Olive Oil, Ice Cream, and More at the Paso Robles Olive Festival
Once a year, about half an hour north of San Luis Obispo, the city of Paso Robles holds an Olive Festival in the Paso Robles Downtown Park. This year, on August 17, residents and visitors celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Olive Festival with free olive oil ice cream; olive, vinegar, and olive oil tastings; gourmet food, wine, and beer samplings; a local celebrity cooking competition; and lots of shopping.
In my opinion, any olive festival should, at a minimum, offer samplings of olives and products derived from olives, and this festival did not disappoint. Out of the countless artisan olive oil makers, I loved Sciabica’s Sevillano Variety Fall Harvest cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil. With its buttery flavor and picked ripe or green Sevillano olives, Sciabica’s oil works perfectly as a finishing oil over salad or fruit. For the second year, we bought organic extra-virgin olive oil “Fandango” from Rancho Rendezvous Farms in Paso Robles. The Valiente, with olives harvested early from the arbequina tree, delivers a full-bodied yet grassy taste perfect for anything from fish and chicken to vegetables and salad.
As for vinegars, we sampled them all. From aged to traditional and savory to sweet, the flavors seemed endless. Vendors were selling blackberry, lemon, orange, pineapple, cherry, roasted garlic, and many other flavors, but my top choice was a limited reserve balsamic from Chaparral Gardens flavored with star anise and vanilla bean. I have never seen a flavor profile like this and cannot wait to try this amazing balsamic tossed with roasted asparagus or drizzled over homegrown heirloom tomatoes.
Probably the highlight of the festival was the free olive oil ice cream provided by Paso gourmet shop We Olive. As if the ice cream wasn’t decadent enough, we could top the dessert with either the olive oil the ice cream was made with or sweet balsamic vinegar. When I poured a nice amount of olive oil over my ice cream, the server asked if I wanted to sprinkle pink Himalayan sea salt on top. And oh did I. The ice cream was vanilla based and tasted buttery because of the olive oil, but the combination with the oil and salt on top was outstanding.
From marinated olives to tapenade and goat cheese to gourmet ice cream pops, vendors provided everything including activities for kids such as arts and crafts and performances by local dance, music, and martial arts groups. We even bought two olive trees from vendor Meadow Oaks Farm and Nursery so we could try our hand at the big crush ourselves. It was a hot day, but the huge trees in the park provided much needed shade for the hundreds of foodies who came out for the event. Check the website for the date of the 11th annual Paso Robles Olive Festival next year.