What People Say

 

What do people say? What questions do they ask in an olive oil tasting experience?

The other day, a group of visitors were talking with me about the experience of running a tasting room for olive oil. They asked me what questions we get during our olive oil tasting events.

Last year we presented over 4,300 tastings at IL Fiorello. Granted tasting olive oil is a new experience for most people and we try to give accurate, but fun, information about olive oils, growing olives and food pairings. Sometimes the questions are spot on and sometimes they take my breath away. Most often we all end up laughing together, which is even more fun.

Here are some fun questions and facts about olives and olive oil that our tasting room staff is prepared to answer.

 

Q: Do you grow green or black olives?

A: All olives begin green and mature to black. This is the natural ripening process, just like most apples turn from green to red.

 

Q: How do you grow the olive with the red thing in the center?

A: Those olives are brined salt cured olives and the pimento is grown separately and placed inside the olive at the Factory.


Q
: What does extra virgin mean?

A: That is a standard of quality which requires that only olive oil is in the bottle and nothing else.  This means each oil has passed both a strict chemistry analysis and has passed a master taste panel taste test. This is a yearly certification and each production of oil is required to pass this test.  In California, oil cannot be labeled Extra Virgin without passing this certification. Look for the seal of certification.

 

Q: What is this? A woman at the Farmers Market was holding a fresh lemon. She asked “is this an olive?”

A: No, That is a lemon……

 

Q: Can you eat an olive off the tree?

A: Only once. Fresh olives off the tree are impossibly bitter. Not a good taste…

 

Q: First Cold Pressed is only a PR term now.

A: Long ago and far away in an ancient land with donkeys and oxen, olives were ground up by stone wheels and pressed between mats. Today we use large mills and huge centrifuges to mill our oil.

 

Q: Can you cook with our extra virgin olive oils?

A: Of course, just use lower heat to preserve the flavor and health benefits of our oils. This is true for all oils. We make our oils with a big flavor, called finishing oils. Pour on the oil at your dining table.

 

Q: What is olive oil wine?

A: We have two flags in the front of the main driveway. One flag says olive oil and the other says wine. We make olive oil from our olives and we serve and sell bottles of wine made from grapes.

 

 Q: Where is the bread?

A:  We do not serve bread, ever. Bread masks the flavor of oils. Our motto is expand your palate to beyond bread and salad. Look for our recipes for crostini and bruschetta online. A beautiful presentation for our oils.

 

Q: At a tasting event in Southern California, a lady tasted our Award winning Leccino Organic Olive Oil and said: “This does not taste like Chardonnay!”

A: I could not utter a response.

 

Q: When do you add the pepper to the oil?

A: No pepper is ever added to our extra virgin oils, the sensation you are feeling is pungency. That is an important part of tasting early harvest robust olive oils.

 

At IL Fiorello we are all about enjoyment and education but you really can’t make some of these things up.  We all have our moments.

Come and taste our oils and ask any question you want. We are sure to have some answers.

 

Ciao,

Enjoy the certified extra virgin olive oil

Ann

 

 

 

All About Tomatoes

 

August is tomato season in Suisun Valley and let me tell you- It is Everything Tomato at IL Fiorello! We have a lot here at the Farm. We’ve had to chase the mockingbirds away from them! Our chickens love the little red and yellow cherry tomatoes. They chase each other like little kids to catch the sweet ones. Hilarious to watch.

Tomatoes from the garden, tomato cooking class, dried tomatoes in the kitchen to pair with oils, Tomato Festival Cooking Contest and the Fairfield Tomato Festival! Did I mention Everything Tomato?

Our suggestion? Pair fresh tomatoes with our Mission Olive Oil or Green Valley Blend-beyond wonderful! The fresh tomatoes are perfect, the oil divine, the combination even better.

At the 26th annual Tomato Festival VIP tent, IL Fiorello will serve house made Polenta and organic Sun Dried Tomatoes with our Green Valley Blend organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which won a Silver medal at the State Fair. It will be an honor to present this pairing.

Last Saturday, we hosted our Everything Tomato Cooking Class. Executive Chef Gloria Ciccarone-Nehls and Sous Chef Genevieve Upp presented an outstanding, delicious, marvelous, fabulous menu. Larry Balestra, from Larry’s Produce, was kind enough to provide us with some heirloom tomatoes to round out our supply of large size tomatoes for “The Stack”.

 

Photo of “The Stack” courtesy of Michael Morris, Vacaville Reporter Sunday August 13, 2017

Our guests were greeted with Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts, they made the stacks of mozzarella, zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes. It was finished with our oils and balsamic vinegar reduction. We had Tomato Tini’s, Tomato Water with Signature Balsamic Vinegar Reduction. We finished with Tomato-Basil Sorbet, a sweet and savory concoction from Chef Gloria and a delicious finale to the cooking class.

That same day, we also had 30 food and wine writers from San Francisco taste our oils and tomatoes and there was a resounding shout of joy at the pairing! They were a wonderful group to speak to and lots of good questions and discussions.

Last month I presented our oil with food pairings at UC Davis Olive Oil Sensory Class. One of our presentations that our Chef Gloria and I developed were tomatoes and olive oil. We presented both store bought tomatoes and our garden tomatoes with a beautiful oil. It is no wonder consumers are confused because the store bought (most likely green house) tomatoes tasted bad, and the garden tomatoes tasted brilliant with the oil! Food pairing is about balance and knowing your products.

This Saturday, August 19,  we will host the Cooking Competition for the Fairfield Tomato Festival in our Kitchen in the Groves. Judges will be judging from 10-12 am. Finalists are announced and the overall winners will be presented on Sunday, August 20th at the Tomato Festival. We will also serve tastes of garden tomatoes with Mission oil and Green Valley oil in our Kitchen in the Grove as a comparative tasting experience from Friday August 18th-Sunday, August 20th.

So stop by anytime from 1 to 5 to experiment with tastes.  Come and enjoy!

 

 

Ciao

Ann

 

 

Food Fraud in Olive Oil- Buyer Beware

 

In our tasting room I am frequently asked about fraud in olive oil.

The USP* warns that the amount of food fraud has increased by 60% over the last few years. They state that the most adulterated foods are olive oil, milk, honey, syrups, lemon juice, pomegranate juice, tea, spices, and seafood.

After the 60 Minutes report last year and the book, Extra Virginity, by Tom Muller, customers are asking great questions about the provenance of olive oils.  At IL Fiorello, we can point to the specific trees and state that the oil you are tasting comes from our groves. But in general, olive oil fraud is rampant. Why so much fraud? This is a “follow the money” situation. Producers use less extra virgin oil, cut it with vegetable oil, and make more money. The larger quantity of a poor quality bulk olive oil mixed with more flavoring and herbs and spices, the more money you make.  Usually the vegetable oil is highly refined by high heat and chemicals. Much of this oil is made by large multinational international conglomerates. Some is made here in the United States.

Extra virgin olive oil can only be made from olives, and nothing else. NOTHING. If you see a bottle of olive oil that says extra virgin on the label and then contains herbs, that is fraud here in California. Extra virgin oil must pass both a master taste test and a chemistry test and must have a specific label on the bottle stating that that oil has passed certification. If the oil says organic it must also have a certification label for organic. So oils that say organic extra virgin basil oil and are neither extra virgin nor organic. These standards are set by California, modeled after some of the high standards set by Australia. The problem is that there are not enough olive oil police to identify the companies that are making fraudulent oils, and therefore duping the customers.

 

 

We go to great lengths to certify our oils as extra virgin. We happily discuss both the master taste panel and the chemistry tests of our oils. We are certified organic and put the organic label on our organic oils. We can point to the trees that grow the olives for our oil. Our mill is certified organic.

At IL Fiorello we also make co-milled olive oils made with superior quality olives and superior quality fresh fruit: lemons, limes, mandarins, and jalapenos. Both are milled together and the result is co-milled olive oil. We believe that co-milling delivers better quality and depth of flavor. This oil cannot be labeled extra virgin oil as it contains something other than olives. Even though the olives we use could make extra virgin oil, we cannot label it as such. Some companies say “made with extra virgin olive oil” because they added flavoring to extra virgin oil, but that is walking a fine line within the law.

This is a buyer beware situation, or as I like to call it- buyer BE aware. Be aware of your purchases, know your purveyor. Be smart, extra virgin olive oil is expensive, delicious, and should be used when fresh.  Check the labeling for the harvest date, then you know when the oil was made. The “best by” date is irrelevant.

We invite you to come talk with us about the fraud in olive oil. The discussion will enlighten you, and hopefully help you make better decisions about your food choices.

 

Ciao,

Ann

 

 

*The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) is a scientific nonprofit organization that sets standards for the identity, strength, quality, and purity of medicines, food ingredients, and dietary supplements manufactured, distributed and consumed worldwide. USP’s drug standards are enforceable in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration, and these standards are used in more than 140 countries.

Since its founding in 1820, USP has helped secure the quality of the American drug supply. Building on that legacy, USP today works with scientists, practitioners, and regulators of many nations to develop and revise standards that help protect public health worldwide.  WWW.USP.ORG

 

 

Look What’s Growing in Suisun Valley/ July 2017

 

We are growing grape stakes and milk cartons!

Looks that way but not really, soon you will see little green sprouts.

To the Farmers, this means that grapes are going to be planted. The grape stakes and the milk cartons protect and support the young grapes.

No harvesting or suckering is going on in the vineyards, so now is the usual time for preparing for planting. Watering support is in place and the ground is ready for little grape plants. There are many ways to plant, grow, trim, and support grapes.

Next time you are in Suisun Valley, look around at all the different methods of farming.

Last weekend we met our farming neighbors across the way, who come from Sonoma, and are planting Cabernet Sauvignon. Delighted to have them farming in Suisun Valley! This Valley’s soil can help with growing great grapes.

I only hope they are as concerned about organic farming as we are at IL Fiorello. It is a huge commitment, is not easy and can get very expensive! Controlling the weeds and providing nutrients to support the soil and the growth of the trees and grapes is critical to a good crop.

This year’s olive harvest looks to be very heavy. All of the growers that mill with us are reporting very heavy fruit set. Bountiful. Our growers meeting is August 5, so stay tuned for updates on best milling practices.

Here’s to better growing practices from those of us committed to better food and better growing with organic principles.

 

 

Ciao

Ann

 


Milk cartons on Suisun Valley Road

 

Grape stakes, directly across the street from us on Mankas Corner Road

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nocino

Making Nocino, Italian walnut liquor, usually this is made on June 24th, St John’s day.

But as you can see these walnuts got a little large very early.

The alcohol turns bright green from the walnuts, as do your hands. Cut the walnuts in quarters and soak in alcohol for a few weeks or longer depending on the strength you want.

I add a few flavor elements but pure walnuts are fine. After they are finished extracting, drain and mix the liquid with simple syrup to taste. Simple syrup is usually a 1:1 combination, one cup sugar and one cup water.

Nocino is an acquired taste but wonderful. Enjoy. I will post a picture of the finished product in a couple of months.

 

 

Cut the walnuts into quarters and add to a very clean mason jar. Fill with Everclear liquor.

 

 

Cut walnuts with seasoning, cinnamon, lemon, and coffee beans.

 

 

After 3 weeks showing the dark green color

 

 

 

 

 

Nasturtium Capers

Capers come from the Caper Bush, Capparis spinose and we are growing these at the Farm. But until the bush becomes large enough to produce capers, we are using Nasturtiums seed pods, by the thousands. The Nasturtium flowers are edible and are on our tasting plates, the leaves are delicious and hold little zucchini tastes. But the Nasturtium pods are delicious when pickled and taste very similar to brined capers.

 

Recipe for Nasturtium Capers

2 cups water
4 tablespoons salt
1 cup green nasturtium seedpods
1.5 cup white wine vinegar
4 teaspoons sugar
4 fresh laurel leaves
4 springs of fresh thyme

 

Prepare the brine, the brining process

  1. Bring the water and salt to a boil
  2. Pour the boiling brine over the seedpods in pint or quart canning jars.
    1. Make sure the jars are freshly cleaned and hot
    2. Cover the jars and let sit at room temperature
  3. Soak the seed pods for at least 3 days

Prepare the pickling

  1. Drain the seed pods through a sieve and return them to a freshly washed hot jar
  2. In a small non-reactive sauce pan, bring the vinegar, sugar, bay, and thyme to a boil
  3. Pour the vinegar mixture over the seedpods and allow to cool to room temperature
  4. Cover the jar and refrigerate for at least 3 days, before using
  5. These prepared pods will keep for 6 months in the refrigerator
  6. Use brined capers with charcuterie or mixed into mayonnaise for salads or sandwiches

 

Fresh capers just in a salt brine (L)   Capers after brining and infused with seasonings (R)

 

 

 

Fresh capers

How we Change Palates & Minds at IL Fiorello

 

IL Fiorello grows and produces international quality, certified extra virgin olive oil. We also help our guests to expand their palates. This is called edible education, and palate expansion.

We host our guests with a comparative tasting of our extra virgin oils and present a tasting plate of healthy food. Much of the food for our tasting plates are grown on our organic farm. We also discuss fraudulent oils and just plain bad or adulterated oils.

We are changing minds by explaining the importance of comparative tastings. By using our own motto: “beyond bread and salad” we attempt to change habits, a very difficult but interesting task. We do not serve bread with our tastings, often we use plant based healthy foods. Everyone knows that you can use extra virgin olive oil and good balsamic vinegar on salads, but think beyond this premise. An example, extra virgin olive oil drizzled on warm asparagus soup. The aroma is enchanting, the health benefits fabulous.

 

 

By presenting oils with food pairings, guests can enjoy aromas, flavors, bitterness and pungency. Then they better appreciate differences in our oils, and differentiate from generic oils, that may not even be olive oil.

 

 

Most people understand and appreciate this idea, but do they change their habits?  Do we really change their attitudes or palates? We don’t know. Our business growth has been exponential, people come back time and time again to taste and buy our oils.  Our olive oil club has increased 200% from just two years since its inception. People love our products and hopefully this means we are slowly and carefully educating customers to use better oils and eat better foods.

Our culinary classes emphasize good, clean, and healthy food, the motto of Slow Food. Our Chefs are exploring wonderful ways to pair oils and foods for our tasting plates and our events.

One of our goals is to help people understand what good food really is. If our oils cost more than generic oils, it is because of the intense flavor and purity of the product. Better flavor; use less oil, enjoy it more.

Change is difficult and hard and causes people to question and sometimes distrust. I often hear, but this is what “grandmother” always used to do. Well, Grandmothers are always right but this is a different time and we are faced with different food challenges.

Food used to come from the backyard family garden plot.

 

 

Today, you cannot be sure where your food comes from. Let’s go back to that premise of the family garden plot.  Some people do not understand that a radish grows in the ground, and that artichokes are huge plants. That tomatoes are really deeply red and sweet and delicious. Food choices are important, chose an apple not chips and a “health food” bar.  Don’t eat pre-packaged foods. Read labels and contents. Make good healthy decision. Pair good food with excellent oil. Food is your sustenance and your pharmacy, use it well.


I just listened to a presentation by Marion Nestle PhD who said that, eating is an agricultural act. If farmers don’t grow consumers do not eat. This is really simple and so powerful.

Hope this blog is food for thought and action. Speak and eat in a powerful voice.

 

 

Ciao

Ann

 

 

 

Tea Party

20 guests were treated to an adventure to Alice in Wonderland’s tea, by Executive Chef Gloria Ciccrone-Nehls, also known as Alice, and Sous Chef Darren Porter wearing the Mad Hatter’s Hat.  The kitchen was decorated with a Cheshire Cat peering down from the upper shelves of the kitchen supervising the class.
Roses and flowers imitating the Queen’s garden were part of the decorations.

 

At the beginning of the class, tea was served with cream puffs filled with whipped strawberry mascarpone and homemade scones. The class made three types of finger sandwiches, dipped beautiful strawberries in chocolate and drizzled them with tempered chocolate and crunch instructed by Chef Gloria and Chef Darren.


 

Rose and flower petals were coated in egg white and dipped in sugar for a beautiful topping for a citrus olive oil cake. A tour of the edible garden at IL Fiorello, where they were served mint tea.

The class then constructed their towers of tea sandwiches, strawberries, cakes and flowers.

Formal tea was served and everyone delighted in the sights and tastes of our Chefs instructions.

A take home gift of citrus olive oil cake sprinkled with house made Limoncello completed the day.


Mock Clotted Cream recipe:

Ingredients:
1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup Mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

Directions:
– In a medium mixing bowl, combine cream, mascarpone cheese and confectioner’s sugar
– Beat at high speed until thickened and desired consistency is achieved
– Cover, refrigerate until needed, up to 3 days


Spring Bird Walk

 

This past Sunday, IL Fiorello Olive Oil Co., was host to the Napa-Solano Audubon Society. This is a biannual event and we hope to have many more. Beginning at 6:30 am, a group of intrepid birdwatchers gathered in our parking lot. With grove map in hand, bird list, and binoculars at the ready, we all set out to document the morning chorus. The birds were happily singing and song identification quickly became an integral part of the identification.

The female killdeer sitting on her nest in the front of the ellipse, evaded everyone’s identification by superb camouflage. Her mate on the other hand flew over our heads trying to distract us by very loud calls and evasive maneuvers.

 

The robin’s nest in the Citrus grove now has 4 robin blue eggs. I carefully climbed up on a ladder to get this precious picture.

I am on the lookout for hummingbird’s nests, but they are very hard to spot. I will keep looking in the citrus, and report back. The expert birder’s told me to stand very still and look for lichen on the branches of the lemon and orange trees.

The walk continued on for 2 hours with lots of bird identification and camaraderie in the group. We were watching for burrowing owls along the canal but they were elusive today. The squirrels that dig the holes were all too present. Our domestic chickens, even though beautiful and truly loved, were not the stars of the Audubon show.  They do produce beautiful eggs for us.

The local white goose showed up later on in the morning, announcing his displeasure in our walking through his groves.

 

 

The walk ended with Darren’s magnificent vanilla blueberry scones and hot coffee on the back patio. A beautiful day had by all.

We are considering planning an evening walk in the Fall to identify the hawks and owls on the farm.  Anyone is welcome, just contact the Napa-Solano Audubon Society and keep in touch with us at IL Fiorello.

 

Ciao,

Ann

 

HEN’S EGG RECIPE

Eggs and Leccino oil

Poach a hen’s egg in one tablespoon of Leccino oil every morning

Serve on warm toast

Drizzle with more oil and a curl of shaved parmesan cheese

Add salt and pepper and maybe a tiny bit of French thyme from the garden

Good for your soul good for your health

Earth Day 2017

 

IL Fiorello celebrated Earth Day/Weekend, in a big way, with 650 people visiting our Farm on Passport Sunday!

Thank you to all who visited, everyone had a wonderful sunny and delicious time. Thanks to Slow Food for a display and information, to Denise Revel, Girl on the Hill for her beautiful lavender, and to the Erickson’s for their wonderful jams. Thanks also to Napa Valley College Oenology program for making great wine and pouring with such support. Chef Gloria and Chef Darren presented a wonderful food pairing of our oils, Sicilian meatballs and ancient grain salad for everyone.

Thank you also to our staff who smiled all day long.

We celebrate the actual Earth Day by working on the Farm.

 

Harvesting favas, shelling favas, cooking favas, and eating favas. Our harvest was abundant and we will be serving fava beans in many different ways.

 

We are watching for bugs in the grove, planting more trees, expanding our garden, our grove, and putting in more fruit trees. Figs, apples, cherries, pears, much more citrus, and apricots. The big girl chickens (4) and little girl chickens (10) do have a pecking order. The big girls Henrietta, Millicent, Winifred, and Hyacinth are now out in the grove in Nick’s mobile chicken coop, already eating weeds and bugs and fertilizing the grove. The little girls will now be happier in their chicken palace, and not “henpecked”.

 

 

We are watching herons, eagles, owls and quail. The ever present killdeer are busy defending their ground nests. The quail are in their usual spring panic, for food and friends.

In the grove the trees are almost in bloom. The buds are fat and tight but we are finding some blossoms that are open. A week of sun and no hail and we may have blossom. LOTS of blossoms. Even the Aglandau, which was in a heavy production last year, is loaded and very heavy set this year.

We are looking forward to our Growers Meeting this week.  We are meeting old friends and making new ones. Lots of information to share and discuss.

Eat well, be well and plant a tree, or a lavender plant, or a fruit tree for jam.

 

 

Ciao

Ann

 

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Custom Milling

Bring us your olives to be crushed in our state of the art Italian mill.

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Tastings

Taste extra virgin and co-milled flavored olive oils.

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Il Fiorello Blog

Keeping you up to date on all things olive and olive oil.

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Trip Advisor certificate of excellence

Custom Milling

Bring us your olives to be crushed in our state of the art Italian mill.

read more...

Tastings

Taste extra virgin and co-milled flavored olive oils.

read more...

Il Fiorello Blog

Keeping you up to date on all things olive and olive oil.

read more...