It happened again. The holiday season has snuck up on you. You may be at the point of frantically trying to figure out new and creative ways to entertain guests who will be meandering through your home this holiday season. Your foodie friends may be growing tired of the usual holiday fare and you may be asking yourself, “What can I do this year to really impress my guests?” Fret not, we have an idea to share…host an olive oil tasting! It’s a unique experience that your guests will surely enjoy and remember.
It all starts with selecting a few really special and unique extra virgin olive oils. Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is the best quality you can buy; however, to be sure you are getting a true extra virgin olive oil, look for a seal of certification. Choosing certified extra virgin olive oil takes the guesswork out of the equation so you know you’re getting the best. You also need to make sure you are buying fresh olive oil, so look for a harvest date on the bottle or if buying in bulk, ask the retailer. Look for the most recent harvest date and remember, if the oil is over two years old, the intensity of the flavor may be diminished and probably past it’s prime.
Choose oils that you have tried in the past and really liked or experiment with something new, like flavored oils. Visit your local olive oil tasting bar or retailer, ask questions, and taste for yourself. Once you are familiar with the different varieties of olive oil, select oils that range from mild and buttery to robust and peppery. Flavored oils are always fun to bring into the mix as well and work with many food pairings. Choose oils that will complement both savory and sweet foods to get a nice selection.
Plan a menu that incorporates the oils you’ve selected. Keep things simple and serve samplings of food. Everyone loves hors d’oeuvres!
Food – Choosing the right olive oil to pair with foods will elevate or intensify the flavor without overpowering your food. Of course, everyone’s palate is different so experiment with various combinations until you find what you like. Your options are endless!
Things you’ll need:
Olive oil pour spouts – Of course this is optional, but we recommend to help keep the spill factor low. You don’t want to drip oil all over your beautiful table linens!
Tasting cups – Guests can taste the various oil’s flavors on their own and learn how to properly taste the oil (similar to a wine tasting) to depict aromas and flavors.
Note cards – Make notes of the descriptive terms for the oils you are tasting along with the name of the producer, harvest year, flavor profile, and food pairing ideas.
Once you have set the table for your guests to explore, give a quick explanation of how to taste the oil. You might want to give a demonstration so your friends will actually believe it’s okay to drink a little EVOO.
How to Taste
Take the tasting cup of oil in your hand, cover the top with your other hand and swirl the bottom of the cup in the palm of your hand. This creates a little friction and warms up the oil just enough to release the aromas of the oil.
Uncover the oil with your hand and sniff the oil. Fresh extra virgin olive oil will have various characteristics depending on the variety of olive. You may smell green notes of grass, herbs or artichoke, or floral notes of fruit and spices. This will awaken your senses and your palate.
Next, take a sip of the olive oil while drawing in a little air at the same time, making a slurping noise. It may seem inappropriate to some guests, but rest assured, this is acceptable behavior in the olive oil tasting world. This step helps release the aromas through your nasal passages, letting the flavor really shine through. Let the oil roll around in your mouth a few seconds before swallowing to get the feel of the oil. It can range from light to astringent. Pay attention to what you taste. Is it buttery and smooth? Pungent? Bitter? Balanced? This evaluation helps you comprehend the unique flavor profile of the oil and gain a better understanding of how to pair it with different foods.
Lastly, swallow the oil to finish tasting. How does it feel in the back of your throat? Is it peppery? Did it make you cough? Believe it or not, these are positive traits of EVOO. When olive oil is fresh, it has high levels of healthy polyphenols and antioxidants. Depending on the oil’s intensity, you may feel a slight tingle in the back of your throat or if it’s really robust, it can make you cough!
Most people appreciate when you share a delicious recipe, so make recipe cards for guests with a bottle of olive oil to take home. It’s a unique gift that you know your guest will use and enjoy!