The Oil List, the social lift of EVO oil.
In recent years, in specialized groups, there are often discussions on “how to survive by producing EVO oil”.
Everyone has their own recipes but in the end we always arrive at two opposing positions:
Who thinks they can win the downward price war
There are many advertisements for the sale of oil at €6-7 per liter which attract the furious comments of those who accuse them of “killing the market” or question the quality of the product (” At that price it is lamp oil “).
Almost always the justification is ” if I sell it for more they won’t buy it for me “, ” Then I’m going to the supermarket ” they hear.
Whoever decides to sell it at a high price without the possibility of mediation
In this case, a price consistent with the quality of the product and production costs is imposed but based on trust, without supporting it with objective data.
“ I sell it for 20 €/lt and if they don’t want it they can go and buy it on offer for 4.99 ”
Both approaches are, in my opinion, unsuccessful.
In the first case, one undergoes (but can be understood) the general consideration towards EVO oil as a mere condiment, in the second, in the face of this attitude, a wall rises “between those who have the knowledge” and all the others, restricting the possibility of accessing a quality product only to an already informed niche audience instead of working to increase awareness and provide evaluation tools to a wider audience that can then understand and then accept even a higher price.
We also often read statements such as “ people are willing to spend €15 for a bottle of wine that runs out in one evening and not for a bottle of good oil that will last you a month ”.
An interesting parallel which, however, does not hold up to the end. Wine is a product that can be, and often is, consumed on its own.
As good and healthy as it may be, we will hardly see someone sipping a glass of EVO oil while reading a book.
However, what can be recovered from the path that wine has made in recent years in the awareness of consumers is the story.
The Oil List
There is no better way to give importance to something than to give it every time it is mentioned.
And therefore, on the part of the producer, to tell about himself, about how he carries on the olive grove, about the philosophy that guides his being a farmer.
But also transparency. Making the chemical and organoleptic analyzes (Panel test) of your own oil available is an essential step in providing the public with independent and comparable evaluation parameters for an EVO oil.
And then the important role of restaurateurs. They are the other fundamental tool for spreading knowledge and point of contact between the product and the public.
It is through their story that the need to be satisfied that he doesn’t even know he has yet must emerge in the client. And that to satisfy it he is willing to face an additional expense.
In this context, the roads of wine and EVO oil can get close to almost touching each other.
Associations such as grape variety/olive variety, single vine/monovarietal, wine structure/fruity intensity are concepts that can be easily associated to lead the customer to a more familiar and understandable terrain that also has the advantage of justifying a specific association with food.
Just as we would not drink a Cannonau with seafood spaghetti, in the same way we would not put an EVO from Garda area on a Goulash with polenta.
The tool for achieving this approach is the Oil List , in our opinion the real social lift of quality EVO oil.
Here we will try to give some suggestions on how to compose it, how to present it to the customer and some general combinations with food.
How to compose the list
For each oil to be selected, request the chemical and organoleptic analyzes and then compare them with your own experience as a restaurateur
Privilege local products but not only. As for the wine, it can range throughout the peninsula and even further. Fine oils can also be found in Spain, Greece or Tunisia. It’s all a matter of vision and perspective.
A possible organization of the list could be unification by geographical area and intensity of fruitiness, or the same list organized according to the two views (” which oils are there in that area? ” or ” which medium-fruity oils are available? “)
To consider the inclusion of both blend and monovarietal oils.
Association with types of food
A general indication to the customer on which foods go best with a specific oil must certainly be given, above all to avoid combinations that harm the dish and the oil…
Presentation of the list to the customer
In the presentation of the list, the restaurateur’s knowledge on the main characteristics of the various oils is the master.
It is the crucial moment in which the considerations made previously materialize and the contact between the customer and the vastness of the experiences that are hidden behind the list is established.
The important thing is not to overwhelm the customer with too technical details on the characteristics of an oil and even more not to intimidate him or make him feel inadequate, for example by attending a direct tasting and asking “do you smell the scent of artichoke, freshly mown grass and pods of peas? “.
The perception of these details is acquired over time and often with specific training. Demanding it from “normal” people means pushing them away and pushing them to think “ but why am I trying to taste them if I don’t detect anything? “.
Perhaps it is better to let a personal experience go freely and find by yourself those characteristics that link them to one oil or another and then discover that perhaps they are precisely those aromas or aftertastes that we wanted to suggest.
How to present it
Avoid the presentation of a trolley with ten open bottles. In addition to putting the quality of the oil at risk, it also gives the customer a bad impression.
It is always important to convey the message that what is offered is personalized and for the exclusive use of the individual customer and not shared with other 100 peopke (the open bottle).
Therefore, prefer the 100ml bottle brought to the table unopened (ça va sans dire, with cork non-refillable) which can have a low price and a quantity that can be consumed in the duration of a lunch or a dinner.
One hypothesis is to create a specific item in the menu that proposes a tasting kit with three different oils and mini-courses to be associated (warm dish, bread, vegetables, rice) to be proposed as an appetizer but can give indications on how to use them in courses following.
The proposal of mini-courses also allows you to circumvent the direct tasting and avoid, for example, the discomfort that a spicy oil can cause in the throat.
Be ready to have a larger format available in case the customer asks to take home that oil they liked so much…
Pairing with foods
It is useless to reinvent general rules for pairing foods with extra virgin olive oil when they are fairly consolidated.
So we present those suggested by Wetipico , however reiterating the priority of every restaurateur’s imagination, curiosity and desire to experiment.
“ The suggested line to follow is precisely that of matching by concordance. This means that the light fruity oil, with slightly accentuated bitter and spicy notes, goes well with dishes whose structure is delicate. On the other hand, it is the case to combine an intense fruity EVO oil, with persistent spicy and bitter, with a dish with a complex and elaborate structure. The dish must be able to “sustain” the power or sensorial delicacy of the oil. At the same time, an oil must be able to harmoniously accompany the composition of flavors and smells of the dish.
There are no fixed rules on how to match the oil. Most of the work lies in finding your own combination, according to everyone’s personal taste.
Pair the light fruity Extra Virgin Olive Oil , with slightly accentuated bitterness and spiciness, with: fish soup, seafood risottos, risottos with pumpkin, crustaceans (mantis shrimp), freshwater prawns, most dishes based on fish (sea or freshwater, grilled or baked fish, cod, mackerel), mussel and seafood sauces. salads, cod creams, ricotta sauces, mayonnaise, pesto, fresh cheeses, desserts and ice cream.
The medium-intensity fruity Extra Virgin Olive Oil , with slightly accentuated spiciness and bitterness, can be combined with: cooked vegetables and legumes, soups and velvety soups, complex sauces with the presence of tomatoes, fried shrimps, some types of fish such as anchovies or sardines with a more intense flavour, white meats, vegetable salads, steamed vegetables, vegetable omelettes (asparagus, artichokes), lamb meat preparations, raw meat (tartare and carpaccio), fresh cheeses, pesto, ice cream, strudel.
An intensely fruity Extra Virgin Olive Oil , with accentuated spicy and bitter notes, goes well with: legume soups, broad bean and chicory soup, red meats, pork, game, aged cheeses, salads, vegetables, oat-based preparations, dark chocolate and ice cream.
Combinations based on specific characteristics
What follows is another way of thinking about the combination of EVO Oil, focusing on the specific organoleptic profile and referring to the most common aromas.
EVO oil with a marked bitter component : bitter vegetables such as radicchio or wild vegetables, grilled meats, complex meat-based sauces, pizza.
Particularly spicy EVO : with dishes based on tomato sauce, bruschetta, legume soups, steaks and grains with an intense flavor, pizza.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil with fresh vegetable scents (tomato leaf, fresh grass, artichoke, aromatic herbs): cereal salads, intensely flavored raw vegetables, bruschetta, soups and caprese.
Oil with delicate and sweet scents (almond, banana, apple, white-fleshed fruit): white meat, fish (salmon, swordfish, oily fish), shellfish, seafood, desserts and ice cream .
Integration into the menu
There is still one aspect to be explored further and it concerns the integration / harmonization of the oils selected in the main menu. There are at least two main roads that can be followed and a third that proves a synthesis between the two.
You can read them here: Carta degli Oli, two approaches to integration into the menu
Examples of Oil Cards
To conclude, we propose three ways of interpreting the list of oils found on the net, hoping they can be of inspiration.
Borgo Spoltino – Detailed description of the oil and food pairings
The Oil List also in pizzerias. Read the philosophy of Pizzeria Salvo, Naples (in 2016!)
A completely different point of view is carried out by the Evo Ristorante in Alberobello