Tuesday, September 09, 2014

OliSoliva, a Must See Gourmet Shop in Barcelona

While wandering the stalls at Mercat Santa Caterina in Barcelona, a glass enclosed, stand alone shop caught my eye. The windows were filled with extra virgin olive oils from all over Spain and perhaps elsewhere. As I walked into the shop, it was apparent that even though it specialized in olive oils, it also had other gourmet items in stock.

Extra virgin olive oil, if you don’t already know, is cold pressed and has not lost any nutritional value that occurs when processing with heat. It comes from the first press of the olives and has less than .8% acidity. The next press of virgin olive oil has a higher acidity of up to 1.5% but has not been adulterated with solvent processing. Further refining can lower the acidity but also limit the natural color and flavor. Oils that have been labeled as pure olive oil or olive oil are made from refined virgin olive oil, and have been filtered through charcoal or by chemical or mechanical means. The acidity may be lower, but they do not have a strong olive taste.

Acidity levels are crucial for taste. Olive oils made with 1% acidity or higher have a decidedly bitter taste. You can do a comparison with Turkish and Greek extra virgin olive oils which are generally 1% or higher, and with an Italian extra virgin, that is traditionally lower in acidity. Since some labels do not list acidity level, you can’t go wrong with an extra virgin. Even though Spain produces much of the world’s olive oil, over 40%, it may also import olives from other countries, so check the label to make sure the olives are Spanish in origin, which will insure that it is made from Spanish varietals. The use of 100% olives of a particular variety makes a very distinctive oil.
The range of extra virgin olive oils offered by this shop is extensive, and their oils are, indeed, predominantly Spanish. The varietals like Arbequina, Hojiblanca and Picual are often used exclusively for one oil and those oils are labeled as 100%, as you can see on the L’Estornell bottle in the photo above. Although I have purchased each of these varietal oils, I cannot truly distinguish between them, since the bottles were opened one at a time. On my next trip to Spain, I hope to buy more and do an actual taste test. Here are some links concerning the 3 brands pictured above. I found them very interesting: Les Cabanes  L'Estornell  Oli de Pao

Flavored olive oils were present, but I must say, I wish we would start seeing more variety of flavors. You can find many citrus flavored oils, red pepper flavored, garlic flavored, basil flavored and Truffle flavored olive oils, but other herb flavored olive oils are few and far between. The French do make thyme, sage, and rosemary flavored oils as well as lavender flavored olive oil. My favorite American brand is Sciabica. They make the most incredible jalapeno flavored oil that is not as hot as most people expect, but intensifies the flavor of every green vegetable I have tried it on, and works beautifully in everything you want to brighten in flavor. I love frying eggs in it. They also make a lavender that I use in my original recipe for Lavender Shortbread, and a habanero that would knock your socks off if you used more than a drop. In the Dordogne area of southern France I found porcini, chanterelle, and morel flavored oils, produced by a farmer, but he was not at the same market in Sarlat when I returned a few years later. Those were incredible and I fear they are gone forever.

Sea salt from the Spanish island of Ibiza caught my eye, since I collect salts while on vacation. I bought a small carton, but now regret that I passed on the beautiful ceramic jar seen in this photo. I also purchased a bag of salt, as a gift for a dear friend who loved to cook but could no longer travel.

Himalayan salt is becoming more common, but I admit to never having seen the other two shown in this photo. I did however suspect that the Viking salt may have been smoked, judging by its unusual color. Here is a link to the company: Terre Exotique . They say the recipe was actually handed down from Viking times. The website of this French purveyor of fine foods is one I will study before traveling abroad, because it lists stores that sell their products. One in Paris is already on my list of stores to visit.

If you’re going to sell salt, why not salted anchovies? Both of these containers were beautiful, and I prefer salted anchovies, but my suitcase space was limited as it was, and I found these during the 1st week of a month long trip.  At least I know where to find them again.

Caviaroli is the name of my favorite product sold at OliSoliva. They are small gelatin pearls filled with flavored  oils and I think they would make a fine addition to an appetizer or two. The bright yellow Caviaroli encapsulates hazelnut oil. Other flavors offered were rosemary olive oil, basil olive oil and piment de esplette olive oil. These seem to be standardized flavors delivered in a most modern and sophisticated manner. Imagine the burst of flavor as you bite into one. Here is a link with more information about this product produced in Barcelona. Caviaroli

Avenida Francesc Cambó, 153 -154-155 ( Mercado De Santa Catalina )
08003 Barcelona, Spain
Phone:+34 932 68 14 72

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