Tuesday, 14 October 2014

University of California at Davis Olive Center - Master Milling Certificate Course and a visit to great places in the area!

For those of you that are unaware, I am a crazy, passionate lover of all things OLIVE! I have cooked with some exceptional olive oils over the years and I have also been an uninformed consumer at the mercy of a salesperson who may or may not have always been more knowledgeable than myself. This year I decided to get serious in my olive oil education. I went to Imperia, Italy to become a certified Taster at ONAOO. I have done a lot of reading and research and most recently I attended The Master Milling Certificate Course at the University of California at Davis. I am certainly not an expert by any means but, I can say that I will continue to learn and discover what makes this amazing fruit so captivating! If you have a passion or desire to learn about Milling this is a great course.

The Welcome sign is outside of the Lucero Olive Oil tasting room in Corning, California....more info on Lucero if you keep reading.

Let me share a few hi-lights from an incredible week in Davis, California and the surrounding area. I love the University motto "Let there be light!" and this beautiful setting was as much a player in the course as the teachers, growers, millers and passionate participants. The course was held in the magnificent Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science facilities.
Before we get to the course let me share a bit of the surrounding area and the amazing array of exceptional products being created in this part of the State of California.

In nearby Napa at the Oxbow Public Market there is a beautiful collection of stalls and stores providing unique items and great quality local products from fresh produce, to wines and olive oils, fine chocolates and artisans of every kind!

Ca'Momi Napa Valley is a wonderful Italian restaurant and also sells some greatwines and really delicious Italian pastries.
Anette's Chocolates provides an impressive selection of fine chocolate.
This was a beautiful box of pasta I found in Oxbow Produce and Grocery. That's parsley pressed into the pappardelle .
Napa Valley Distillery is a micro-distillery producing small batch spirits and an everything else you could possibly need to create amazing cocktails including natural flavoured syrups, bitters and other culinary ingredients. The store is a beautiful step back in time. Meyer Lemon Liqueur!!
These are just a few places and this market is definately worth a stop!
The Olive Press in Sonoma is worth a drive. The store is set in Sonoma's first olive mill. They are known as the most awarded olive oils in the nation and are proud to share some of their best with you in the beautiful tasting rooms here and also at the Oxbow Public Market. They have a wonderful selection of oils, vinegars and many other great olive products. You can purchase there or they produce an online catalog and will ship anywhere! The other part of their store focuses on their wines.
I drove quite a distance to see Lucero Olive Oil in Corning, California but, they also have Napa and Portland, Oregon locations. They provide a great selection of award winning olive oils, vinegars, mustards and a few other items that you can buy on site or through their fantastic catalog  which you can have shipped anywhere!

A stop at the Davis farmer's market is a great place to find things like the tri-tip sandwiches at Buckhorn or Fat Face Popsicles where you can get flavours like black sesame, peach lavender or kaffir lime and avocado.

These are the biggest persimmons I have ever seen!
everything looked so delicious!
Now back to the class! This was a very intense course, filled with great information regarding the processing of olive fruit from picking to bottling.
Olive 2Bottle Mobile Services provided us with a view to the process from start to finish and they created some very interesting dialogue about the four oils they produced using different parameters of two very different varietals of olives.
We toured three various sized mills and spoke with the Miller's of each. This was an amazing glimpse into the operation of Yolo Press. Mike is literally a 1 man show. He hand picks each of  his 200 trees on his small 6 acre farm and does every aspect of his business by himself. He sells exclusively in his community and is just an amazing and very entertaining teacher.
delicious and buttery and complex.

We then toured the beautiful, medium sized family owned Bondolio farm. They currently grow 10 acres of olives but, their state of art processing facility is equipped to handle expansion and is a no waste facility. They are producing an award winning blend of Sicilian Nocellara, Biancolilla and Cerasuola varieties of olives.

Lastly, we toured the large scale operation at Seka Hills in the beautiful Capay Valley in between Sacramento and Napa. They harvest 82 acres of high-density groves.

They produce wines and grow organic vegetables.

skin care products of all kinds and nice smells!


Honey and olive wood so smooth you simply have to touch it when you see it!

Vinegars and so many other products .

We did some blind tastings to help the class identify a few common defects that could be in olive oils and we tasted some delicious oils that were perfect extra virgins with no defects.

We tasted the oil that was milled a day earlier with different parameters to identify hits and misses.

Lastly, I cannot leave this event without commenting on how superb the lunches and snacks were that were provided each day. This was first class, great quality in all aspects.

fresh salads with candied nuts and beautiful dressings.

grilled vegetables, polenta cake, black rice with apples and cranberries and always artisan breads.

Come on! This is definitely a place I will take another class at.
PS did I mention the people in the class were as interesting as the material covered throughout the week.




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