Category Archives: Random Thoughts

The California Olive Oil Commission

The California Olive Oil Commission was formed under the stewardship of Senator Lois Wolk. Similar to the Almond Commission, the Olive Oil Commission was created to standardize nomenclature as well as the processing of oils from California.

Is this a good thing, at the right time or not? Fortunately everyone has their opinion and gets to express it. On July 16, 2014, the California Senate held a meeting for open public comment on the California Olive Oil Commission.  Over 100 people attended to provide testimony and input on the document. Growers and producers of olive oil from California, European Union, including representatives from Italy all gathered to give their opinions about the process and the document.

The Olive Oil Commission became law on January 1, 2014 and became operational effective March 24, 2014. The Commission proposes grading and labeling standards for California.  It is important to have accurate statements and definitions to help California define our unique product.

In our opinion the use of certain terms, specifically, “best by dates” and “first cold press”, are detrimental to the language in the Commission’s document. These terms confuse our consumers. Some people who sell olive oil make claims that it cures diabetes, lowers blood pressure and other medical claims, which are misleading; stuff and nonsense. We in the industry have let such ridiculous claims go unchecked too long. It is time to change.  It is time to base your definitions in fact and science.

The real emphasis is that we in California want to promote a clean product: Extra virgin olive oil, certified by specific guidelines.

Just this week in Taiwan, a court settlement was levied against suppliers of adulterated oil.  The IL Fiorello Olive Oil Company was interviewed by Taiwan news media last fall about this very serious problem. This is an example of both the economic and consumer fraud issue that California is trying to address with the California Olive Oil Commission.

Come in to IL Fiorello and ask us about the Commission and how it affects us as producers and how it can benefit consumers.

Refer to:

  1. Senate Bill 250.
  2. Lois Wolk Senator California (D)

Testimony July 15, 2014

  1. Divergent Views on Proposed California Olive Oil Standards

Olive Oil Times

By Nancy Flagg on July 22, 2014

Gelato

Gelato picture

JULY is national ice cream month, but we have something much better. Italian Gelato!!! Celebrate!

IL Fiorello has gelato, made by Leo Leo in Paso Robles. The family is from Florence, hence the name Leo, or Lion, the symbol of Florence. Fantastic, delightful, perfect, amazing, colors and flavors. 99 to be exact. Each week we will offer different flavors. Current favorites are Passion Fruit Sorbet, Chile Chocolate and, of course, Olive Oil Gelato made with our own olive oil and drizzled with lemon olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Heavenly.

We served gelato in the colors of the French flag at our Bastille Day celebration, Blueberry blue, Honey Lavender white, and Strawberry Basil red. We do have fun. The next offerings will include Pistachio.  Everyone who has gone to Italy will testify that this is the test of how good the gelato really is. We will have my very favorite in the Fall, Chestnut. Beautiful creamy vanilla with chunks of chestnuts. Drizzled with a wee bit of balsamic it is my perfect gelato. Or maybe creamy gelato with a shot of espresso on top, called affogato. Or maybe stracciatella, chocolate bits interwoven into super creamy gelato. Or maybe just espresso, dark and rich. So many to choose from. We purchased peanut butter and jelly for the kids, and all the adults ate it because of the clarity of the flavors. Great!

We had such a hard time trying to decide what flavors to have at IL Fiorello. It was a very hard job tasting each and every flavor. You should have seen us by the end of the day. Wanting to taste more and more but groaning with pleasure at the wonderful flavors and colors.  Maybe we should hold a contest as to which one is the best, that would be a lot of tasting, but we could rise to the occasion.

We have had many requests to sell the gelato by the pint and gallon so we are making plans to do just that. How fun is that idea?

Look up Leo Leo.  Their web site is too good to be real.  Then come to IL Fiorello for a taste. See the gorgeous photo below from their beautiful web site.

www.leoleogelato.com

When my girls were young we used to read all the Shel Silverstein books for children and adults. This one poem makes me laugh and sigh, as Mr. Silverstein died all too early. He has entertained many a person with his wit and art. Buy all of his books and read to the children with a scoop of ice cream to top it off. This poem is just delightful for national ice cream, really gelato, month.

EIGHTEEN FLAVORS

By Shel Silverstein

Eighteen luscious, scrumptious flavors

Chocolate, lime and cherry,

Coffee, pumpkin, fudge banana

Caramel cream and boysenberry.

Rocky road and toasted almond,

Butterscotch, vanilla dip,

Butter brickle, apple ripple,

Coconut and mocha chip,

Brandy peach and lemon custard,

Each scoop lovely, smooth and round,

Tallest ice cream cone in town,

Lying there (sniff) on the ground.

Come in and have a double scoop cup- no spills.

 

Chocolate, Olive Oil, and Dolcetto

Olive Oil TrufflesHere at Il Fiorello, we like to play with unique pairings of olive oil, food, and selected wines.

One of our favorite pairings is chocolate olive oil truffles and Galvan Family Cellars’ Dolcetto dessert wine.  This pairing in particular is mouth-wateringly delicious.  The truffles are made with dark chocolate and our Leccino olive oil, a winning combination if ever there was one.  The silky, yet pungent, Leccino blends with the chocolate such that the truffles positively melt in your mouth.  Adding the dessert wine, 99% Dolcetto grapes blended with 1% brandy, only heightens the flavors with its notes of dark plum and cherry.  The complex flavors of the chocolate, oil, and wine make this the perfect afternoon indulgence.

So many people have tried wine and chocolate but have you ever considered throwing olive oil into the mix?  Keep in touch for more fun food and oil pairings from Il Fiorello and Executive Chef Marvin Martin.

Working A Tasting Room

When working in a tasting room, you never know who is going to walk through the door. The guests might be completely new to olive oil or they might be experts. They may want an in depth tasting or they may just be interested in one type. Fortunately, we have something for everyone. However, being mentally prepared for everyone takes a little more work.

The key is knowing your own strengths. Personally, I love food. Eating is one of my favorite things to do. Therefore I’m more likely to talk about food pairings than say the health benefits of olive oil. I have a background in science but I know that not everyone is going to be interested in that aspect of olive oil. So, not only is food a topic I enjoy but it’s something everyone can enjoy. The tastes of the different oils are going to speak for themselves. Everyone is going to have their own reactions to each of the oils. But, by engaging the guests in a topic that everyone loves, the experience is going to be more enjoyable for everyone involved, myself included.

A family came in the other day. They had never done an olive oil tasting before. The two little girls were so incredibly excited to hear that our White Peach Balsamic goes great on vanilla ice cream (the younger one’s favorite flavor) while their older brother was more interested in trying our Chili oil on popcorn. After their mother and I swapped tips for mashed potatoes with our Leccino olive oil they headed straight to Safeway for supplies.

You never know what’s going to stick with someone. So talk about what you know and love. Excitement is contagious!

Buy Local to Avoid Economic Adulteration

JOIN US AT THE GREEN VALLEY FARMERS MARKET TODAY

BUY LOCAL! BUY CERTIFIED!

KNOW YOUR PRODUCER!

KNOW WHAT YOU EAT!

 

This Spring we attended a conference at the UC Davis Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, titled Fighting Economic Adulteration in the Market Place. The Secretary of California of Food and Commerce was the key note speaker. Secretary Karen Ross defined that “economic adulteration is the fraudulent, intentional substitution or addition of substances in foods or beverages to increase the apparent value of quality of the product, while reducing the cost of its production”.

In California, as it pertains to olive oil, anyone who uses the term Extra Virgin Olive Oil on the label must have the certification seal on the bottle. This is an industry standard that has international implications as much of the oil in the US is adulterated with seed oils that are chemically and high heat refined oils. According to Secretary Ross, “this is an illicit activity for economic gain”.

The top adulterated products according to the speakers at this conference are olive oil, lemon juice, honey, maple syrup, saffron, milk, orange juice and apple juice. Extra Virgin oil can have no additives, and in modern times there is no such thing as first cold press. Most of the producers are milling with centrifuges and not pressing and making olive oil requires some heat for the chemical reaction to take place to produce oil.

So buyers beware, but more importantly buyer BE AWARE.

Buy local, talk with your producers, and trust but verify.

Visit us at IL Fiorello 2625 Mankas Corner Road Suisun Valley where we grow and mill our own olives.

Perils of Food Fraud

Food fraud was recently defined in a report commissioned by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Center for Food Protection and Defense. Intentional or economically motivated adulteration includes the fraudulent addition of non-authentic substances or removal or replacement of authentic substances – without the purchaser’s knowledge – for economic gain of the seller.

In California, olive oil must have a certification label ensuring that the oil has passed a chemistry test and a master taste test to be extra virgin. Truth in labeling with harvest date, mill date, and origin should be clearly apparent. Ask your oil purveyor to tell you the origin of the olives, where it was milled, and the type of storage after milling. You should be able to see the chemistry profiles of each oil, proving that it passed the tests for extra virgin oil. Ask and you will be better informed.

In California, you can assure you are getting extra virgin olive oil by looking over the bottle and finding the certification label from the California Olive Oil Council. This label is only given to a producer when the oil has been chemically tested, then moved on to the master taste test, as described above.

Here’s the label you should find on your bottle of certified extra virgin olive oil:

COOClogo

It’s Awards Time!

Today at the Olive Farm we tasted our 2012 harvest oils and selected which oils were to a standard to be sent to competitions. This taste review of our oils allows us to compare new oils, compare how the oils tasted from initial harvest, and now after decanting and resting from milling.

Competitions are important for us to compare our oils to other oils from millers and growers in California and around the world. It provides important feedback to us as to how the masters taste panels and judges assess our oils in comparison to all the other entries. If you do not do ongoing comparisons of how your oils taste, you will not be able to self-judge and change or maintain you’re growing and milling practices.

Dependent on oil variety, each oil has a range of flavors from pungent to mild to green to buttery. Each oil also has a shelf life at which the oil is at its peak, losing flavor, or just developing great flavor at 6 months after milling. Much of the oils’ flavor depends on harvest time – early or late – method of milling, and post-milling handling, or storage of the oils before bottling. Much of the oils’ flavor depends on the individual olive tree variety. At Il Fiorello we grow many types of olives and have many decisions as to harvest time, milling methods, and storage. The oil competitions allow us to compare our decisions in harvest, milling, and storage with others of similar varieties.

The competitions are: New York International Olive Oil, LA International, Yolo, California Olive Oil Council, and Napa competitions. We select specific oils to be judged at each show depending on variety, interest, and previous performance in judging.

We have been very successful in winning multiple awards for the past 6 years and look forward to a continuation of this record. Remember: It is only a subjective tasting by judges who have been tasting oils for a long time. The goal is to find the oil that best represents what a specific variety should taste like. Given that different varieties may taste different if grown in different climate regions, under different conditions, or variances in milling, this becomes a difficult job.

We will submit our oils and await the results of the judging. In the meantime come taste our oils and be a judge yourself. It really is in the end what you like and how you want to use the oils in your diet and kitchen.

Magic with Mushrooms: A Cooking Class

Our cooking classes are so fun to plan. We think of unique foods and approaches that include fun and delicious foods. The result is always a grand time, lead by Chef extraordinaire Marvin Martin. He tells great stories while showing guests how to put together meals that cooks from beginners to experts can tackle.

We have a lot of repeat customers because these classes are addictive. We meet great people who LOVE food and really want to learn a little magic. So this month we have magical mushrooms on the menu.

 

Some details:

 

Date: March 24, 3-6 p.m. at 2625 Mankas Corner Road, Fairfield, CA. (Suisun Valley)

 

Spend the early evening at Il Fiorello’s Kitchen in the Groves with Chef Marvin Martin as he demonstrates the magic of mushrooms in three courses of mushroom culinary adventure. Chef Martin will lead the class in creating a mushroom salad, a soup of mushrooms, and mushroom lasagna.

Learn about different varietals of mushrooms, all of which will come from My Copia Gourmet Mushroom Farm in Sebastopol.

Cost is $75 per person and includes recipes and great food!

Call (707) 864-1529 for reservations. Classes have limited space.

Cooking with Class at Il Fiorello’s Kitchen in the Grove

The Daily Republic wrote a great story about the Valentine’s cooking class here.

 

Our Chef Marvin Martin is a classy guy. He can cook, laugh, and teach all at the same time. Our Valentine’s class was lovely and everyone ate their fill of his lovingly made salads, soups, and lemon pasta with caviar. Can you imagine ! I made pizzelles with biscotti liquor and olive oil. Sweet Italian wafer cookies with an intricate design. Just like eating air, but better with the cream chantilly in the middle. Similar to cannoli but not fried. Does this justify eating 5? Of course on Valentine’s Day. At the completion of the class, we treated our guests with a dessert of chocolate truffles made with olive oil and a tasting of Cabernet from Mankas Hill Vineyards. All had a wonderful time and went home feeling very pampered and happy.

Pickling class. Preserving the bounty of our produce, Chef Martin pickled until the cows came home. We had pickled green and yellow beans, Brussels sprouts, carrots, onions(my favorite), turnips ( my second favorite), and roasted beets. Sweet and sour, each with a special blend of seasonings. They were wonderful. Everyone went home with a sampling and we were able to sell all the rest in the retail shop. These pickled delights were a treat to serve as an appetizer before dinner. A friend just opened the jar and ate the whole jar of turnips standing in the kitchen! Pure pickled bliss. This is a class we will absolutely repeat this summer and fall.

 

If you are interested in our classes, please come by or call and get on our email list. We let folks know what’s coming up.

Fraud is Rampant in Olive Oil Sales: A Look at Getting True EVOO

Fraud in the olive oil business is making headlines around the United States and the world, thanks mostly to publicity surrounding Tom Mueller’s book “Extra Virginity,” which focuses on the adulteration of olive oil and big money that goes along with the scams.

At the same time the problem has blown up in Italy – the second largest supplier of olive oil in the world – where investigators have found that Italy’s top olive oil producers have mixed their oil with other, lower-grade oils and passed them off as extra virgin Italian olive oil. The problem in olive oil fraud is so serious that China initially blocked imports of Italian oil and now has customs officials investigating fraudulent oil.

“Mueller found that fraud was extensive, particularly adulteration and false labeling. The world’s largest former dealer in olive oil, one Domenico Ribatti, plea-bargained his way to 13 months in prison during the 1990s for passing off Turkish hazelnut oil, which he had refined in his own plant, as olive oil,” according to The Guardian. “Another prominent importer, Leonardo Marseglia – appropriately based in a town called Monopoli – has variously been accused of selling cheap non-European oils as Italian ones, fudging documents to shirk import tariffs and forming a criminal network to smuggle contraband. Marseglia has denied the charges.”

Mueller’s book was sold out on Amazon and the the book’s conclusions are hard to miss: Much olive oil sold around the world isn’t extra virgin olive oil – even if it is advertised as such. In other words: buyer beware. That extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) you just bought may have other types of oil in it and none of the health benefits that EVOO offers.

None of this is a surprise to us at Il Fiorello Olive Oil Company. Our mission from our inception is to produce world-class EVOO and teach people about olive oil. As we like to say “olive oil is an ancient food that deserves a place at your table.” But only if it’s good oil.

We know Mr. Mueller and have cheered him on since his groundbreaking article “Slippery Business” appeared in the “New Yorker” in 2007. The article exposed the criminal enterprise of fraud in olive oil and was roundly applauded by those interested in food purity and consumer safety.

The owners of Il Fiorello, Mark and Ann Sievers, educate the public about olive oil at their farm in Suisun Valley, which is right outside of Fairfield, Calif. They offer tastings that include how to find real extra virgin olive oil and tours of their state-of-the-art olive mill, which helps produce the oils that have won awards locally and internationally.

California is lucky in that it has a nonprofit advocacy group, the California Olive Oil Council, which has professional taste panels that help certify extra virgin oils in the state. Il Fiorello also works with UC Davis that has a world-renowned olive program. UC Davis did a study that found that 73 percent of the most popular imported olive oils failed international standards for extra virgin olive oil, according to a UC Davis 2011 press release.

“The United States is the third-largest consumer of olive oil in the world,” said Dan Flynn, executive director of the UC Davis Olive Center. “While there are many excellent imported and domestic olive oils available, our tests indicate that there are serious quality problems out there.”

Consumers can take steps to ensure they are getting true EVOO that is healthy rather than oils that are chemically changed or mixed with other oils.

 

· Olive oil is like other fruit juices: The fresher the juice the better. Look for the mill date on the bottle. Do not use oil that is two years or more past that mill date.

· Only buy oil in dark bottles, unless you plan on promptly using the oil. Light and heat damage oil, so make sure to protect it by keeping it in cool cupboards.

· Olive oil comes in many colors, from bright green to golden colored. Color is not a gauge for quality.

· If possible, buy olive oil from those who operate a mill or farm olives. You will find the freshest, most healthful oils on the farms.

 

The California Olive Oil Council has a list of its certified oils here.

Another good source for olive-related information is the UC Davis Olive Center, where you will find the university’s olive oil studies and other important information.

We at Il Fiorello are always open to questions about olive oil and offer tours and tastings at our mill. Reach us at (707) 864-1529.