Olive Oil's Sweet Side

April 2005

Olive oil's floral-to-spicy bouquet has inspired chefs to add its depth and silky texture to desserts.

Pastry chef Heather Heinrich of Strings blends ice cream with olive oil and Meyer lemons. Citrus pairs naturally with the fruitiness in extra virgin oil—after all, the olive is a fruit. "This is a flavor thing," Heinrich says. "You can definitely taste the olive oil. It's not overbearing, but it's noticeable." Executive chef Bradford Heap of Boulder's Full Moon Grill bakes with olive oil. It adds a peppery taste to the crust of his pear and almond tart, and "lightens it up," Heap says.

The oil's sweet synergy begins with the olive. Just as wine reflects its terroir and vintner's style, the olive's origin and cultivation define an oil's personality. "Oils vary in terms of quality," explains chef Benjamin Davis of the Passionate Palette cooking school in Englewood. "Some are spicier. Some are sweeter." Green olives yield assertive, herbal oils. Ripe, late-harvest pressings are fruity and fragrant.

At Thyme on the Creek in Boulder, pastry chef Seth Colter plates his fresh basil and fromage blanc sorbet with a swirl of extra virgin olive oil, a dusting of cracked pepper, and a mini-biscotti as the crowning touch. Some diners are puzzled to see the amber oil in a dessert, but Colter says the mélange of oil, basil, French cheese, and black pepper "complement each other perfectly." And happily, those diners who try it agree.