When guest blogger Anna Colibri, a San Francisco writer and digital marketing strategist, heard me share the story of our two newest gifts, For a Feast of Greens and A Feast of California Olive Oils, at a recent small business networking event, she was inspired to take a deeper look at how these gifts came to be.
When I heard Gypsy share the story of why she decided to pursue gourmet olive oil gifts and how she went about doing just that, I was inspired and impressed by her passion for great food, her appreciation of people and tradition, and her attention to detail and business acumen. When you choose a gourmet food gift from Gift A Feast, you can be sure that Gypsy has gone through an extensive curation process and selected each item in the gift not just because it is delicious, but also because it comes from a unique time, and place and has been produced with a caring human touch.
The Importance of Provenance
“One of the things that is different about Gift A Feast is that every product in our gourmet food gifts has provenance [place of origin, guide to quality and authenticity--author’s note],” Gypsy told me. “With our California olive oil gift, we want people to be able to see what the different varietals of olive oils taste like. Each bottle comes from a specific place, produced by a specific person. Just like wine, there are different varietals of olives grown in different terroirs.”
“Most consumers are just starting to learn about the complexity that exists in the world of olive oil,” she continued. “For a long time we thought that any olive oil that came from Italy was of the highest quality Now we know that there are olive oils being shipped to the United States and sold as extra virgin olive oil which would never pass an extra virgin olive oil taste test”
“The best olive oils,” Gypsy tells me, “are pressed as quickly as possible after harvest. There is no time for mold to appear, or for fermentation to occur. The oil may taste like ripe fruit e.g. banana, or green fruit e.g. green apple or grass, but there should never be a salty or musty flavor that would indicate rot or fermentation.”
Gypsy decided to pursue California olive oil not only because she loves its rich, clean, and complex flavors, but because she loves to share new discoveries. “I am always searching for something special so I can share it with my family, friends and customers,” she said.
California Olive Oil’s Rich History
When I asked Gypsy about the evolution of the California olive oil industry, she told me that many years ago California was planted with Mission olives, which have very large seeds and produce a woody-tasting oil. More recently, growers started experimenting with different varietals, including the often-planted Arbequina, which grows well in California and makes a delicious oil. Other tasty varietals include Frantoio and Ascolano, both of which found a place in A Feast of California Olive Oils gift. Like every Gift A Feast offering, this one speaks to all the senses.
The trio of mini bottles of California extra virgin olive oil in this gift includes Moon Shadow Grove Ascolano, Rio Bravo Frantoio, and Séka Hills Arbequina. Taken together, these oils represent a rich history and a promising future. Moon Shadow was the first organic extra virgin olive oil in California, while the Rio Bravo blend is produced by the Nickel family who have been farming for over five generations. “The Séka Hills Arbequina is my go-to olive oil. I just love it.” Gypsy said.
To find the best olive oils efficiently, Gypsy turned to California Olive Oil Council tasting panel founding member Nancy Ash, who, with over 25 years of international olive oil and food industry experience, made the process of finding great oil smooth. “Nancy is tasting every high quality olive oil in California and so I tasted from among her favorites.” Gypsy said. “I try never to taste more than seven things at a time. It’s just too overwhelming for me.”
The Bittersweet Truth About Vinegar
A natural addition to olive oil is, of course, vinegar. Gypsy told me something I didn’t know, which is that there aren’t very many traditionally produced vinegars. Today, most vinegar is produced by flushing oxygen through the alcohol so that within hours the wine becomes vinegar. KATZ, Gift A Feast’s vinegar producer, uses the Orleans Method - a slow barrel fermentation which produces a more complex flavor, and is the method traditionally used for producing balsamic vinegar.
“The KATZ Late Harvest Viognier Honey Vinegar,” Gypsy said, “is simply splendid. KATZ is based in Napa, selling only via his website. He has his own bees, which produce the honey in his vinegar. We’re lucky to have his products.”
And we’re lucky to have Gift A Feast. Thank you, Gypsy, for doing the work of finding gifts that are beautiful, delicious, and, in an often rushed world, mean something special.