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Refining My Palate

October 24, 2010 Food, Friends No Comments

While I am a somewhat picky eater, I would not say that I have a refined palate. I enjoy Kraft Mac & Cheese almost as much as I like homemade stuff, although maybe only for the reminiscence factor. I can’t tell the difference between a wine that has been aged in an oak barrel versus a stainless steel vat in a blind taste test. Is it red? I’ll drink it.

And, I buy olive oil off the shelf at Trader Joe’s.

When visiting Caryn earlier this summer, we stumbled across a little shop in the El Dorado Hills Town Center. It’s a tasting room for olive oil and balsamic vinegar called Mia Sorella. After oohing and aahing over a couple of specialty flavors, one of the proprietors mentioned that they do tasting parties after hours. Sign us up!

The evening came for the event and we were ready! Caryn rounded up several friends interested in joining us that Thursday evening. It was fun for me to meet a few new people and reconnect with a couple of the folks I had previously met on EDH Tri Club outings. The one common denominator among all attendees was endurance sports and the calorie replacement involved. Bring on the food!

Mia Sorella provided the oil and vinegar for tastings, a big salad made with a dressing using their products, and dessert. Caryn and I brought a chicken kebab experiment, spicy shrimp, and fresh strawberries to drizzle with balsamic vinegar once there.

Oh, and wine. We were also drinking red wine.

The party format included a side-by-side tasting, along with a lesson on how to properly taste oil and the history of where each came from. I was a little disappointed, actually, that she didn’t have us taste the fancy oils next to the store-bought kind to see just how refined or unrefined our palates really are…

After the lesson part of the evening, we were free to try any of the other oils and vinegars in any combination. The options were limitless!

One of my favorites was chipotle-fused oil with chocolate balsamic vinegar. It tasted like a Lindt chocolate + red chili bar. I don’t know where you’d use that combination in real life, but the little sample was delicious! The combination they used on the salad was meyer lemon oil with fig balsamic. It was very good and I bet it’s very versatile. They made a pound cake using the orange-fused oil that was very moist and flavorful. I drizzled the chocolate balsamic over a few strawberries, then the cinnamon-pear, then the vanilla bean. Yum!

Our chicken kebab experiment was a huge success. We recipe we used called for regular EVOO, the zest of one lemon, and fresh lemon juice (among other things). We made the control batch using that as the marinade. For the test batch, we substituted the Mia Sorella meyer lemon-fused oil and used no zest or lemon juice. The experiment results were unanimous: everyone could taste the difference and preferred the kebabs made with the lemon-fused oil!

I came home with a bottle of the chipotle-fused olive oil and I’m already looking forward to a return trip in November, when they’ll have sampler packs for the holidays. The prices are higher than what you’ll pay in the grocery store, but we proved that it’s “worth it” in many situations — including marinades and salad dressings. Perhaps I’ll be hosting my own tasting parties once I get a few of the fun flavors in my own kitchen.

And perhaps my palate is more refined than I think.


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