Spanish olive oil with Chef Jose Garces

Chef Jose Garces tasting olive oil at Mercat a la Planxa

Chef Jose Garces tasting olive oil at Mercat a la Planxa. He wouldn't admit to his Iron Chef win, but the twinkle in eye gave him away.

Prior to his Sunday night win on Iron Chef, Chef Jose Garces opened his Mercat a la Planxa restaurant to an olive oil tasting sponsored by the Trade Commission of Spain and Castillo de Canena. We evaluated four varieties of olive oil that evening by themselves and in Chef Michael Fiorello’s six course tasting menu.

Arbequina olive oil evokes green apples and was featured in both the octopus salad and the chocolate croquettes we had for dessert. Hojiblanca works well with pasta, and indeed that’s where Chef featured it in the meal. It has a nice aroma with notes of hay and dry grass, and a nice kick of bitterness. My favorite olive oil, Picual, has strong notes of green grass and a distinctive, bitter taste. Picual was a bold flavor in both the almond gazpacho and halibut dishes that Chef prepared. We were only able to taste Cornicabra during the olive oil tasting, but enjoyed its strong flavor. It would work well in sauces, marinades and with game dishes.

I think the best way to try olive oil is through the guidance of experts, but if you can’t make it to Mercat a la Planxa for inspiration, try these sites:
International Olive Oil Council
ASOLIVA -Spain’s Association of Olive Oil exporters
Trade Commission of Spain

Arbequina olive oil is heavily featured in this dessert.

Arbequina olive oil compliments Chef's Croquetas de Xocolata.

Mercat a la Planxa
638 Michagan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 765-0524
Read our 2008 review of Mercat a la Planxa.

This was a media dinner. All food and drink were provided free of charge.

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