Is This the World’s Best Olive Oil?
Meet the “Ferrari” of oils. Plus, one chef’s favorite Tuscan recipe.
Looking at the rack of olive oils in any gourmet market, you’ll see products from Spain, from Greece, France, Portugal, various regions of Italy, California and others. And there will be as many colors and flavors—golden yellows to vivid greens, grassy to peppery. Individual taste will dictate preferences, but ask culinary experts and they’ll generally opt for Tuscan as the best.
The reasons are simple: complexity and flavor, says Rolando Beramendi, chef and author of the cookbook Autentico: Cooking Italian The Authentic Way. “Tuscan extra virgin olive oil has always been my favorite because of the flavor profile: bright emerald green, bitter and spicy with enormous layers of flavors ranging from artichokes, arugula, and kale with a very spicy finish. The Tuscans have taught me so much about how good an extra virgin olive oil can be.”
Within the Tuscan oils, topping Beramendi’s list is Laudemio. This label is produced by a consortium of 22 local producers that was formed out of necessity. “In 1985, there was a terrible frost in Tuscany,” says Matteo Frescobaldi, Laudemio Brand Manager and 30th-generation member of the wine-and-oil-producing Frescobaldi family. After 90 percent of the area’s trees succumbed to the icy temperatures, Frescobaldi’s parents gathered other growers, creating a unified bloc to replant trees and, significantly, resurrect the industry by producing a new olive oil of even higher standards.
“They named it Laudemio, a word that translates to ‘best of the harvest,’” he says. “It was the part of the harvest that farmers gave to the lords.” Under the new consortium, the Frescobaldis set some ground rules for production, applying techniques of terroir that the family had long employed for winemaking. First, all Laudemio oils must match olives to the particular soil—in Frescobaldi’s Laudemio, the fruity, fragrant frantoio is the majority olive. They must be harvested when they’re just beginning to ripen—usually in October but no later than the end of November—so that the essence goes into the oil before it becomes diluted by excessive moisture. The olives must be milled on the estate the day they’re picked, usually within a few hours, lest they lose their flavor and nutrients or start to ferment. The oil has to be filtered twice through 20 paper filters to remove the fat and olive residue, helping maintain its fresh taste as it ages. Finally, an outside taster must give a stamp of approval. Only those batches deemed worthy of the name receive Laudemio status. (Frescobaldi released its first Laudemio in 1989, and is celebrating its 30th vintage this year with a regal gold bottle.)
The result? A bright green oil with an intense, grassy and artichoke flavor. Beramendi recommends it on everything from simply cooked beans and salads to grilled meats—even over pistachio gelato.
Cook Like an Italian Chef
Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco‘s chef Matteo Temperini shares his favorite recipe featuring Tuscan olive oil: Lobster and cauliflower soup, served lukewarm.
Lobster and Cauliflower Soup
4 1-lb (500-gram) lobsters, claws separated
1 head of cauliflower
3/4 lb. (350 grams) young potatoes
2 medium onions (about 1/2 lb. or 200 grams), thinly sliced
2/3 cups (150 grams) olive oil
1 2/3 cups (400 grams) water
White truffle, for garnish (optional)
• • •
In a large pot, bring water to boil. Add vegetables, lower heat and simmer for 40 minutes.
Drain vegetables, reserving the broth.
Peel the cooked potatoes and thinly slice cauliflower and onions.
Return broth to boil, adding in lobster claws. Cook for two minutes.
Add lobster bodies to broth, cooking for five more minutes.
Drain the lobsters, saving the broth. Set broth aside to cool until room temperature, about 30 minutes, and strip the lobster meat. Reserve and keep warm.
While the broth cools, sauté sliced cauliflower and onions till golden. Add potatoes to warm them.
In a large bowl, mix the room-temperature broth with oil till creamy.
Place lobster and vegetables in a serving bowl. Cover with broth and oil mixture.
Garnish with slices of white truffle.