Even those of us who aren't wine connoisseurs are aware that certain varietals pair better with specific dishes—and that a wine's flavor depends on myriad factors. What I didn't know is that the same is true of olive oil.
To introduce us less-in-the-know to the concept of olive oil tasting, the Trade Commission of Spain is hosting Denver's first Olive Oil from Spain Restaurant Week. Spain alone cultivates 262 varieties of the elixir, each with distinct flavors and uses. Several of Denver's Mediterranean-minded restaurants have added olive oil-focused dishes to their menus. Check out the following offerings now through Sunday, November 18.
Olivéa: Seasonal, daily specials feature one of three Spanish olive oil varietals. Plus, the following dishes get a boost from Arbequina olive oil: baby spice greens with pancetta vinaigrette; prosciutto, almonds, and pecorino with toast; and the baked bacalao (dried salt cod), parsley, and Kalamata olive salad.
Ondo's Spanish Tapas Bar: Three new dishes make an appearance for the week: wild salmon carpaccio, chervil, Meyer lemons, and Hojiblanca olive oil; shrimp and scallop confit with cream of leeks and Arbequina olive oil; and 64 percent cocoa mousse with date crisps and Picual olive oil.
Rioja: Chef Jennifer Jasinski developed a Spanish octopus farfalle (pictured) with squid ink–piquillo pepper pasta, Basque chiles, piquillo peppers, crisp preserved lemons, gremolata, caper chile emulsion, and Arbequina olive oil.
Tip: Olive oil experts recommend tasting different varieties so you know what your taste buds like and also which version might pair best with your menu. While that can be hard to do at the grocery store, it's easy at specialty markets such as LoDo's EVOO Marketplace.
Olivéa, 719 E. 17th Ave., 303-861-5050
Ondo's Spanish Tapas Bar, 250 Steele St., #100, 303-975-6514
Rioja, 1431 Larimer St., 303-820-2282
Solera, 5410 E. Colfax Ave., 303-975-6514
EVOO Marketplace, 1338 15th St., 303-974-5784
—Image courtesy of Rioja