After the fudge and wine pairing, we were whisked off to the Willow Creek Olive Estate in Nuy Valley to taste some of their vast array of products. I know Hila has been to Willow Creek before (and written about it), so it’s interesting to see how different our points of focus can be.
Once we entered the unassuming doorway, there was no doubt we were in the right place as we were greeted by a display of an almost overwhelming variety of all things olive, the tasting table and a lovely range of gift items.
We got right into some fantastic titbits of information as our host brought out the blue tasting glass for those of us who were keen to taste the oil without the bread. He explained that, when judging olive oil, a special glass was used that allowed the subtle aromas to be accessible as it was heated to just the right temperature on special equipment. Seriousness of the quality aside, you have to enjoy the sense of fun when it comes to the huge variety of flavoured oil that they have. My favourites were the coriander because it tasted so fresh and the blood orange because it made me curious as to how I would want to use it (I’ll let you know below).
We had a very interesting discussion on the importance of freshness in olive oil, both for taste, quality and health benefits (the polyphenols, which also affect the taste, deteriorate over time). Apparently it is difficult for olive estates to compete with the overseas market in terms of price, because overseas farmers are subsidised by their government in order to export. However, Willow Creek focuses on competing in terms of quality and freshness, which it does well, judging by the passion of the staff and the awards that their oils have received.
A main point of learning here is firstly, BUY LOCAL – the freshest olive oils are not the ones that have travelled to be here and even good quality oils suffer in transit. Secondly, once you have your fresh, quality olive oil, don’t store it for years waiting for that special recipe – use it while the polyphenols and flavour are still intact.
Are you still wondering how I used the Willow Creek Blood Orange Olive Oil that I bought? Here you go: 1 scoop of vanilla ice cream, 1 drizzle of said delicious olive oil, 1 sprinkling of shaved dark chocolate and a grinding of Himalayan Salt. Thank me later.