O Olive Oil is the eighth in my Sunday series featuring American Artisans. There are so many exceptionally talented craftspeople, designers, and small companies across the country who share my love of handcrafted quality, and this is my chance to introduce them to you. These artisans are creating beautiful, useful and delicious products that elevate the experience of everyday cooking, dining, and entertaining. They’re using skills, techniques, and materials that might otherwise be lost in our era of mass production. Their work makes me happy, and I hope it does the same for you. Each feature will be paired with a giveaway to give you the chance to experience their work for yourselves.
Today marks my first foray into artisan crafted food in this series, and I am SO excited to introduce you to the O Olive Oil & Vinegar company, based in Sonoma Valley, California. In the 1990’s, co-founder Greg Hinson developed the ingenious process of crushing whole citrus fruits with organic California Mission olives to produce an entirely new product category (how cool is that?) – extra virgin citrus olive oil. It is literally my favorite thing in my entire kitchen. A couple of years later they began producing hand crafted varietal wine vinegars, wood barrel aged and infused with the most outrageously creative flavors …Tahitian Lime, Pomegranate Champagne…but I’m getting ahead of myself! I first discovered this innovative company when I bought a bottle of their Orange Blossom vinegar. It was love at first taste. I cannot think of another food product that better represents what I am all about here at TVFGI, and I cannot recommend these products more highly, my mouth waters just thinking about them. But I am small potatoes compared to some of the other fans of O Olive Oil – Oprah, Martha, Giada, Wolfgang, Food Network, the New York Times, Saveur, Gourmet, Top Chef, and they have a mind boggling trail of awards and trophies to boot. We are so lucky to have them here…more lucky than you know because they are giving away the above oil and vinegar collection, packaged in a bamboo butler’s tray, to one of you – check out the details below. But first, you HAVE to hear about this company…
Handmade, small batch, organic, biodynamic, all-natural — all the right catch phrases apply, but what makes O Olive Oil so special is not just their production methods, but the creative passion they bring to every aspect of the company, from the flavors, to the packaging, and even to their place in the greater community. I hesitate to even use the word ‘flavors’ here, because it’s so much more than that. The citrus oils represent a fusion of fruit and olives, resulting in the explosive tastes of Meyer Lemon, Blood Orange, Clementine, and Tahitian Lime to name just a few. For me, like I said, it all started with Orange Blossom vinegar. I knew it was special when I found myself randomly opening my cupboard just to take it out and sniff it. It’s a sensory experience. And that’s how I’d describe all of O Olive Oil’s products, they are my secret weapons in the kitchen – a few splashes can transform everything from salad to soups and stews, but I mostly go for the last minute drizzle to maximize that unique wow factor.
These artisinal oils and vinegars have more in common with fine wines than they do with the stuff in the grocery store salad dressing aisle. This is fine olive oil so fruity and complex, and barrel aged vinegars so delicate and distinctive, you can drink them straight! You won’t find them in big chain supermarkets, they sell to gourmet and specialty stores across the country, but you can order them from Amazon, or direct from their site.
Their site is worth visiting because it’s full of great inspiration and tips – they give pairing suggestions for each of their products, and serving ideas too…interested in their new Tarragon Champagne vinegar? They’ll suggest just the right oil to go with it, and give you some tasty ideas for how to use it, like in potato salad, or drizzled over butter lettuce with creamy feta, pistachios, honey, lemon & strawberries, mmmmm. Want to try Zinfandel Vinegar? With its “smoky spice and voluptuous cherry notes” they suggest pairing with Clementine Olive Oil and drizzling over sliced avocado. Yes please!
I make a killer orange blossom shrub with my vinegar. A shrub, if you haven’t heard, is a centuries old idea that’s recently hip again. A fruity vinegar soft drink or cocktail, depending on your mood, the beverage dates back to the days before refrigeration, and today it’s popular again, thanks in part to fine vinegars like these. The drink is made with crushed and strained fruit which is mixed with vinegar, and then blended with alcohol or sparkling water for a surprisingly refreshing drink. My simple version uses equal parts fresh Cara Cara orange juice and O Orange Blossom vinegar.
Load a glass with ice, fill it halfway with the fruit and vinegar mixture…
and top it off with some sparkling water – you’ll wonder where this drink has been all your life.
I tend to use fine oils and vinegars like these more as condiments than for cooking, although you certainly can cook with them. I love the fresh taste so I drizzle or add them at the end of cooking and prepping my food. These flavors are clear and vivid, which is why so many celebrity chefs have given them the thumbs up. They sort of instantly add panache to whatever you’re making.
All I did for my spring pasta salad was douse it in some Tahitian Lime olive oil, followed by a chaser of California White Balsamic vinegar.
But my favorite way to enjoy these is to throw an olive oil tasting party! We set it up like a wine tasting, with lots of little plates and bowls set out, each with a different oil, or oil and vinegar combo, some with herbs or spices added, some plain. We provide plenty of good bread to slice or tear, and a great cocktail or two. It’s a lot of fun.
The long slender bottles themselves are gorgeous to look at and a pleasure to hold in your hands. The vinegar bottles are made with a translucent frosted glass and come corked. The contents are jewel-toned. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway!) that these make magnificent gifts – you can choose from pre-arranged gift sets on their site that range from simple pairings of an oil and vinegar, to mega corporate gift sets. (That’s on my wish list!)
These are products to savor and enjoy with family and friends. They represent what good eating is all about, and isn’t it especially gratifying when something this delicious is also good for you. A set of these oils and vinegars can take you through a spring and summer’s worth of healthy eating, from salad dressings to quick grilling marinades. Please take the time to visit the O Olive Oil site and let me know what you think!
O Olive Oil is generously giving away an Olive Oil & Vinegar Sampler Set, a $110 value, packaged in a beautiful bamboo butler’s tray, (pictured in the very top photo) to one lucky reader! To enter, please visit O Olive Oil, HERE, and leave a comment letting me know which of their fabulous flavors rocks your boat!…you have until Friday the 8th to enter, and good luck!
*This giveaway has ended*
The winner of the O Olive Oil & Vinegar sampler is Claudia from My Little Bungalow – congratulations Claudia!!
*I use Random.org to pick the winner, and will announce it here on saturday. While I am not compensated for these posts, I did receive a selection of O Olive oil products to play with. All opinions are emphatically my own.