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“What’s Your Flavor?”

You have to love the olive tree to do the work… early in the crisp mornings of late October, well into the even colder evenings of late November. To make a single liter of extra virgin olive oil requires more than ten pounds of olives. It is a commitment to be an olive grower.

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I like French olive oils… olives with elegant names like Aglandau, Grossane, Salonenque, and Verdale.

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The French analyze organoleptic parameters like intensity of smell, harmony of smell, softness, heat, harmony in the mouth, heaviness, bitterness and body… that particular je ne sais quoi that makes it decidedly French.

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Olive oil should be strong and have a bite when it is a finishing olive oil. They fall to the back of the mouth and lubricate the throat with pepper and pineapple. You experience the delayed but sometimes fierce scratching at the back of your head, then the delicate ones that rest on the tongue kindly like dessert.

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Someone once told me, “Oil is like a child…you taste it and it’s very difficult to grasp. And then in December, January it’s going to slow down and its going to be more of a teenager, still a little moody.” I think I like it best at its moodiest.

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Out of the truck and onto the fields, workers methodically tug on the olives, milking the trees bare. Traditionally, during the olive harvest, men and women from surrounding towns would arrive to perform the labor, doing what their parents and grandparents had done for generations. In the days when people were less mobile, the olive harvest was when members of isolated villages had an opportunity to meet, and soon, romantic attachments formed, high up in the olive trees. Though times have changed, the technique for picking olives has not – it is still the same as it was two millennia ago.

The primitive, sinuous trunks, the spreading yawn of the branches, the metallic flicker of the silver-gray leaves, give me a distinct sense that I am tasting and living time.

What’s your favorite olive oil?

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  1. I like Italian olive oils… Italy is the king of olive oil I think

  2. I like the olive oil in Napa best.

  3. Do you recall writing the part in “FH” about how the pit helps preserve the olive? Well, in my quest for the perfect dirty martini brine ( I prefer gin, Hendricks or Bombay over Vodka) I have read a ton of jarred olive labels. I have learned that the olives stuffed with pimentos, garlic or whatever always have a load of preservatives but….those jarred whole containing the pit usually only contain Olives, water, salt and lactic acid…..gotta love it. Enjoying a very good one right now thus the inspiration to comment! Thanks for the affirmation of my “research”.

    • Thanks for reminding me… I do remember writing about that in “Food Heroes” I think it’s a wonderful fact and goes to show that Mother Nature knows best :)