I just came back from Imperia Oneglia, Italy and it's close neighbor Porto Maurizio. Imperia is located on the Italian Riviera close to the border of France near Nice. It is a coastal town in the region of Liguria. I went there to attend a course at O.N.A.O.O. which is the National Organization for Olive Oil Tasters. It is the first worldwide school of Olive Oil Tasters and people come from all over the world to learn about olive oil.
The pretty town of Porto Maurizio is a lovely 30 minute walk from Imperia and on a sunny day it is glorious! There are rows and rows of sailboats and yachts as far as the eye can see.
Imperia Oneglia is also a pretty little town and the location of my course.
This is a glorious old olive tree located at the waterfront. Olive trees are truly incredible because they can live and produce fruit for thousands of years. This ancient beauty could possibly be close to a thousand years old.
Our class consisted of people from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, United States, Greece, France, Lithuania and surprisingly three people from Canada.
We had many interesting lectures with a variety of experts and spent lots of time tasting great olive oil and also quite a bit of time tasting olive oils that had a variety of defects.
This was the class favorite worst oil!! Actually it is so bad it is not fit for human consumption (lampante oil). You could smell how bad it was from 5 feet away! Oils that have defects cannot be considered extra virgin oils and typically get refined by solvents to strip away all the bad smells and tastes and then they get mixed with a small amount of virgin or sometimes extra virgin oils and then they able to be bottled for human consumption....ever wonder why some olive oils sell for $3.99 a bottle???
We went on a road trip to a frantoia (olive mill) and we were lucky to see and taste a very, very late pressing of oil.
We tasted and rated lots of oils from all over the world. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is produced from hundreds of different cultivars of olives and can be blended to create fantastic bottles of oils. When you buy super extra virgin olive oil think of it like you are spending money on a good bottle of wine...except it lasts longer and can be enjoyed for more meals than a single bottle of wine. Check for a harvest date and use it right away. Olive oil is unlike wine as it does not get better as it ages, so use it lavishly!!
lots of test oils to sample.
This is a typical tasting station.
This is the standard blue tasting glass. It is covered and warmed in your hand, then smelled and then tasted. In the end we had to do several smelling and tasting trials in order to be certified. It was difficult to do and no one left feeling confident that they passed. It is a very complex product and to become a proficient taster you must continue to taste lots of different oils. Too bad I guess I will just have to continue buying and cooking with this wonderful product!! I am happy to say that a week later I found out that I passed my test and am certified although I feel I have so much more to learn and discover!
Now on to the food!! What did I love to eat??
Look at that coffee machine! Even the gas stations have the million dollar machines. Now that is my kid of place to live.
Picardo is a beautiful old store that sells pastries, lunches and of course you must stop for an afternoon espresso. By the way, cappuccino is typically had for breakfast only. You must have an Italian coffee in the afternoon. I had this one with a nice little meringue and pine nut tart.
Il Melograno (which means the pomegranate) was a favorite pizza and pasta place right at the water in Imperia. We kept going back because the food and wine was so good.
This was their Speciale pizza. Prosciutto (the best, saltiest yummiest prosciutto.) onions and artichokes.
This was pear, brie and pecorino (no tomato sauce) Very good!
This was a ravioli with sage,chicken and ricotta (they called it "light meat")
We went to this cute little restaurant and wine bar on the waterfront called Gusto many days for lunch and a cocktail or two after class. My new friend Liana introduced me to Franciacorta which is Italy's finest sparkling wine in the style of Champagne. We consumed more than a few bottles of this wine.
This area is famous for pesto and Gusto made a fantastic pesto lasagna
and a very nice artichoke risotto.
We enjoyed a magnificent dinner at Salvo Ristorante Cacciatori right next to our hotel.
This is a restaurant that was opened by the grandfather of the current owners. They have been here since 1905 and the food and service is exceptional.
This is a typical dish of the area. The pasta is called Trofie and it is served with pesto, potatoes and green beans.
This was a beautiful fish with asparagus.
For dessert a coffee panna cotta with pistachio sauce and crumbles of meringue. Heaven!
Finally, I must mention this beautiful Gelato store on the way to my hotel. I had to stop by from time to time. Crema di Gelato was filled with the prettiest selection of wonderful icy treats.
So hard to pick just one.
Look at those cute little chocolate dipped ice cream sandwiches on the right.
I had the mint and chocolate this day but, I had a great candied chestnut gelato on another occasion that was also very very good!
Oh, and I can't forget this excellent food and Olive Oil store located next to the Olive Oil Museum in Imperia. Carli is a very large olive oil producer in the area and this store sells EVERYTHING!
A quick bite to eat.
Sun dried tomatoes or some stuffed peppers.
Pesto, of course! This is Liguria.
Amazing gift boxes with a variety of oils and food products.
Next....I stop in Genoa.