Thursday, January 7, 2010

Oil and Vinegar

Anyone who's dined out in recent years knows that many restaurants offer, as an accompaniment to the complimentary bread basket, olive oil and balsamic vinegar in lieu of butter. When Kathy and I were planning our annual Winter Solstice dinner (a northern Italian theme, centered around Ossa Buco) we decided we'd like to do the same, using a premium olive oil and our favorite balsamic vinegar.

Being somewhat suspicious of Italian oils (last year a friend sent me the link to this rather disturbing article), I decided to look for a good California oil, so when I found myself at the Market of Choice in Eugene early in December, I wandered over to the cooking oils section and scanned the shelves. I spotted a couple of offerings from B R Cohn, which also happens to be a winery. Fondly recollecting one of their Zinfandels, I purchased a 375ml bottle of their Organic Extra Virgin (about $15).

When I got home with this we opened it and sampled a spoonful. It had very pure, clean olive aroma and flavor, and I wondered well, why wouldn't an olive oil taste like olives? For that matter, why wouldn't all olive oils taste like olives?

So on the evening of our Solstice dinner, we poured some into a shallow bowl and added several generous drops of our favorite balsamic vinegar, Romantica Gran Reserva. This is a wonderful vinegar, introduced to us by Kent Steele of Clusters and Hops back in Tallahassee (if, by some undoubtedly bizarre circumstance, you ever find yourself in TLH, you should definitely pay this place a visit). It's a rich, deep, sweet vinegar that improves nearly anything to which it's added.

The combination was great, and everyone agreed it was a wonderful dip for the bread (though some credit for this goes to the bread itself, being fresh home-baked brought by our friends Mike and Barbara).

Market of Choice offers only the "Extra Virgin" and the "Organic Extra Virgin", but a visit to the B R Cohn website reveals that they have an extensive line of oils, both flavored and unflavored, all of which can be ordered directly from the website. There are a couple I'm sure we'll try, so stay tuned.

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