Before Chef Maneet Chauhan started her current run on The Next Iron Chef, she hosted a Spanish olive oil tasting at Vermilion, her Near North Indian-Latin fusion restaurant. I was initially surprised by the combination of olive oil and fusion, but then remembered that Chef Jose Garces of Mercat a la Planxa won last year after hosting this event so decided to settle in and see how she incorporated the two.
While these oils have a character and spice all their own, Chef Chauhan’s equally flavorful menu was a happy marriage of olive and fusion cuisine. We started off with a delicious tapas of anchovy bites that were drizzled with picual olive oil. The bitter picual was more than a match for the anchovy and a great counterpoint to the sweet tomatoes. A second course of oysters drizzled with mango, basil and coconut infusions of hojiblanca were an equally successful balance between bitter and sweet.
We were next served an excellent portion of tuna rubbed atop cucumbers, but the delicate arbequina olive oil that was drizzled on top was no match for the spicy rub that encrusted the tuna. Probably the most successful dish was the dessert that she termed her olive oil opus — cake, ice cream, sugar, and fig each mixed, incorporated, marinated or evaporated with cornicabra, an olive oil with hints of granny smith apple. There was no word from Chef as to whether or not she plans to add these dishes to her regular line-up, if this was her warm-up for Iron Chef, or if was the Chef version of play. I suspect it was all play and was happy to partake in the fun.
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Chicago, IL 60654
If you want to learn more about Spanish olive oil, I encourage you to visit these sites:
International Olive Oil Council
ASOLIVA -Spain’s Association of Olive Oil exporters
Trade Commission of Spain
This was a media event. All olive oil, food and drink were provided free of charge.