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Top Pick Of The Week

June 16, 2009

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Olive Oil

Sonoma Farm infused olive oil tastes like the fresh lemon juice (or any of the other flavors) leaped into the olive oil dish. Photo by Corey Lugg | THE NIBBLE. Styling by Lauren LaPenna.

WHAT IT IS: Infused olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: The fresh, vibrant flavors of infused oils make you think you just squeezed the fruit (or infused the herb) into them.
WHY WE LOVE IT: It turns every dish into a holiday of flavor, for no extra calories. And, for those who drink olive oil daily for health, it’s a taste treat.
WHERE TO BUY IT: SonomaFarm.com.
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Sonoma Farm Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Infusion Of Happiness

CAPSULE REPORT: Gertrude Stein may have espoused that a rose is a rose, but to us, an infused olive oil certainly is not an infused olive oil. All of them suffice, but Sonoma Farm Olive Oil is one of a handful of brands that we’ve tried where the flavors leap out of the bottle and transport you to a garden of wonderful aroma and flavor. (See our Oils & Vinegars Section for other favorites.)

When we first looked at our task—tasting six different flavors of the Sonoma Farm brand of extra virgin olive oil, plus unflavored EVOO and a dipping oil—it seemed like work. By the end of the tasting, we were drunk with happiness on olive oil, drinking tablespoon after tablespoon. (The FDA recommends two tablespoons a day for heart health; we had a month’s worth.)

What did we experience? Lemon, lime and blood orange wafting out of the EVOO bottle, as if fresh juice were pent-up and waiting to escape. The fresh garlic, hot pepper (cayenne) and rosemary/basil olive oils jockeyed for position as well. Honestly, we couldn’t even pick a champion—they’re all winners. And that’s before we got to the regular EVOO, the dipping oil and the regular and strawberry balsamic vinegars. Read the full review below and see how we used them. And note that delicious, heart-healthy olive oil makes a mighty fine Father’s Day gift.

     
THE NIBBLE does not sell the foods we review
or receive fees from manufacturers for recommending them.

Our recommendations are based purely on our opinion, after tasting thousands of products each year, that they represent the best in their respective categories.

 

Learn About Olive Oil

Olives Olive Oil Glass Olives & Olive Oil
The Flavors & Aromas Of Olive Oil. What does it mean when an olive oil is earthy... peppery... fruity... herbal? Each oil is different. If you prefer herbal to earthy, get to know how to ask for olive oil like you ask for wine. Read the article. How To Taste & Evaluate Olive Oil. How can you talk the talk and truly know what you’ve bought? This article will reveal so much that you can start hosting olive oil tasting parties! Read the article and taste like a pro.  Olive Oil Glossary. What’s an artisan oil? An estate oil? The difference between virgin, extra virgin and just plain “olive oil?” Should you care if your olive oil is cold pressed? Read our Olive Oil Glossary and become an olive oil know-it-all.

Sonoma Farm Olive Oil: Infusion Of Happiness

INDEX OF REVIEW

This is Page 1 of a four-page article. Click on the black links to visit other pages.

MORE TO DISCOVER

Introduction

First, infused olive oil is not the same as flavored olive oil. Flavored olive oil is a Chile Olive Oilless expensive preparation, where an alcohol-based flavor extract is stirred into the pressed olive oil. It can taste O.K. (or it can taste artificial), but you won’t be turning cartwheels.

Infusion, on the other hand, harkens back to the traditional practice of crushing a fresh fruit or herb along with the whole olives, infusing the oils of the former with the fresh-pressed olive oil. Some companies, like Sonoma Farm, use the oil or “essence” version of the produce rather than crush it fresh, because it enables them to bottle smaller batches and send a fresher product when retailers order. Is there a difference between fresh-crushed produce and using the oil? Judging from the aroma and flavor that explode from every bottle of Sonoma Farm infused olive oil, fresh-crushed couldn’t possibly be any better.

Sonoma Farms is a marketing company that sources or creates the best of everything in a variety of categories—olives, olive oil, vinegar, sauces and dips—from top producers in California, Italy and elsewhere, to sell under its own brand. They don’t grow the olives or the Trebbiano grapes for the balsamic vinegar, but they know how to find excellent producers who do, and they add value by creating lines (like the flavored olive oils in this review) with a quality-to-price-value ratio that should endear them to everyone. We’ve already reviewed their delicious table olives. Here, we’ll explore the wonders of their infused extra virgin olive oils.

Photo: Hot stuff, baby! Here, extra virgin olive oil is infused with hot cayenne chiles. The result, drizzled on seafood or salad, is divine. Use it to baste or marinate. Or, make a sizzlin’ potato salad or chicken salad, with or without mayo.

— Karen Hochman

Continue To Page 2: Varieties Of Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil

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