Category Archives: Random Thoughts

A SENSE OF PLACE

FOOD PAIRING and TASTE
OIL  * WINE  * FOOD

At the Visitors Center at IL Fiorello, we present seasonal food pairings with our extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegar reductions. We are proud to source most of our food pairings directly from our organic vegetable and herb gardens.

Guests always ask what oils, what foods and what wines should be paired together. They always wonder why and how we do different pairings. There is no magic to pairing, usually if you like it together, that is the best pairing for you.

If you really look at the origin of food, wine and oil, you will recognize natural pairings.  The geographic origin of the food, wine, or oil tells an important historical story. Where food is grown, wine is grown, and olives are grown together. Climate, soil, weather, and people all impart their influences.

Consumers have, and should have, different preferences, so you should be eating food, drinking wine, and using olive oil that you love and enjoy. You all have different palates but some people have different levels of sensitivity and tolerances.  We often ask people if they enjoy coffee, and if so, most likely the expected bitterness of extra virgin olive oil will be a pleasant experience in the tasting room. The bitterness and pungency of extra virgin olive oil often astounds people but when the oils are paired with food, taste chemistry is at its best. The food and the oils shine.

Consider what food you will be serving at home and what that flavor profile means to you.

Here are some interesting food, wine and oil pairings that grow together. Something to consider that you might not have appreciated until now. We have tried to give examples of the cultural matching of food, wine and olive oil. The fun challenge is to find some of your own best matches.

Don’t allow people tell you how a wine or oil is “supposed” to taste. Taste it yourself, make a decision and then have a great discussion with your friends about your findings. Different people have different tastes and that is where the fun begins. Play with your food, that what we do every day at IL Fiorello.

This should be fun and enjoyable, and above all, the food, wine, and the olive oil should be delicious. Come and enjoy the experience of taste at IL Fiorello.

Ciao

Ann

Taste & Pairing

 

FDA Fights Fraud. Plans to Test Imported Olive Oils.

 

The House Agricultural Committee finally has taken steps to stop the fraud and adulteration of olive oil coming from big corporations predominately in Europe. As we in the industry know, much of the bulk olive oils coming to the United States from Europe contain a large percentage of seed oils.

This is blatant fraud and does present a potential health risk to consumers. Certified Extra Virgin Olive oil should be only olive oil and nothing else. Seed oils mixed with olive oil should be clearly labeled and not called extra virgin. The California Olive Oil Commission has set standards for oils produced in California. This has sent shock waves through the European big corporate olive oil industry.

Truthful producers from around the world welcome this forward step toward transparency. At IL Fiorello we are proud to certify our oils, share the results with our guests and freely discuss our farming and milling practices. Honesty and transparency in the market place is the center of our business.

 

Ciao
Ann

 

 

Weeds and Mushrooms

 

I want to pick your weeds!

A delightful lady walked into IL Fiorello’s visitor center asking if her mother could pick our weeds. My first response was, sure-we have lots! My more rational approach was “does she know what weeds are what” and will she be safe. Turns out she really knew her weeds.

Foragers are individuals who know and understand what grows, what is safe, and how to use the “weeds” that grow in the forest, in the groves, and on the side of the road. As Connie Green in her book The Wild Table, says “ the flavor of wild is sneaking back into our modern world”. What a shame, it should never have left.

When I was growing up in the Adirondack Mountains of really far upstate New York, my father’s friend would go out mushroom hunting. He would bring back 50 lbs of beautiful chanterelles. We would sauté them in butter, heap them on toasted fresh bread, eat like there was no tomorrow. All the rest we packed in containers for the freezer. He knew what he was doing both to find the mushrooms and only pick the safe one to eat. This was a truly memorable food experience. Mushrooms on toast are still my very favorite meal.

Not everyone can forage for mushrooms. Not everyone should forage for mushrooms. That is why we have a class on mushrooms, hosted with Mycopia mushrooms of Petaluma. We will all learn a lot from this class.

Maybe we should all learn about foraging for weeds also. Good weeds, tasty weeds, healthy weeds.

Be careful what you forage. Our organic garden will safely supply us with great vegetables and I am sure some good weeds.
Come visit

Ciao

weeds

 

FROM OUR HEART TO YOUR HEART

Health benefits of good food, good wine, and olive oil are being touted in the news. Of course this is true; add exercise and you have the perfect 4. What better grouping? Science is continuously looking closely at how complex human nutrition really is and what we can do to help ourselves. Sorry, there is no magic bullet. One glass of wine, or 2 tablespoons of olive oil (real olive oil) will not a healthy person make. But it is a start.

Some studies attribute better health to red wine, others to white, the more cautious to both. Most probably the interaction of both with a great diet, including olive oil, is the answer. As the lead investigator, Iris Shai, from Ben-Gurion University in Israel, states, “each individual could respond differently and should consult his practitioner first”. Sensible response, I have said that myself to lots of people. We all need a touchstone.

So here is a suggestion for helping your heart from our heart at IL Fiorello. Be kind to your friends for Valentine’s Day. Give them a bottle of really good tasting olive oil and cook a wonderful dinner of real food. Heed the Oldways Common Ground Consensus Statement: Food should be good for human health, good for the planet, and just plain good – unapologetically delicious.

Walk to the store and purchase these ingredients for dinner. Then walk home and prepare a lovely meal.

 

Mushroom and Cheese Bruschetta

6 tablespoons Organic IL Fiorello Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Frantoio

6 more tablespoons oil for drizzling on the bread

4-5 cups fresh mushrooms

Mycopia from Petaluma is a wonderful source (if you are not into your own foraging)

1-2 tsp oregano (chopped)

1-2 tsp thyme (chopped)

2-3 shallots or equivalent amount of finely chopped white onions

Mozzarella (sliced) or buratta (spooned) cheese

Baguette, sliced on the diagonal. Toast each slice and drizzle with olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Sautée the onions and mushrooms in the olive oil about 5-6 minutes

Add the herbal seasonings to taste

Toast the bread and top with olive oil

Place the cheese on the bread

Add the mushroom and herb mixture on top

Drizzle with more oil

Garnish with chopped parsley or chives for taste and beauty

Arrange the finished bruschetta on a platter

Serve with a green salad of arugula and lettuce lightly seasoned with oil.

Accompany with a glass of red or white wine of your choice

Wine Suggestions:

Farmstrong Field White from Suisun Valley

Winemaker Faith Armstrong-Foster

Or try her Sparkling wine from their Onward label

A beautiful Petillant Naturel of Malvasia Bianca

Verduno Pelaverga from Piedmonte Italy

Turkovich Roussane from nearby Yolo County CA

Ciao.

 

HOW TO BUY GOOD OLIVE OIL — HONESTLY

Suisun Valley, California (January 5, 2016) – Called the Food of the Gods, olive oil, true certified extra virgin olive oil, is indeed a magical food. “This is an ancient food that deserves its place on the modern table,” say Mark and Ann Sievers of Il Fiorello Olive Oil Co. in Suisun Valley Northern California.  “It’s a shame that other countries simply haven’t enforced their standards when it comes to extra virgin olive oil.  It’s a matter of cost for them, but it’s a matter of purity and integrity for the consumer.”

A recent 60 Minutes (Sunday January 3, 2016) episode focused on the production and mis-labeling of poor quality oils in Italy.  “Guy Campanile, the producer of that segment on olive oil, should come to California during fall milling season, to smell and taste how wonderful our oils are, says Ann Sievers.  “It’s no wonder we fare very well in international competitions. Italy, Spain, France, and Greece make some good olive oils, but they usually keep the good oils for themselves. And as 60 Minutes showed, the multinational companies send adulterated oils out to the world.”

How can consumers tell the difference?  Il Fiorello offers some simple advice:  “If you find an inexpensive oil a grocery store, there’s a reason it is inexpensive,” says Mark Sievers.  “It may be old, bad, or adulterated or all three. This is indeed a buyers beware, or we like to say buyer be aware business. If the label on the oil says it is from 5 different countries you can be assured it is not good quality olive oil, and probably not even much olive oil.”

The 60 Minutes segment documented the adulteration of Italian olive oils with highly refined (read processed with heat and chemicals) vegetable oil–a silent issue that consumers are only now recognizing. “It’s too bad,” says Ann Sievers.  “If the label said olive oil and vegetable oil then consumers would know what they are buying.  But then, they probably wouldn’t buy it.”

It takes an enormous effort to make extra virgin olive oil: a whole years’ worth of growing, expensive harvesters, large machinery. And the oil must be only olive oil, and have a balance of bitterness, fruit, and pungency when it comes out of the mill. If it’s not, it is fraudulent, and that is not extra virgin olive oil. Unscrupulous makers add other chemicals to try to make up for the defects. “If you bring me good olives, we can make beautiful oil,” Says Ann Sievers. “If you bring me bad olives you will have bad oil, or none as we will not mill bad fruit. Come visit us and take a tour of our farm and olive milling, (not pressing) equipment during harvest time.  It’s an enlightening experience. The taste and aroma of fresh extra virgin olive oil will stay with you forever.”

According to the segment on 60 Minutes, because of the immense amount of adulteration and bad olive oil, consumers do not even know what good oil tastes like. Ann and Mark Sievers would like to change that.  “Certified extra virgin olive oil is truly a special product and should be paired with great food,” says Mark Sievers.  “Once you’ve tasted the real thing, you won’t ever want to go back to that stuff the big conglomerates sell.”

“It’s all about knowing your sources,” says Ann Sievers.  “Take the time to know where you food comes from, how it is made and how to protect your health and dollars.”

About Il Fiorello

ll Fiorello is one of the leading premium olive oil producers in the USA, with more than thirty gold medals won at national and international olive oil competitions around the world. They grow twelve varieties of olives—all from Italian, Spanish, French and Greek olive trees—twenty minutes from the more famous Napa Valley. Il Fiorello offers tours, tastings, and a full range of visitor experiences in their olive oil visitor center in Suisun Valley, CA.

Ciao!

Ann Sievers & Paul Wagner, Balzac Communications & Marketing

 

Happy, Healthy New Year

IL Fiorello wishes everyone a happy and healthy and prosperous New Year.

Enjoy our olive oil with good food and much happiness. Be thankful.

Doesn’t everyone make the usual New Year’s resolution to try to eat better to improve their health? I would suggest that it really is very simple. Follow some of the “food rules” by Michael Pollan- writer, author, Professor at UC Berkeley, and author of In Defense Of Food, (Penguin Press, 2008).

Pollan has three basic rules and they are:

Eat food. Meaning real food not packaged or manipulated

Not too much. Don’t over eat

Mostly plants. Consider a plant based diet, occasional meats are fine

If you are interested, watch the movie just released December 30, 2015, following his book In Defense of Food. It is a true common sense approach to the health issues (read “diabetes and obesity”) in the civilized world.

The following statements are taken from his writings:

  • “Eat food” means to eat real food — vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and, yes, fish and meat — and to avoid what Pollan calls “edible food-like substances.”
  • Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. Pollan says, “When you pick up that box of portable yogurt tubes, or eat something with 15 ingredients you can’t pronounce, ask yourself, ‘What are those things doing there?’”
  • Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.
  • Stay out of the middle of the supermarket; shop on the perimeter of the store. Real food tends to be on the outer edge of the store near the loading docks, where it can be replaced with fresh foods when it goes bad. Just a personal note, many markets now have fresh food front and center. Stay there to shop for real fresh food. 
  • Don’t eat anything that won’t eventually rot. “There are exceptions — honey — but as a rule, things like Twinkies that never go bad aren’t food,” Pollan says.
  • It is not just what you eat but how you eat. “Always leave the table a little hungry,” Pollan says. “Many cultures have rules that you stop eating before you are full. In Japan, they say eat until you are four-fifths full. Islamic culture has a similar rule, and in German culture they say, ‘Tie off the sack before it’s full.'”
  • Families traditionally ate together, around a table and not a TV, at regular meal times. It’s a good tradition. Enjoy meals with the people you love. “Remember when eating between meals felt wrong?” Pollan asks.
  • Don’t buy food where you buy your gasoline. In the U.S., 20% of food is eaten in the car.

 

Pollan often ends his presentation with a quote from Oscar Wilde, “everything in moderation including moderation.”

We are human and derive enjoyment from food.  So celebrate and enjoy, but be wise.

Ciao

The Best Day is the Day Oil is Born

 

OLIO NUOVO, new oil.

It’s full of pungency, olive bits, bitterness, texture, deliciously wonderful. This is the oil to pour over toasted bread like bruschetta.

Olio Nuovo is the best! Everyone should stand in line to taste this fabulous product. It’s a gift of nature, but not for the faint of heart- as this is a new and robust oil. Think of savory foods like steak, roasted pumpkin, potatoes or grilled eggplant.

Olive oil changes over time. So what is pungent and very robust today will become much milder over the next two years.  All the polyphenols and antioxidants, (only one small measure of oil quality) will also degrade over the next year. Olio Nuovo is immediately hand bottled the hour it is made and only available during the olive harvest, so limited quantities are on hand- use it often during the holiday season!

Take advantage of this wonderful tasting oil! The oil will never be better than the day it is born.

Celebrate Harvest, Celebrate Olio Nuovo.

CIAO

Ann

The Life of an Olive Oil Miller

I have not blogged lately because I have been very busy milling tons and tons of olives. We are very grateful this year for a bountiful harvest. It was an early harvest, and we have milled almost every day since September 21. This makes us all very happy to be making great oil, but also very tired at the end of our day!

We still have at least 3 more weeks to go, so I thought I would just give you a list of things an olive oil miller does every day…

The Life of an Olive Oil Miller

  • Waking up early to head off to the farm
  • Receive beautiful olives from new and returning clients
  • Taking photos of the olives, checking their temperatures and weights
  • Moving 100 lb. bins from one side of the mill to the other
  • Unloading 1000 lb. bins filled with olives with the forklift
  • Greeting the steady stream of clients delivering olives and picking up their freshly milled oil
  • Cleaning the mill before we begin milling
  • Moving 5 gallon jugs of olive oil milled last night, each weighing about 40 lbs. (Did you know that oil weighs 7.61 lbs. per gallon??)
  • Filling up the wash tank at the mill and trying not to get splashed with freezing cold water!
  • Wearing headphones, inside the mill, all day long to protect our hearing
  • Watching the olives mix into a beautiful, shimmery paste!
  • Carefully filling containers with beautiful fresh oil
  • Cleaning the machines in preparation for the next batch of olives
  • Cleaning the mill, wall to wall!
  • Heading home at 11P.M. after a long day’s work

We have been working alongside the outdoor construction workers, the film crew, and research scientists observing our property, because we strive to not only produce award winning oils…but to remain environmentally friendly!

Come and see the milling process, it is amazing!

Ciao

Ann

Spectacular, Sustainable Seafood

We had an amazing cooking class on seafood, taught by our Executive Chef Marvin Martin. Beautiful fish, beautiful presentations. Everyone just delighted in learning how to choose fish and what great things can come from some simple but elegant preparations.4

Chef Martin uses Osprey Seafood, a purveyor in Napa. They pride themselves on quality and sustainability. Line-caught salmon, traceability to the date of the catch and the captain of the boat. Fish is a healthy meal and some types of fish are sustainable. Overfishing or inappropriate methods of fishing is indeed depleting our oceans. Take shrimp for example, there is a huge bycatch, meaning for every pound of shrimp many other fish are caught, die, and are thrown back into the ocean. I personally love shrimp but I won’t eat it because of the unsustainable practices in fishing.

You might wonder how an olive oil company is involved in fish. The menu of our fish cooking class is the answer. Oil and fish are great taste partners. The line-caught salmon poached in olive oil was melt in your mouth delicious. The fish carpaccio, sliced very thin, pounded and served with a drizzle of lemon olive oil, and thinly sliced fresh vegetables from the garden was astounding.

1

To guide you in your purchase of seafood, go to a very good fish monger. Take the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood guide with you and choose delicious and sustainable fish. According to Julie Packard, the Executive Director of Monterey Bay Aquarium; “ Because the challenges facing the ocean are so urgent, we’re investing more deeply in our conservation and science work – building a first-class team that is making a difference with policymakers and with businesses whose purchasing decisions can set the bar for how seafood is farmed and caught.” Go to www.montereybayaquarium.org and find the Seafood watch program to guide you in purchasing fish. Donate to the Aquarium if you want to become personally involved in behalf of healthy oceans.

You will be happier and healthier and a responsible consumer. Pair it with great olive oil and enjoy.

Ciao.

 

The Flavors and Aromas of Summer

In my past blogs I have been talking about olive growing, oils, birds and bees.

It is time to think of the wonderful flavor aromas of summer. Think fresh cut grass, peaches, roses, orange blossoms, and tomatoes on the vine. The flavors of nature, open fields, grass and fresh blossoms.

rose

Humans respond to aromas. Ask yourself what is the most vivid aroma memory you can remember. Your mom’s perfume, your dad’s woodworking shop, the smell of fine wine.  At IL Fiorello Tasting Room the first step in tasting oil is to smell the oil. Each oil has a specific aroma, very complex, very delicate and memorable. It takes time to really train yourself to remember aromas. Just like in evaluating wine, mind memory is an innate and a learned process. You either have the ability to smell or not, and then you begin training and learning. I might also say expanding your experience.

I asked some of our staff what their fondest or most powerful aroma memories might be. The answers: Eucalyptus, jet fuel (from Mark the jet pilot), the stamp on your hand from Disneyland, old car exhaust smell (before unleaded fuel), lavender, horse barn and stall. Isn’t it amazing what aroma memories recall? Everyone smiled when I asked them this question.

The next time you visit IL Fiorello, think about the aroma of the oils, how distinctive they are and then begin to pair the aromas with what food you are going to serve to enhance the food and the oil.

Watch for our next class on how to taste olive oil, smell included.

Have a wonderful June. Congratulations to all the graduates and their families.

CIAO.