Thursday, April 26, 2007

Olive Ovation

Silvia Dotto put me in touch with Marianne Prey in St. Louis, who is opening a very unique store deidicated to extra virgin olive oil. Check out the Olive Ovation's web site. It looks like they are going to have a fabulous selection of olive oil from around the world.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007


I think all good olive oil, like wine, should speak of its terroir. I hope that when you taste Amelia Oil you can imagine and taste the gentle green hills with their rocky soil, the gentle spring sunlight and the sound of cicadas on a hot summer day. Maybe I am exaggerating a bit but I do think oil and wine can tell the story of place, which includes history, culture and humanity. I guess that is the beauty of consuming something that is very much a product of the land and this is what my mother and I want to stay true to importing olive oil from a small producer in Italy.

What got me thinking again about terroir was a trip to Washington State and Oregon wine countries. It was interesting to taste wines from regions that are still finding their identity and getting in touch with their unique terroir. Oregon Pinot Noirs, for example, are starting to have an identity all of their own that is strongly influenced by the red rocky soil of undulating green hills that can be found in much of the Dundee area. French wine makers have been drawn to the Oregon but they are making wines that are anything but French.

I kept looking out for olive trees on my trip but I imagine the Washington and Oregon winters are just too cold for olive trees. There were a few bottles of California oil on shelves in stores but I did not have the opportunity to taste them. Of course, olives were some of the first crops planted by Spanish and then later Italian settlers in California. For these Mediterranean peoples the olive tree was an integral part of everyday life. In many parts of Italy olives, wheat and grapes were crops that were all grown on the same land. Due to the mechanisation of farming, it is quite rare to see this combination these days. However, these three crops remain central to the Mediterranean diet and cultural identity.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Amelia Oil at the Sun Run

This is a busy time of year with Easter and the end of the spring term at the university. However, I had time to order more oil from Francesco today and we expect it to arrive for the end of May. If you want to secure your supply, please order on our web site. This will be our last shipment of Amelia Oil until Jan. 2008, when the new oil is available.

Tomorrow, Julie and I will be running the Sun Run, so look for us with our Amelia Oil t-shirts. I will be actually running under the name Amelia Oil (the lesser known sister of Olive Oil).


Saturday, April 07, 2007

Pizza di Pasqua

Pizza is not always what you think it is in Italy; for example, in central Italy the tradition of the pizza di Pasqua lives on. This is a wonderful high, round cheese and egg bread. It is called a pizza but it has nothing to do with the Neapolitan kind and the pies we call pizza in North America. Pizza di Pasqua is a perfect compliment for the tasty salumi that are famous throughout Umbria. It is usually served as an antipasto before the meal or I have taken it on numerous picnics that are part of the Pasquetta tradition (literally little Easter--the day after Easter where Italians go out the countryside for a picnic). Easter is a major holiday in Italy and Pasquetta is one of the busiest days on Italian autostrade, as urbanites attempt to breath a little country air and down a few more calories. Ironically, this is usually one of the rainiest days in Italy each year. When I lived in Amelia there was really no need to drive around much on Pasquetta because the countryside was at my doorstep. I could eat my pizza di Pasqua in peace.

I only attempted making this pizza once and I had a hand from my neighbour, Loretta, who taught me her family recipe. There was quite a bit of preparation involved and a good deal of nail biting as we hoped the dough would rise correctly and form a sensual dome in the oven. My first year in Amelia, I bought my pizza di Pasqua in the local forno (there are no more communal ovens, but the bakery in Amelia still places the baker's mark on each loaf of bread in that tradition). In small town bakeries these pizza are very good but supermarket facsimiles are not to be trusted--you can never be sure of the quality of the ingredients.

Pizza di Pasqua is a regional specialty that is popular in Umbria, Tuscany and Le Marche. You will not (or should not) find it in Milano or Bari. They have their own Easter traditions! I found a recipe for pizza di Pasqua that is quite similar to the one I made. Make sure you use top quality ingredients: Italian pecorino, free-range eggs and fresh extra virgin olive oil. Serve with prosciutto crudo or salsicia secche accompanied by a glass of Rosso di Montefalco or Lambrusco for something different.

Auguri e buona Pasqua!

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Made in Italy

We recently made headlines in Marco Polo, the local Italian-Canadian newspaper, with regards to a discussion on authentic products made in Italy. Enrico Polacco, an expert on Italian olive oil, commended us for promoting the origins of our oil and for understanding that the most important aspect to consider when purchasing olive oil is quality. Polacco vehemently chastised the Italian-Canadian community for focusing too much on price. However, he failed to mention our extremely accessible prices ($24.99/litre). We would like to prove that great quality and taste does not have to be exorbitantly priced.

Shopping for genuine 'made in Italy' products is not always so easy, particularly when it comes to extra virgin olive oil. Slow Food Italy recently made a press release lamenting the fact that even most Italian consumers have no idea where the olives come from in their oil. As I mentioned in a previous post, Italian olive oil can technically say made in Italy and the olives can be produced in Marocco, as long as the oil is blended and packaged in Italy. This is a big problem for small producers who pride themselves on the geographic specificity of their products.

According to Coldiretti, one of Italy's major agricultural organisations, the average Italian production of olive oil in the last 4 years was approx. 600 000 tonnes per year, worth 2 billion euros. The average Italian consumes between 13-14 kg of olive oil per year. Recently there has been an increase in olive oil consumption in Italy and in particular more high-quality and organic oil is being sold. Slow Food has been working hard to encourage the EU to create legislation that requires producers and vendors to indicate the place of production of the olives that is used to make olive oil. Consumers have a right to know what they are buying and eating.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Order Olive Oil

We have had such an amazing response from customers since the arrival of the 2007 Amelia Oil in February. We are now nearly sold out and only have a few 500ml bottles left! We are still standing by our idea that olive oil should be consumed fresh and we are trying hard to convince our clients that the Italian once-a-year practice of buying olive oil is best. However, we have had so many requests for olive oil that we have decided to import one more shipment of Umbrian extra virgin olive oil from Amelia this year. If you would like to secure a supply of oil, please be sure to order on-line at our web site or send us a cheque. Amelia Oil is not sold in stores and we will not be carrying inventory, so don't miss out on this opportunity. This order is expected to arrive in late May or early June 2007. We will be taking advance orders for 2008 soon, which will arrive in early February 2008.