Top 5: Olive oils for those looking beyond supermarket shelves

Categories: Top 5

Sick of your economy-sized Roundy's brand extra virgin olive oil staring at you from the counter? Sure, it does the job, but it's kind of like Yellow Tail wine: At some point, it's just time to move on. Or maybe you're just trying to cut butter out of your diet and looking for alternatives (can't say we really endorse that though). Olive oil's been kind of taking off in the last few months in the Twin Cities, with three new specialty shops opening up in the area -- Annona Gourmet, Vinaigrette, and Olive Grove Olive Oil Company. We chatted recently with Natalie Jaeger, who owns Olive Grove Olive Oil Company in Mendota Heights. Here are her Top 5 suggestions for those looking to take that next little step with olive oil.

1. Castile olive oil, from Spain. Olive Grove sells 10 different kinds of "natural-flavored olive oils," which Jaeger says "just means it comes from the first pressing of the olive, with no other flavor added to it." The one she she most often recommends -- which also happens to be her personal favorite -- is a Spanish castile olive oil. A deep yellow color, "It has a full-bodied, rich flavor with accents of green olive," Jaeger says.

2. Picholine, from France. Picholine olive oil is another one Jaeger frequently recommends for customers who are looking for a basic, everyday oil that improves on what they've relied on in the past. This particular one has the added bonus of having a high level of anti-oxidants in it, the highest of all in the store in fact, Jaeger says. "This one is really popular," she says. "People love it." The picholine has a lighter color, more yellowy-green. "It has a lot of different flavors in it. It tastes green, a little fruity, sweet, but then at the end it's bitter" (which isn't a bad thing). And, what, you might ask, makes olive oil have higher or lower levels of anti-oxidants? High anti-oxidant levels indicate the olive was harvested early, Jaeger says. "The earlier the harvest, the more flavor and more anti-oxidants its going to have."

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