The Art of Olive Oil Tasting at Fig and Olive on Melrose Place
“Transcendent” was the word I heard used at the olive oil tasting I attended at Fig & Olive in West Hollywood. I use the word because it is perhaps the best way to describe the flavor combinations and experience.
Founder Laurent Halasz greeted us and shared his restaurant’s origins and how it went from a passion in the South of France to 3 New York restaurants and one here in Los Angeles. Pascal Lorange is the Executive Chef. Pascal and Laurent work side by side to create Fig & Olive’s menu, creating flavor combinations that allow the olive oil and food to both be the star on your plate. Food lovers near and far flock to this restaurant to experience food that is complimented with flavor and not covered up with massive amounts of butter. Though butter has its place, it is not at Fig & Olive. Some of L.A.’s top celebrities visit Fig & Olive such as Mila Kunis, Reese Witherspoon, Eliazbeth Hurley, Emily Blunt, Zoe Saldana, Ryan Philippe, Zac Efron, and the Beckhams.
I was treated to a 6 course tasting with 9 different olive oils. The 9 oils I tasted were categorized as light & sweet / Medium & Green / Assertive & Peppery. Out of the light & sweet category I was most impressed with the Arbequina from Portugal. Though the fragrance when alone was very light, once added to the stripped sea bass papillote, it transformed into beautiful fresh fruity oil that enhanced every flavor on the plate.
The Medium & Green Category winner was outstanding and by far my absolute favorite combination of the night. Nocellara from, Italy, its fragrance was almost floral and had hints of raw almond and grass. This oil was paired with a green apple sorbet with citrus segments and basil. The oil took the sour bite out of the green apple and citrus, but did not take away the true flavor of the fruit. There was a pleasant smoothness to the dessert that you would not expect from green apple sorbet. Truly a great match.
The Assertive & Peppery category has two winners. The first was Picual from Spain. This oil has a long finish and married well with the salmon it was served with. Salmon has a very distinct flavor that can overwhelm, but the Picual was just as intense and created an incredible balance of flavor. Once the oil was poured onto the warm fish it bloomed and developed a whole new flavor. A very pronounced olive flavor came out of the oil that calmed down the intensity of the salmon without taking away the integrity of the fish.
The second was Hojiblanca from Spain. This oil was served with a beautifully prepared lamb chop. The lamb chop was smoked al a minute with rosemary and it blended exceptionally well with the herbaceous flavor of the oil. Either you love lamb or you don’t. I love lamb and the oil paring only enhanced the natural flavor of the meat and gave it a rich velvety texture. Well done.
I was also given a lesson on how to taste olive oil correctly. Place the olive oil in a small glass, put the glass in the palm of one hand to warm the oil as you swirl with your other hand over the top of the glass to keep the aroma from escaping. When you remove your hand you get the full aroma and flavor. What a wonderful treat. I’ve been told that the restaurant will be opening a store soon and will be selling over 30 different varietals, 14 of which are the Fig & Olive brand of specialty olive oils from around the world (all the ones I tasted and mentioned above). If you are not close enough to visit the restaurant, you can go online to the online Olive Oil Guide and tips on how to host your own olive oil tasting at home.