Olive oil is as varied as the mountains we ski on. It can be smooth and rich like a gentle green groomer or offer a sharp bite like a steep, icy run. Some oils have hints of citrus while others lend a peppery punch. Infused with herbs or other flavors, the oil takes on a whole other life. Whether it’s drizzled on salad and vegetables, lending itself to the beginnings of a savory sauce or used to marinate food, olive oil enhances everyday meals and takes up residence in every foodie’s cupboard.
It all started when a bottle of Kiklos Greek Olive Oil was delivered to my door. I opened the box and pulled out an attractive square, white bottle with a clear band of greenish oil peeking through glass at the bottom of the bottle. I uncorked the bottle and poured some oil over greens. I dipped my finger into the silky oil and tasted it. It was spicy and peppery unlike many of the olive oils I was accustomed to. The flavor was so good I wanted to chat with the founder of Kiklos and see what set his olive oil apart from the thousands of other brands and types on the market.
“Sixty to 70 percent of extra-virgin olive oil on shelves in the supermarket are not extra virgin.”
“It is the oil itself that sets us apart. Many of the olive oils produced in America are often blended with other oils. Kiklos uses the Koroneiki olive. We pick the olives at the right time and press it at the right time. The olives are cold pressed immediately after harvesting, which leads to the result of the product and its aroma,” said owner Jonathan Bassett.
He describes Kiklos as oil with a milder, yet robust kick. It can be found at the Tahoe Central Market in Kings Beach. Look for the white bottle with a circle in the middle. “Kiklos means circle in Greek. The circle represents the circle of life and the four seasons,” Bassett says. “Olive oil is a staple of the Mediterranean diet. It’s heart healthy, lowers high-blood pressure, is good for skin and nails and great for removing makeup. A shot of olive a day helps prevents colds and flus.”
Olive Oil tasting
Tahoe Oil & Spice in downtown Truckee was buzzing when I went in to meet owner Natasha Weissman. Rows and rows of oils in stainless steel containers lined the shelves. I tried the Herbs de Provence olive oil paired with a white pear balsamic and Milanese Gremolata oil with honey-ginger balsamic — both were amazing. Weissman mixed lemon oil with a coconut balsamic, which was fabulous. The truffle oils were delicious and while I liked the white truffle oil, I loved the dark truffle oil.
“Sixty to 70 percent of extra-virgin olive oil on shelves in the supermarket are not extra virgin. Each month it sits on the shelves, the polyphenols of the oil decrease,” says Weissman. “Extra-virgin olive oil is the highest quality oil. The olives are pressed one time to extract the oil. Virgin olive oil is a lesser-quality oil. It’s deodorized. Extra-light olive oil is of an even lesser quality of oil. It’s been extracted from olives more than once and uses a chemical process to make it.” She added that olive oil is high in polyphenols, which include antioxidants and vitamins A, E and D.
The olive oil comes from mainly Italy, Spain, Greece or California; people tend to lean toward Italian oils. According to Weissman, although, it’s not about where the oil comes from but about how it was made.
When it was harvested? How was it pressed? Harvesting young green olives, using a press method with a malaxer to grind the olives and then a centrifugal process, produces the best oils, she says.
There are several varietals of olives used for olive oil. Weissman likens it to wines. The common olive in California is the Arbequina olive. Picual olives from Spain, Mission olives also from California and Cortina from Italy are commonly used for oil.
Tahoe Oil & Spice arranges its oils by polyphenol levels. They are lined up from mild to robust, peppery and pungent.
“The more peppery and pungent, the more health benefits you’ll find. Olive oil balances LDL and HDL cholesterol levels. Two tablespoons per day can balance levels in two months,” says Weissman.
Priya Hutner is a writer, health and wellness consultant, and natural foods chef. Her business, The Seasoned Sage, focuses on wellness, conscious eating and healthy living. She offers healthy organic meals for her clients. She may be reached at [email protected] or visit theseasonedsage.com. Visit TheTahoeWeekly.com to read more. Click on the Local Flavor tab.