Five Reasons I Don't Like Stuck-Up Bulk Olive Oil Bars

oliveoilshop.jpg
Flickr user agatheb

There's been an explosion of olive oil bars lately in Orange County, and I don't get it.

If you've never seen one, they tend to feature long rows of shiny silver canisters filled with bulk olive oil from different regions of the world. They also tend to be extremely expensive, and while I don't mind paying for quality, the quality isn't always evident. There are exceptions, of course--great olive oil stores do exist--but the following list of five sins is shockingly pervasive.
5. Too much focus on infused oil

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Flickr user pucciphoto
Clean herbs. Insert into olive oil. Wait. Why would anyone pay for this?

Every trip into one of these stores starts with a tour from the person behind the counter. More than half the time, they do a general wave at the first set of canisters with, "This is regular oil," then head toward the back and wax poetic about the tangerine-infused oil, the Meyer lemon-infused oil, the garlic oil, etc. I can infuse oils myself; I am a relatively accomplished home cook. Yet when I demur, they look hurt. We won't even get into the so-called "balsamic" vinegars that have never been within a hundred feet of anything made of balsam fir.

4. Plastic cups

oliveoiltastingcups.jpg
Flickr user mariusm

This is a general complaint, and a pretty stuck-up one besides, but it's true: you don't go to a dégustation at a winery and get served good wine in a plastic cup, yet every olive oil place I've been to--including, increasingly, in France--has these awful little plastic cups that lend a plastic taste to the oil. There are never spoons or glass or metal dishes, only plastic. Sopping mushy white bread into the oil doesn't help the matter, either.


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11 comments
Dru
Dru

Temecula Olive Oil Company.  The best, and from Cali.

909Jeff
909Jeff

So let me ask you if im going to use an olive oil to fry up some breakfast potatoes or if a recipe calls for a couple tbs of oil to coat the pan would it be okay to use the cheap olive oil since it has very little effect on the outcome and flavor of the dish?  I mean you can buy a bottle of that Berio for five bucks at albertsons.  Im not going to use my 20 dollar bottle from the olive press in sonoma or Regusci oil from Napa to brown potatoes or brown porkchops.

Bill T.
Bill T.

WHAT? I can buy olive oil that doesn't resemble olive oil? WOOHOO! Sign me up! ("mild and light").

Mandeeuk
Mandeeuk

I've enjoyed fantastic local wines and an excellent cheese plate a couple of times at We Olive wine bar in the OC Mart Mix and while they do sell olive oil, I wouldn't be put off by it because of that.  Really nice South African owner, chairs carved from barrels, very cool wine bottle chandelier and introduced me to the best CA Sauvignon Blanc I've ever had (Brander) and amazing tapenade.  

1000Steps
1000Steps

This is an awesome First World Problem.

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

I actually use Trader Joe's "pure" olive oil for that. You're right that you would never use the fancy stuff for things like frying, but that Berio crap in the pictures tastes like distilled swamp ass.

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

I haven't been for the wine and cheese—it's been on my "to-do" list for a while but I don't get to that part of OC as often as I might. They have a lot of very, very good bottles of olive oil, which mitigates the barrels-o'-whatever problem.

They were not, for the record, at all the inspiration for this article.

909Jeff
909Jeff

Thats why the USA is the only country in the world there the poor people are fat and own a tv. 

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

I know... I debated tagging my Tweet of it #whitewhine... but honestly, with certain limited exceptions, what food writing ISN'T a first world problem?

vikingfan
vikingfan

Dave - could you give some examples of good local olive oil?  I'd love to search some out.

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

Some of the Ojai olive oils are quite good; you have to taste them, though—their Arbequina is quite good but their Tuscan is overwhelming. Temecula Olive Oil has some good stuff—but honestly, the best local (as in within 200 miles) olive oil I've had has been Misiones de Baja California.

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