When a bad wine is served, you reject it, right?
If it's corked, oxidized, or has some other overpowering fault, you tell the waiter to take it away. Then, how is extra virgin olive oil different really? It's a luxury product like wine. It's highly prized and can affect your whole dining experience.
The question is. . . would you tell the waiter to take it away? Would you tell the chef that his oil is rancid or adulterated and shouldn't be served? I say yes! It's time to start making restaurants and olive oil producers realize that their old or manipulated olive oil is unfit for public consumption.
Last night, I went out to dine in Mendoza. I found this beautiful Italian restaurant that looked to be from the 30's.
If you've ever been to a Harry's Bar, then you can envision what I mean. Older men in white suits, standing to the side, ready and waiting for the slightest nod or glance from a patron. Overall, they provided impeccable service in an old-fashioned atmosphere. However, this was no Harry's Bar.
I ordered two dishes off the menu. The first, rabas, which was lightly battered and fried calamari served with slices of lemon. . . delicious! The second was gnocchi al pesto.
I had also been eating some bread and dipping it in some extra virgin olive oil off the table. The olive oil was great. . . herbaceous and still young.
Then, the gnocchi came out, with the pesto on the side. Wow! This looked amazing! As soon as he put the pesto on the table, I could already see. . . or smell . . . the problem. I glanced at the pesto in a worried and horrific manner. "No, it's not possible!" The oil on the table was so good. I dipped a spoon in and skimmed a layer of clean oil off. Immediately upon tasting, I cringed. This olive oil was most certainly rancid.
One glance at the waiter and he appeared immediately, as if he teleported over. I told him the oil was "rancio". I asked him if the pesto oil was the same oil as in the bottle. He replied yes and kept saying there shouldn't be a problem. "It's the same oil!", he declared.
He assured me three more times, without batting an eye. The look on my face remained more or less the same, so he proposed I order something else.
Turning wine away is easy because another bottle can be brought back and opened in front of you. Fearing that the cook might adulterate my food in another way, I bit the bullet and drowned my gnocchi in the good oil on the table. At least it tasted better. . . somewhat.
Three posibilities came to me on how this rancid oil came to be. . .
1. It was the good oil on the table, but was heated over time in the kitchen. . . probably next to the stove.
2. It was the good oil on the table, but old. . . about a year or two.
3. It was a different olive oil.
I'll never really know what the chef was thinking. Did he know, did he care, or does he just not know when oil is rancid? This will always be a mystery.
The next question is. . . what's an adulterated oil? This will be answered in a future blog posting.
Posted by Jason Moulton