling right now) sounds exciting.
Now, for the tasting:
We tried 8 oils. Here are my top picks:
Alziari, French, from Nice
*made from Nice olives
*fresh fruity aroma (lemon? maybe a bit flowery?)
*mildly grassy – barely there
*buttery and smooth
I could drink this straight up!
Castello De Canena, Spain
*vibrant green colour
*round and full
When I’m out of what I’m currently using – this will be my next buy. It’s your olive oil best friend!
Allure, California, USA
*made from four Tuscan olive varieties
It tasted like there was mustardy-arugula blended right in. Very strong – but had me intrigued. I’m imagining drizzling over thick slices of roast lamb with fresh mint. Heavenly.
Last week at a dinner party (yes…..I’m starting to get a social life) I was enthralled and tempted by stories of West coast camping. Tris Lansdowne, a local painter (watch out for him – he’s a rising star) was recounting stories of camping on the beach. I think it was called Bear beach……..a few hours of hiking in with all your gear, then, if you’ve planned carefully according to the tides, you’re either in a private sandy spot of heaven or up to your knees in the rising tide. I might be making this part up, but I’m imagining I’ll even see a killer whale or two. Am probably dreaming, but since I love camping, I’ve been thinking of little else since.
The other night I was reading a magazine called “Intelligent Life” – it’s put out by the Economist. Now before you either burst out laughing or think I’m some high-end intellectual I’ll come straight out and tell you it was a freebie from my grandparents! However, Phillip Pullman was on the cover and I was pleased that I actually recognized him and I do love his books. So there.
Anyways, while flipping through, this odd tidbit caught my attention……”GLAMPING”
WHAT THE IS THAT???????
According to this highly intellectual missive, glamping is glamour camping…..and of course it’s all the rage! isn’t there an oxymoron floating about somewhere in all of this? When is camping EVER glamorous?
Glamping has jumped on the eco-tourist bandwagon. If you have a pile of money you can sleep outside in a super remote location that’s utterly breath taking – under the stars or in a tree house or some other portable shelter. Chances are your sleeping bag will be traded up for Egyptian one million thread count sheets or something like that.
It gets worse……at Clayoquot (don’t they mean Clear Cut?) Wilderness Resort, outdoor eco-traveler enthusiasts can hop a sea plane (now THAT’S an environmentally way to travel I’m sure) from Vancouver over to Victoria’s “fragile biosphere” where the author ensures “soft beds and soft adventure” await. No doubt.
I realize I sound quite disgruntled. By no means am I a hard-core camper. I do believe in paddling your own canoe and carrying your own bags….. however hard-cover books, a hammock (uber-light – made of parachute material), some sherry, Spanish almonds and a few bottles of wine to enliven our dehydrated dinners are allowed. But the general idea is to get back to nature isn’t it? Enjoy the rustic beauty of living simply?
I guess living simply is really just a matter of interpretation!
Have a very glamorous day
p.s. Here’s a painting that Tris Lansdowne did…..and I bought. It’s a boat called “Brico” – the boat is up Island (near fanny bay I think). I believe it used to be a resto at some point, too. I’d love to drive up soon and take a look at it for real.
I feel like I’ve been trying to write this entry since 9:00 this morning. But you know how a relaxing Sunday works….coffee, the paper, big breakfast fry-up. Then my parents called. Since it was on their dime I talked and talked and talked a little more. I miss them. Happy news though – they’re coming out for Easter! Very excitied – I’m cooking up all kinds of plans, adventures and good eats to spoil them with.
But back to today. Steve and I took my grandparents – Budd and Joyce – to see a matinee of “Turn of the Screw”. It was pure genius. Two actors carried the whole play – and amazing stage directions. The theater is an old church (The Belfry – in Fernwood) and it was the perfect setting – dark, thrilling and a little bit scary. I can’t sit still for more than 10 minutes before my toes start tapping or some part of me needs to move – and honestly – I sat glued to my chair and I’m pretty sure I didn’t move a muscle. Same with everyone else – it’s a small theatre – so you really can hear if anyone shuffles, opens a candy or discreetly coughs. Check out http://www.bclocalnews.com/vancouver_island_south/victorianews/entertainment/14020172.html
for the review. It’s the best play I’ve seen in a while.
After the play Joyce and I went for a walk by the ocean. Long walk, long talks. She makes me feel loved and is someone I can share all my thoughts, concerns and hopes with. I’m lucky she’s in my life. Back at home – we had a roaring fire, a couple of scotches (Budd loves cocktail hour – he has a scotch every day at 5:00) then a big pile of pasta. Despite my Irish/Scottish background, there is an Italian Nonna lurking in my soul. I love pasta – and I think I make a mean tomato sauce.
However, Joyce has to watch what she eats – diagnosed with onset of diabetes……so pasta, olive bread and lots of red wine aren’t really on her menu. So I made this great vegetable salad:
2 cups snap peas, tough strings removed
1 carrot, peeled
1/2 red onion, thickly sliced
1/2 zucchini, seeded and sliced
1 shallot, diced
1/4 cup verjus*
2 tbsp olive oil
Pinches of tarragon, Sea salt and ground black pepper
Crumbled feta (I used light – but regular would probably taste better)
Fill a large wide frying pan with water and bring to a boil. Add all the veggies – pan will be full. Cover and boil until carrots are tender-crisp, 2 to 3 min.
Meanwhile, in a jar, add shallots, verjus, oil, tarragon, salt and pepper. Shake well to mix. Taste and add more s/p if needed.
Toss hot veggies with half the dressing, then spread out on a baking sheet to cool. Turn into a bowl and add feta. Toss, then taste and add more dressing if needed.
I found that after the salad sat for a few hours it needed to be refreshed with more dressing plus an extra splash of verjus. I also added a handful of cooked lentils (leftover from dinner the other night) and it was really good! Tomorrow, I’m using the leftovers for lunch – will add some canned tuna – and will feel self-righteous and super healthy.
Have a great night
*p.s. verjus is similar to a mild vinegar – to me, it tastes similar to rice vinegar, but it’s made from the fermented juice of unripe grapes.”verjus” literally means “green juice”. it’s often added to mustard to improve flavor and can be used in any recipe in place of lemon juice. try soaking dried fruits in it before adding to salads or anything baked.
Good evening to everyone!
I have to say, I get a thrill when anyone responds to my blathering news….so respond away – I love reading your comments or please say “hello” in person (hint hint apple pie).
Tonight I had the best treat. My grandparents took Steve and I out for dinner – a fancy one. We went to Brasserie L’Ecole and had a feast.
Someone must have said something funny because Steve is laughing like a maniac and I’m looking pretty happy myself (I always get the red cheeks – my Scottish tan). I sat beside the heater and thought I might melt halfway through dinner. Good thing I didn’t, because it was a fantastic meal. So far, this has been my favourite resto here in Victoria.
French Onion Soup. Three small words. One hell of a starter. It was rich full beef broth with a hint of smokiness (found some lardons of bacon floating around in there), onions that melted in your mouth plus lots of baguette topped with melted Gruyere. That could’ve been a meal in itself, but nobody ever stops at just an appetizer.
I followed up with steak frites. Sounds plain, but true “simple” food is much more difficult to make then so-called high end food that hides under fatty sauces or has multiple layers of flavour – all smoke no fire so to speak. My steak was perfectly cooked and well aged. A joy to eat – plus it had a big blue cheese/butter coin melting on top and came with a giant pile of hand cut frites (with house-made aioli) – and that was tarted up with barely a wisp of Parmesan cheese, fresh parsley and a drizzle of truffle oil. A little showy – but it worked.
I could have had cheese to finish, but you know, I ate it all day. Sometimes a girl just needs a good steak. Know what I mean?
feel like i fell off the earth for a while, but am back and with renewed vigor. my feet have decided they’ll stand up to running around the cheese counter all day and i’m settling in at ottavio.
my grandparents are in town (hooray! i totally love them). we went to a friend’s house for dinner last night. i adore sunday night dinners – it was a potluck…..gp’s brought cheese (i might have had a hand in that) 2 really good ones:
doux peche – from quebec – it’s a mix of goat and cow milk – and very creamy – similar to a really good camembert – but thicker – it has a lovely mushroom aroma with a sweet milk flavour – and then there’s the great name – in translation it means “little sin” – unless you eat 3/4’s of the piece -which someone at dinner might have done – then that makes it a great big giant sin in my books
the other was bleu de gex – a french cow’s milk cheese (raw) from the franche-comte region (borders on switzerland and just under lorraine). it’s a blue cheese – but on the milder end of the spectrum. there’s definitely the bluey zing but with undertones of fruit and nut. and not as crumbly or salty as say roquefort. the crowd went wild over this one!
i brought a salad. because it’s winter, my new favourite salad is grain based – bulgur wheat. i love the nutty flavour and chewy texture. but for some reason i also decided to add out-of-season asparagus – go figure – the locavores around here are going to kick my butt! yikes- my bad – but it did taste good plus i basically just cleaned out the fridge and used what was in there. blame it on the fridge i say.
here’s how it goes:
1. pour 2 cups boiling water over 1 cup bulgur. cover and let stand until soft, about 30 minutes. be sure to drain well. the bulgur may not have soaked up all the water – that’s OK.
2. while that’s doing its thing, thickly slice 2 onions. toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. roast in preheated 425F oven until edges start to caramelize. now here’s a tip – slip a baking sheet in the oven and let that warm up while the oven preheats. carefully add the onions to the hot sheet and they’ll sizzle like a mexican hat dance – a perfect head start to caramelizing nicely!
3. cut asparagus into tiny spears. boil until tender-crisp, then drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. place asparagus and roasted onions on the counter to admire your handy work (see below)
4. in a glass jar, shake 1 minced shallot, a spoonful of dijon, 2 tbsp red wine vinegar and pinches of salt and dried tarragon with 4 tbsp good quality olive oil. pour over drained bulgur. stir in asparagus and onions. if you have one lying around, throw in a chopped roasted (or raw) red pepper. finish with a very generous handful of chopped fresh parsley (i like to use italian parsley). stir together, then taste and season with more salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. oh yes, if you have a lemon handy, squeeze juice from half over top – adds some wholesome zing.
and that’s that – fridge cleaning pot luck salad! it’ll last 4 or 5 days in the refrigerator and tastes better the longer it sits.
talk to you tomorrow,