Prior to our test, we were already fans of California Olive Ranch's Arbequina extra virgin olive oil. The 2008 harvest Arbequina earned a gold medal from the California Olive Oil Council (COOC), and Cook's Illustrated recently rated it the number one California-grown extra virgin olive oil. We haven't tried the company's other single variety olive oils, Arbosana and Koroneiki, but those also won COOC medals for the 2008 harvests (gold and silver, respectively).
This is all good news for the company's new Everyday California Fresh EVOO, which is made from a blend of the three olive varieties. While the single varietals tend to have more distinct flavors ideal for finishing dishes, this multi-varietal can be used for general cooking as well as finishing. We are sometimes wary of olive oil blends, not knowing exactly where and when the ingredients were harvested, but California Olive Ranch is diligent about freshness and labeling. The olives are harvested and pressed within hours, and each bottle is stamped with the harvest date and the COOC's certified extra virgin seal (see our label primer to learn more).
We tested the oil three ways: first, a sensory evaluation as described in our How to Taste Olive Oil post, then with bread, and finally in a recipe. The olive oil has a grassy, green banana aroma, and the flavor is a harmony of fruity and grassy notes with a mildly peppery finish. Smooth and buttery with only a slight pungency, it would likely appeal to many, whether used for cooking or finishing. It has just enough bitterness to please olive oil aficionados, but not too much for those who prefer a more neutral flavor.
We definitely think we've found a good olive oil for everyday use. California Olive Ranch is located in Northern California, and we like being able to buy a quality olive oil that hasn't been shipped from so far away as Italy or Spain. The price won't break the bank, either. Everyday California Fresh EVOO sells for about $8.99 for 500 mL and $11.99 for 750 mL. It can be purchased online through the California Olive Ranch site and at several retail shops.
(Image: Emily Ho)