Sad news from Italy today about a 6.3 magnitude earthquake in Abruzzo that has claimed 150 lives, injured some 1500, and left some tens of thousands of people homeless, according to this NYT article.
While Giuseppe and I spent some time there in the Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo, Lazio e Molise, my first encounter with the area was many years before, driving through it on a trip from San Benedetto del Tronto to Roma. What little I know about the region comes mostly second hand, from Italian American friends’ families from that region. In Pittsburgh, it seemed the Abruzzese immigrants outnumbered all other regions, except maybe for the Calabrese. (For an interesting essay on Italians in Pennsylvania, click here.)
Anyway, wanted to write about something Abruzzese tonight, so I started surfing around on Safari and landed, eventually, on a really interesting website from Lotario, a company whose mission is to bring the very best in Abruzzese olive oil products to the American market. According to its website,
An average annual production of approximately 28,000 tons of oil, mainly extra virgin, makes Abruzzo the fifth producing region in Italy. … Abruzzo holds three of the twenty Italian DOPs.
Really like olive oils from Liguria and Molise, but am not sure I’ve tasted those from Abruzzo. On the Lotario website are some guidelines for tasting olive oil that I find so fascinating, I feel compelled to paste here:
Guidelines for Tasting Olive Oil
• Taste oil in mid morning
• Don’t eat anything or have any foreign flavors in your mouth before tasting (no smoking, toothpaste, gum, candy, lipstick, coffee, etc.)
• Don’t have foreign smells on your hands or body such as perfumes or after shave
• Find a room that is quiet and free of any odor
• Sit down, relax, take your time (5-15 minutes per oil)
• Taste about 4-5 oils and no more than 10 oils at any one time
• Cleanse your palate with sour apple (Granny Smith variety) and water between oils
• Use some sort of recording sheet that identifies date, oil sample, name, and attributes
• If possible remove the bias of color from your tasting by using a colored glass
• Swirl the glass with a cover on it or use your hand to cover the glass
• Warm the oil up to about body temperature before smelling or tasting it. It should not be cold or hot as you put it into your mouth
• Remove the cover or your hand and immediately smell the oil by taking a big whiff
• Drink about 3-5 ml of the oil, but before swallowing it suck in air and swirl it around your entire mouth for about 10 seconds. Swallow it, close your mouth and breathe out through your nose
• Immediately write down your impressions – first ones are usually the best
Have been to quite a few wine tasting parties in my day, but wonder if I could convince any of my foodie friends to participate in an olive oil tasting. Would it work if it were a BYOB event?
Curious to learn where I might find this oil in the States, I clicked around some more and learned that it won a silver award from the 2008 Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition. Wondered how the ‘experts’ would judge an oil and learned they do so on its regional designation, intensity of fruitiness, bitterness and pungency, and the intensity and complexity of its taste, aroma and “harmony” (whatever that means). Hmmm. They even have a rubric/score sheet you can see here.
Not sure how high this scoring sheet might fly in my EVOO tasting party, but really like the idea of a side-by-side tasting. Last I did so was quite entertaining, at Oliviers & Co on the Île Saint–Louis in Paris. Last time I went into the O&C store in the West Village, the clerk’s snobbery was more than I wanted to handle. Why does boutique shopping so often come with a big dose of pretension?
And so I’ve digressed into the late night wanderings of a curious mind. Ahem. Circling back to the tragedy in Abruzzo, please consider making a donation to the Red Cross:
You can help the victims of countless crises around the world each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, which will provide immediate relief and long-term support through supplies, technical assistance and other support to help those in need. The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster, please do so at the time of your donation by mailing your donation with the designation to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243 , Washington, D.C. 20013 or to your local American Red Cross chapter. Donations to the International Response Fund can be made by phone at 1-800-REDCROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish) or online at www.redcross.org.