Saturday, July 31, 2010

Florida Olive Oil Company Naples

If you haven’t savored a good balsamic vinegar lately, you are missing a treat! Beware of grocery stores’ “sweet swill” imitations loaded with glucose, fructose corn syrup, caramel and fake coloring. The most expensive vinegars, aged for 12 to 50 or more years, have a rich taste that borders on aphrodisiacal! Florida Olive Oil imports a few dozen very good midpoint balsamic vinegars and flavored olive oils at comfortable price points. Best part, you can have a free tasting party before you buy! Olive oils are best fresh, not aged. They are wonderful drizzled on a salad with a matching vinegar.
Florida Olive Oil Company (FOO) is toward the mid-portion of Naples’ Fifth Avenue South, a few stores east of Cheeburger Cheeburger. Walk in and take in the slight sweet smells. Tasting stations with bread and spice mixes are in the middle of the store, and on the left and right sides are fat bellied clear containers of the oils and balsamic vinegars.
Tammy, Steve or sometimes chef Annie Prizzie will greet you.
Don’t be shy, start tasting the delicate olive oils first, then the bolder rich balsamics. The reverse cheats you of the nuances of the oils. Been there, done that.

The extra virgin olive oils come from Spain, Australia, Italy, Tunisia and other countries. Each has its virtures. The infused EVOO’s include popular garlic, basil, Persian lime, chipotle, and rosemary. Sample and select your favorites. Dip a piece of bread into the olive oils mixed with the Basik’s line of spice mixtures. This is your tasting party! Decide which you might like best with fish, chicken, pork, lamb or with roasted vegetables.
Then go taste the balsamic vinegars. Start with a sip of the 18 year old traditional one, which is great drizzled over cheeses, meats and fresh fruits. I liked mine drizzled over Annie’s Olive Oil cheesecake. Wow! My favorite is the 18 year old, then the grapefruit, lemon, then the cinnamon pear. Sip, and see if you favor the luscious black cherry, pomegranate, black currant, mango or wild blueberry vinegars. I roast veggies vith balsamic and olive oil, or add flavored oils to a pasta, tossed cooked spinach. It's over the top to put balsamic vinegar on ice cream or yoghurt. A little bit livens up your taste buds!

There’s also a line of flavored sea salts. My favorite is the black truffle. Try ones like chipotle, espresso, lemon twist, fleur de sel, and smoked Serrano. Add them just before serving a dish, and enjoy the slight crunch and taste burst as you pop each savory salt grain.

Annie Prizzi, a popular caterer in Naples,uses only fresh, natural ingredients. On Thursday afternoons she gives simple cooking lessons some are free, and you get to taste a bit the food! Some courses are $10, and you get a good portion-a deal of a meal. I was there for a swordfish cooking demonstration. Annie made a simple pasta, 
 and served her famous lemon-olive oil cheesecake,
topped with fresh raspberries, then drizzled with balsamic vineger. Delicious!
With 8 ingredients, it’s quick to make.Annie’s cheesecake. Her recipes are easy to follow. She gives you a printed hand out. It really is easy to prepare fresh food quickly and inexpensively at home.

FYI, according to Wikipedia,”The names "Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena" (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena) and "Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia" (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia) are the “real thing”, and the names are trademarked. Authentic balsamic vinegar is made from a reduction of pressed Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes. The resulting thick syrup, called mosto cotto in Italian, is subsequently aged for a minimum of 12 years in a battery of seven barrels of successively smaller sizes. The casks are made of different woods like chestnut, acacia, cherry, oak, mulberry, ash, and, in the past, juniper. True balsamic vinegar is rich, glossy, deep brown in color and has a complex flavour that balances the natural sweet and sour elements of the cooked grape juice with hints of wood from the casks.

“Balsamic Vinegar of Modena” and similar commercial grade products imitate the traditional product. They are made of wine vinegar with the addition of colouring, caramel and sometimes thickeners like guar gum or corn flour. There is no aging involved, and hundreds of thousands of liters can be produced every day.” In between the aged and the commercial pruductl is a broad range of affordable and very tasty vinegars.

Chef Antonio and Chef Annie Making Salad Dressing
535 Fifth Avenue South, Naples, 403-0735, floridaoliveoil.com

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