Now I've done some olive oil tasting in my time (most memorable being the one I did in Mendoza, Argentina), but the Round Pond tasting was by far and away the best I've ever experienced. It started out with a walk through one of the estate olive tree groves, moved on to a tour of the state-of-the-art Italian mill, and then transitioned to a sit-down, guided tasting of their estate olive oils, vinegars and syrups. The tasting was then followed by a pretty lavish spread of gorgeous food, where we were free to try different combinations of the goods with complementary fruits, vegetables, cheeses and bread. (And don't despair - tastings of Round Pond's award-winning wines were also available... we can veer from the wine path around here, but we can't exit completely!)
I learned so much during the tour and tasting - but I won't divulge too much because you really should come and do the tour yourself! But a few nuggets:
- Save the extra virgin olive oils for dressing salads or enjoying straight from the bottle as a finishing oil - just don't cook with it! Heat raises the levels of oleic acid in the oil, making it bitter. Use a virgin or regular olive oil to cook with, since you won't be paying the premium required to produce the low levels of oleic acids in the extra virgins.
- It takes about two trees worth of olives from the Round Pond groves to produce one gallon of extra virgin olive oil.
- Coughing when tasting olive oils is considered a compliment. (You cough when the oils hit the back of your throat.)
- The best way to sample vinegar is to pour a few drops over a sugar cube, then suck on the sugar cube before it dissolves.