Just as a California wine tasting is the mark of a wine lover, an olive oil tasting from California Central Coast vineyards is the mark of a true food lover and creative party host.
Designed to spark an interest in - and a refined palate for - the great artisan-made olive oil, our Olive Oil Tasting Party is completely unique, surprisingly fun and extraordinarily easy. We'll show you how to infuse your own oils using McEvoy Ranch premium olive oil as a base, design flavorful dressings around a great olive oil, and bake with olive oil instead of butter.
With a setup consisting of little more than bowls of oil and sliced bread, it's a party that's easy on the host. Yet the simple act of learning about and tasting one of the essential building blocks of western cuisine is a treat for everyone, even the most seasoned chefs and connoisseurs. For both the producers at McEvoy Ranch and the educated home cook, olive oil is more than just food. It's a living art.
Decide first on the kind of tasting you want. Should it be flavored oils, infused and provided by you? Should each guest bring a bottle of oil to sample? In either case, choose 5-8 oils to sample, enough for variety and comparison.
A few weeks before the party, prepare your easy-to-make infused oils for tasting, using a high-quality base like the organic Tuscan-style Extra Virgin Olive Oil from McEvoy Ranch in Marin County. Its rich, slightly peppery flavor accompanies herb and spice infusions beautifully. Though infused oils take only ten minutes to make, they take a couple weeks to infuse on their own. Also, decide on a few olive-oil-inspired recipes for after the tasting to see olive oil in action. Give guests the option of contributing dishes featuring olive oil by providing your menu and suggested recipes.
As the tasting approaches, you'll want to type up and photocopy a taste reference sheet for each guest. It should primarily provide common flavor profiles. Is the bouquet floral like honey or lime blossom, fruity like mango or green apple, vegetal like artichoke or fennel, or spicy like pepper or dark chocolate? The sheet may also say a few words on specific producers, olive oil grades, health facts, or explain descriptions like “extra virgin” and “cold press.” Online searches or a reference guide that's also a cookbook - like Olive Oil, from Tree to Table by Peggy Knickerbocker - can help define terms.
Before guests arrive, set up the dining table with a platter of bread in bite-size pieces, small bowls or ramekins half filled with oil and small plates, water glasses and napkins. Arrange the oils in a line from mildest to strongest, with the bottle close by or their names written on tags. Provide sliced apples and sparkling water to clear the palate after tasting. Cut the bread once guests arrive to ensure freshness. Crusty sweet French bread, not wheat or sour, works best to preserve the purity of the olive oil taste. In case the bread runs out, place a cutting board, knife and baguettes on the table.
Begin tasting! Direct guests to first warm the bowls of oil in their hands to release the volatile scents and talk about the aroma. To taste, dip bread into the oil and chew. Alternatively, give each guest a clear bowl or crystal wine glass for swirling, sniffing and sipping the oil straight. Note what it feels like in your mouth, whether smooth, light, heavy or greasy. Suck in a bit of air to discover the flavors. Experts recommend tasting each oil twice, cleansing the palate between tastings. Encourage lots of group discussion on appearance, aroma and taste, and ask each person to choose their favorite oil.
After the tasting, bring out the dishes made with olive oils and set the table to eat and drink!
Even though the setup is simple, you can make a beautiful table with rustic materials, themes and images that are reminiscent of the olive trees in the Mediterranean countryside. Our Olive Plates, Platters and Dipping bowls are perfect for the occasion, featuring hand-painted olive branches. They impart an earthy feel with terra-cotta exteriors and glazed white ceramic interiors. Make it a perfect match with our printed Olive Linens, and keep extra Hemstitch Napkins in Flax in reserve.
Our Cast Iron Server offers another way to showcase olive oil's different green hues side by side, without taking up surface space. Shaped like a branch lifting glass bowls in tiers, it adds a sculptural element to the table. Label each oil by attaching a tag to a toothpick and tucking it between the glass and the holder.
Serve bread in our rustic, hand woven Tava Bread Tray, made especially to accommodate long baguettes. The rich natural fibers of our Tava Collection bring inside a welcome element of the outdoors.
For after-party eating, give guests miniature Stainless Steel Olive Oil Decanters to fill with their favorite oil of the evening, and invite them to splash it over salads, soups and entrees. The conical shape, chained cap and little handle ensure clean and easy pouring. Like small versions of corked stoneware vessels, our white ceramic Rhodes Cruets are ideal for keeping oil and vinegar at the table.
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