Olive oil tasting

January 14, 2009


I know that on Monday I bemoaned that I hardly ever have time to socialize, but over the holidays I found lots of opportunities to open my doors to friends and family. One night I made dinner for my test kitchen colleagues. I kept the menu super simple: charcuterie platter, frisée salad, braised lamb shanks, creamy polenta and buttertarts. I knew the food would be tasty but not super memorable so I added an experiential element to the party: an olive oil tasting.

Each of the oils pictured above is from the Mandranova olive plantation; the fruit is picked from different olive cultivars at both different times of year and at various elevations. The result is a range of olive oils that, while similar, are quite distinct from one another, too.

The beauty of adding an activity like this to a party is that it doesn’t require a lot of advanced preparation and takes up only a few minutes of the event. Although tasting these oils wasn’t a wild, life changing experience, I think it was a great way to start the party since it moved us from small talk to sharing our insights about taste.

How do you like to get the party started? Do you think a glass of wine and a cheese platter within arm’s reach is enough to get your friends in the party spirit or do you have signature techniques for getting everyone into a social mood?