When Did Olive Oil Get So International?

IMG_2643I was at Whole Foods on the Bowery by my apartment, some nice gentleman had offered me a tasting of three different kinds of Chilean Olive Oil.  One of them really piqued my interest, it was really delicious, fruity with just a hint of  pepper so I went to the not insignificant Olive Oil section to see how much it cost.

This may have been a mistake, you see normally, I buy the cheapest generic brand extra virgin Whole Foods 365  oil for like $6.89 and don’t really pay much attention to the vast selection of oils on sale.  For my purposes there is no need to buy a high-end oil as 90 percent of what I use it for is cooking, sautéing and adding to sauces.

Maybe I don’t have a very sophisticated palate because for me, it’s even fine in vinaigrettes.  For special occasions to drizzle over a risotto or salad I have a small bottle of the good stuff, but rarely use it.

Anyway, so there I am staring at the Olive Oil section in dazed awe.  Rubbing shoulders with the usual Italian, Spanish, French and Greek options you’d expect were Oils from Portugal (not so weird) Tunisia (OK that’s pretty exotic) Palestinian (2 different brands!) a fairly vast amount of Chilean and a small representation of boutique Californian oils.

Here’s the Portuguese one that I was very tempted to buy,  Portugal produces great wines that are still undervalued so I figured maybe there Olive Oil fit the same category.IMG_2647IMG_2653IMG_2644Greek Olive Oil is exceptional value given the quality, in part because it still seems that most people when they think Olive Oil think Italy.IMG_2650IMG_2652Apparently there is no such thing as inexpensive French Olive Oil, it’s all beautifully packaged and wins the award for most expensive.   The Italians come in second.IMG_2648Nearly $50 for 16.9 ounces.  Yikes.  Of course it came with a free pour spigot so I guess that makes it a better value 😉 IMG_2651The colorful we’ve-had-the-same-packaging-for-a-hundred-years cans are by far my favorites.IMG_2645Of course not all Olive Oils are created equally you’ve got a lot to choose from: Extra virgin, cold pressed, blended, organic, hand-picked, fair trade, olive specific (the Chilean Oil that got me stuck in the Olive oil section was made from Nocellara Olives, originally from Sicily but grown in Chile) and more.   IMG_2646Below is the bottle of Olave oil that I  had tasted and came to the Olive Oil sections in search of. IMG_2642In the end I didn’t part with $27.99 for the Chilean, but got a bottle of  the Tunisian Organic Oil, because well it seemed more exotic and unusual.  Besides now I have a list of countries olive oil I have to try.   Portugal is for sure next.


About urbanfoodguy

I'm a self taught cook with a dedication to buying and eating food that is as humanely and sustainably raised as possible. Which is why in addition to recipes you will see a lot of environmental/political reporting here. I started cooking when I was about 6, it's something I always loved to do. Watching Graham Kerr - aka "The Galloping Gourmet" - was what got me started and I have never really looked back. Over the years I've been a private chef, a caterer, and a food stylist for magazines such as Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Real Simple, Oprah, Martha Stewart's Everyday Food and many more. I've also worked in the prep kitchen for the Food Network on the Bobby Flay and Paula Deen shows. Now I work at home in my kitchen sharing with you here recipes that I create or that other people have created that inspire me and I think you will like. I love my neighborhood (the Lower East Side of Manhattan) and I love to travel. Because NYC is such a big place I tend to focus mostly on my 'hood and the ones that are close by: The East Village, Bowery, Chinatown and Williamsburg. My love of travel has no limits really, I'm always ready to get on a plane. I was lucky enough to have a business for many years that allowed me to spend a lot of time in South East Asia. These days I've been spending time in Mexico, Germany, Canada and the West Coast of the U.S., but check back you never know where I might end up. I do consulting, cooking classes, and freelance lifestyle writing so if you are interested please send me a note: urbanfoodguy@gmail.com
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