Friday, November 25, 2011

Of pigs and olives (or cold meats and EVO)

Close your eyes and think fabulous olive oil, cured meats, regional wines and good food. The essence of Italy. This, in a nutshell, is how I spent Tuesday evening.
Frantoio Gentileschi invited a bunch of food lovers and bloggers to present their new brand Salumi del Frantoio, a line of delicatessen meats in which a part of animal fat is substituted with extra virgin olive oil. Less bad fats (saturated fats) and more good fats (monounsaturated fats like oleic acid) equals healthier food with higher nutritional value.

The wines we tasted
After a brief introduction by General Manager Evaristo Rota, the nutritional expert Samantha Biale illustrated these facts and many more as we were served dish after dish of food. Did you know that ham is rich in Vitamin B1, an ‘antistress’ vitamin that helps strengthen the immune system and generate energy? 

Nutritionist Samantha Biale
The great variety of cured meats is an important part of the Italian food tradition and this tradition should not be lost because of our modern-day qualms about consuming foods that are rich in fats. Deli meats are not particularly fat and if the fat is the healthy kind, then what are we worrying about?
The undisputed star of the evening, as an innovative ingredient in the precooked meats we sampled and definitely in its own right, was extra virgin olive oil.

No surprise that the event was hosted at the newly opened Frantoi Celletti Blu. Mr. Celletti, who is a long-time restaurateur, is also a true olive oil lover, connoisseur and taster. He teaches courses, has written a book about olive oil (that he kindly regaled us with) and is passionate enough about the subject to have opened a restaurant dedicated to EVO. When you enter the premises, the first thing you see are two massive, ancient stone olive presses. His menu revolves around olive oil tasting, each dish attentively paired with the just right oil.

Mr. Celletti

Some interesting tidbits?
There are 1628 different varieties of olives and 638 of these cultivars (cultivated varieties) grow in Italy.
All olives start out green and turn black as they ripen, they are not different varieties. So green olives are just picked earlier (and what you use to make olive oil) .
Olive oil is expensive. A cheap bottle of olive oil is never good. A sentence he repeated several times throughout the evening was: "there is no oil in olives. It has to be made". It is not just a matter of picking and pressing. The quality of the oil starts from the olive: the finest, purest olives are hand picked. Pollination and different harvesting times also contribute in raising production costs.

While Mr. Celletti illustrated these facts, we served our first dish of the menu (created by the restaurant in unison with Salumi del Frantoio using their products) paired with fabulous regional oils and wines. He taught us how to warm the oil in small glasses with our hands before tasting it. It clearly contributed enormously to the flavor of the different courses we were served.

How to taste oil
Here is what we ate.

Rustic ham and ricotta mousse paired with Monocultivar Tonda Iblea olive oil from Sicily (sweet, spicy, undertone of tomato and basil). Served with Grechetto brut sparkling white wine from Umbria
Mortadella and black pepper mousse paired with Monocultivar Coratina olive oil (bitter, spicy, undertone of freshly cut grass)
Served with Grechetto brut sparkling white wine from Umbria
Neapolitan pizza with puff pastry, mozzarella and roasted turkey paired with Monocultivar Ortice olive oil from Campania
Served with Grechetto brut sparkling white wine from Umbria

Spinach olive-leaf shaped pasta with roast turkey julienne and pecorino cheese paired with Monocultivar Frantoio from Tuscany. Served with Grechetto brut sparkling white wine from Umbria
Sicilian busiati pasta alla Norma (with eggplant) with roast chicken and dried ricotta cheese paired with Monocultivar Tonda Iblea olive oil from Sicily. Served with Insolia white wine from Sicily

Tagliata of chicken and turkey frankfurters with a gorgonzola cheese cream and parmesan cheese crisps paired with Monocultivar Bosana olive oil from Sardinia. Served with a Montepulciano d'Abbruzzo red wine.

Pork frankfurter in pistachio crust with eggplant mousse and with a cinnamon Nero d'Avola red wine sauce paired with Monocultivar Tonda Iblea olive oil from Sicily. Served with Nero d'Avola red wine from Sicily
Lemon ice cream paired with Monocultivar Bosana olive oil from Sardinia

My favorites, in their utter simplicity, were the appetizers and the dessert. The flavor of the mortadella, ham and oils really stood out yet complemented each other perfectly. The pairing of the olive oil and creamy cold lemon ice cream was refreshing and delicious. I personally prefer my cold meats in salads or sandwiches, but I have to hand it to the chefs behind the recipes that they worked hard to create innovative and unusual pairings (although I would have taken the wrapper off of the toothpicks ...well, actually I would have skipped the toothpicks too).
At the end of the evening food photographer Silvia Luppi taught us a few tricks to make our food look as good as it tastes.

Food photographer Silvia Luppi

So remember:
1) Don’t be afraid to eat good quality delicatessen meats: it has as many calories as a pork chop and nutritional advantages too, especially if it contains EVO!
2) Buy less olive oil if necessary, but spend a little more. Good quality olive oil does not come cheap. Oh, and buy Monocultivar. They are the best.
3) The spicier the better: oil that stings your tongue and the back of your throat is richer in polyphenols. This is good.

It was a very fun evening indeed and extremely well organized, with lots of variety and interesting moments. So thank you Maja, Francesca and Salumi del Frantoio for organizing!

At my table: bloggers Giada and Cecilia


  1. Wow, stai entrando nell'Olimpo delle food-bloggers! Brava! Buon WE

  2. Sounds like an amazing event. That's a LOT of food! So curious about the ice cream with olive oil, must be dreamy!
    Interesting facts about olive oil too. Wish I could have been there!

  3. What a fantastic evening. I've always wanted to do a real olive oil tasting and to do this with food and wine paring must have been great. GG

  4. What a fabulous way to spend an evening. I'm particularly intrigued by the mousses! :)

  5. Sounds like a fun and interesting evening! I love olives and olive oil of course; I am lucky that back in Lebanon we press our own olives (in a good year) and get some fresh oil; I had heard that in Italy, as in Lebanon, producers fiddle with the oil and add other cheap oil and sell it as virgin olive oil. so I agree with your recommendations 100%.

  6. Hi there, and thank you for your kind comment on my blog last month. Just a quick line to say hello once again - I'm back online! :)

  7. Barbs - diciamo piuttosto che si è trattato di un gentile invito...o di un do ut des... hehe
    Nicole - the ice cream with olive oil was really good. And super easy to try at home. It will certainly impress your guests!
    GC - Hi! It was a lot of fun. Looking forward to checking out your blog
    Lorraine - and they are so easy to make as a spread. They were definitely among my favorites.
    ToB - we are lucky to get some lovely Tuscan olive oil every year from sone land ny husband's family owns. Yes, unfortunately there are a lot of scams out there. For some things, you just need to spend more if you want the quality.
    Ladybird - great to hear you are back. Hope you are having a wonderful adventure so far!

  8. The only cured meats I'm familiar with is hot dogs...hee hee hee. Thanks for the education here. It's fascinating, but I only wish I had the chance to taste them too! Esp the ham and ricotta one!

  9. What an experience! My in-laws would have been in heaven...they love cured meats and good olives. Thank you for sharing such a tempting event with me, and thank you for your kind words on my blog! I hope you are having a happy start to your week!

  10. wow...wat a lovely post..excellent cliks..
    happy following you..;)
    check out mine sometime..
    Tasty Appetite

  11. What a fun experience! I love an excuse to eat all kinds of lovely food like that!
    Good olive oil is so important, I agree, you should never be cheap with such an essential ingredient. Crappy ingredients=crappy food!
    *kisses* HH
    p.s. do stop by and enter my giveaway daaahling, there are two opportunities to win!


Leave a suggestion, opinion or your own experience. I love hearing from you.