In recent months, I had the pleasure of visiting an indoor farmer’s market. This was before the weather warmed up, when snow boots, gloves and hats were required just to step outside. As the winter lingered on, I found myself in grave need of a trip to the market. I am grateful that we have a local indoor farmer’s market in my town that promotes local artisans, farmers, co-ops and crafters. While at the market, I was fortunate enough to come across a local artisan whose product was not so local, but unique enough to catch my intrigue.
After conversing with Leslie, one of the Canadian retailers for The Village Press, I felt compelled to at least give her product a quick sampling..after all, there was bread and olive oil involved so how could I go wrong? She offered a variety of olive oils, some were flavour infused, lime, chili and other typical flavorings. A few were just simple olive oils, pressed from various types of olives. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, as most people who enjoy a good antipasto on a Sunday afternoon, this was nothing unusual for me to see.
I finally sampled this beautifully bottled oil (Barnea)with an expectation that is typical; simple and fresh.
This was clearly different. The colour rich in hue, almost as if it was melted butter, flavours were distinctive: smooth,creamy and yet still light, with a fresh finish. All in an olive oil! I could have tasted this without the bread…and that’s a revelation given how much I enjoy fresh bread. I have to confess, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the product. I quietly asked Leslie how she brings in the product from Italy. Much to my surprise, she told me that the Village Press olive oil is from New Zealand! My first thought was lamb! I had no idea that olives were grown in New Zealand and they could produce a fine quality product such as olive oil. The region that produces olives for the Village Press is Hawke’s Bay on the East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand. It is a beautiful region of famous vineyards, fruit-filled orchards and rich agricultural land. Its mild Mediterranean climate and productive soils make it a food and wine lovers’ paradise with the latest taste sensations coming from the regions flourishing olive groves. It all started to make sense. Where you can grow good grapes, you can grow good olives.
Leslie proudly provided me with some samples to take home and try a few others and I was happy to oblige as my family has pretty discerning taste buds and I would be told if this was not up to their “standards.” I decided that if we were going to try these, we should do a proper tasting – a real olive oil tasting. For many of you who are not aware, olive oil tastings are gaining popularity, especially in regions that are famous for wines who now offer olive oil. Even regions like Napa have joined extended their “olive branches.”
One Sunday afternoon, I decided it was time to break out the olive oil, the bread, some good cheese, and a bit of Italian proscuito (after all something in this tasting should come from Italy). We started sampling.
First, the Barnea and we unanimously agreed. This was better than butter. Rich, creamy and yet light with a fresh finish. Next, Frantoio which has a lot more intensity and a bite in its end notes. If I had to compare to a wine, I would almost compare its depth to a strong Cabernet. Finally, a lime infused oil. The combination was incredible. The freshness of citrus without the bitterness, the mild taste of olive oil combined into one beautiful creation. This was not what you would find at Williams Sonoma- it was far better.
Since our “olive oil tasting,” I have enjoyed trying these products on salads (particularly the lime infused oil), grilled steak and of course, my tried and true favorite- fresh bread with a few heirloom tomatoes. It’s like reaching heaven through a plate!
The Village Press offers a wide array of products including oils including over half a dozen types of olive oils, avocado oil, truffle oil along with oil infusions such as orange and chili, lemon and fennel and many more. There is no shortage of accompanying products such as tapenades, pestos and even vinegars. You can visit their site to see the full array of product offerings.
We don’t often “rate” products here at WAFT. Our mission is to showcase great artisans, both local and global, to share their experiences in building their craft, the care used in producing food for today using what is sometimes methods of yesterday, and hopefully peaking your curiosity to try their products. All of this while knowing that you are supporting true artists whose art includes food.
If I had to “rate” this product though, I would give it an A+. It’s not only beautifully made, it tastes as beautiful as it looks. Since our “olive oil tasting,” we have enjoyed trying these products on salads (particularly the lime infused oil), grilled steak and of course, my tried and true favorite- fresh bread with a few heirloom tomatoes. It’s like reaching heaven through a plate!
For more information on The Village Press, please visit; www.thewanderinglocavore.ca where you can order online, or reach
The Wandering Locavore at: email@example.com.
And yes, they can ship product to you!
The Village Press
Producers of Fine New Zealand Extra Virgin Olive Oil
PO Box 8012, Havelock North, New Zealand
Photo 1 & 2: The villagepress.co.nz
Photo 3: Vinnie Recile