Kitchn Love Letters

This Chef-Worthy Olive Oil Comes in the Most Giftable Bottles and Will Elevate Any Dish

published Nov 7, 2022
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Credit: Photo: Paola + Murray; Food Styling: Drew Aichele

I learned from an early age (kudos to my nonna) that the true flavor building block for some of the best dishes in the world is olive oil. Now, you may argue in favor of butter, and I get that. I love the decadence and sumptuous-nature of those heavenly sticks of deliciousness, but the truth is, it’s not quite as versatile my grandma’s favorite fat. Olive oil can hold up to higher heat than butter and you can emulsify it into salad dressings, whisk it into chimichurri, or use it to bake elegant and elevated cakes. And, growing up with a hardcore pasta-fanatic for a father, let’s just say I learned where to get the good olive oil (the Italian import store), and to get a lot of it (I’ll take three one-gallon boxes, please!).

But, it wasn’t until I worked in restaurants that I really began to actually pay attention to the particular flavor notes in each bottle. I mean, sure, from the time I could talk I could easily point out a bad bottle of olive oil, but noticing a peppery finish or a citrusy undertone? Well, for someone who practically drank the stuff as a child, it kind of makes sense that I didn’t stop to really examine each and every drop that hit my tongue. These days, I’ve got a few bottles that I keep in rotation for different uses (don’t worry, I run through them fast, there’s no stale oil in this house) and there’s a brand I just discovered that is so special, I’m planning on buying it as a gift for any and everyone for the holidays this year. If you haven’t already met, allow me to introduce you to Wonder Valley.

Open the bottle — which feels and looks like a treasure from a bygone era — and you’ll catch a whiff of pure, unadulterated pressed olives. It smells like the plate of olive oil you get in Italy, the one you rush to dip chewy, perfectly crusted slices of satisfying bread into; cramming your mouth with the flavors of fresh harvest. Pour a bit onto a plate (especially if you’ve baked a fresh loaf of bread yourself), and discover an oil that’s a whole lot greener than you may expect, thanks to its incomparable freshness.

With this oil, there’s no chance of escaping its exquisite olive origins. It smells like olives, looks like olives, and (unlike other bland bottles I’ve tried) this liquid gold from Wonder Valley lands on your tastebuds with a defiant proclamation of the fruit from which it came. When it hits your tongue, there are easily perceptible olive notes — but then, the oil seems to coat your entire mouth with a blanket of velvety, buttery, fat and a rush of zesty pepper reminiscent of high-quality wild arugula.

Credit: Stella Totino

Now, I do recommend sipping it on a spoon first to try to pull out the flavors and enjoy the overall sensory experience. But, as the majority of my olive oil intake is not ingested solo, I can attest that this delightful stuff is excellent when added to food. Of course, you could cook with it, but I would save this oil for finishing if I were you. Drizzle it onto arugula, with shaved Parmesan, and freshly ground pepper. It is a simple, delightful revelation, because the very components of the salad mimic the flavor notes in the bottle, transforming every bite into an undeniable flavor bomb that could be no better described than with the word “pure.” I would recommend that be your primary Wonder Valley experience; but once indoctrinated, feel free to pour the stuff over everything you eat.

Flavors aside, I commend the origins of the brand. Founded by a former California  Olive Oil Council member, there’s no doubt that the knowledge and experience that has gone in to Wonder Valley’s growing, harvesting, pressing, and bottling processes is unparalleled. The fruit is grown on a small, family-owned farm, the olives are pressed within literal hours of leaving the branch, and the dates are carefully noted for transparency and guaranteed freshness. The oil is bottled in opaque, plastic-free bottles that ensures the longevity of the oil and makes for a stunning countertop occupant.

I think I’ll have a hard time finding another oil that could hold up to this unique stuff. It enhances everything it touches, making eating even the simplest meal an experience. It is, for this olive oil lover, a true gift.

Buy: Olive Oil, $36