When you think of good quality olive oils which countries come to mind – Italy or Spain? But did you know Croatia is emerging as the best olive-growing region in the world? Total Croatia News reported that Flos Olei, the first and most respected guide to the best olive oils in the world premiered their 2018 edition where over 500 world producers from 50 countries participated, of which 75 producers were from Istria, the peninsula located at the head of the Adriatic.
Yes, I picked up a bottle of olive oil during my last visit to Croatia!
I was also fortunate to meet one of these award-winning olive oil producers at A Taste of Croatia with Chiavalon Extra Virgin Oil hosted by Drusk Trading Company at Oro Restaurant in Long Island City, NY. The founders of the olive oil company, Tedi and Sandi Chiavalon shared their interesting story with the attendees over fine Croatian food and wine.
Sandi was only 13 years old when he got into his grandfather’s olive groves. After his grandpa passed away, he decided not only to tend to the 50 olive trees left behind, he learned everything there was to learn about olives. He worked odd job and used his savings to buy 100 trees, graduated from the Agricultural Secondary School in Poreč, and enrolled at the Faculty of Agriculture in Zagreb. As business expanded, his brother joined in and they have over 7,500 olive trees producing more than 20,000 liters of olive oil.
What sets this first generation family-run producer apart is their dedication to quality. They harvest and process the olives the same day and produce certified 100% organic extra virgin olive oil from Istria. In 2016, the World’s Best Olive Oils included Chiavalon among the TOP 25 organic olive oil producers in the world!
“Our great advantage in the production of high quality olive oil. The secret lies in lower temperatures, thanks to which olive trees have a shorter vegetation period and the oil accumulation in its fruit begins later than in southern regions. When summer heat waves strike southern areas, the fruit already contains oil, so the high temperatures cause a considerable decrease in its quality. On the other hand, here in Istria, the accumulation of oil begins after the period of high temperatures has passed and can no longer have a negative effect on oil quality. This results in high quality extra virgin olive oil of an intense flavor and aroma, and elegant notes of various herbs,” say the Chiavalons.
Now to the taste test. How do you tell when a olive oil is good? Just like wine, olive oil has color, flavor and aroma. Good olive oil is generally more green in color than yellow. Take a sip, close your mouth and breathe through your nose. When you push the olive oil to the corner of your mouth, you should taste grass, artichokes or something spicy, bitter and earthy, never sweet. There may be fruity characteristics, nutty, buttery and elegant notes of various herbs.
Good olive oil when paired with the right ingredients, can enhance a dish significantly, as I found out through a 5-course dinner prepared by chef Djani Barbis, a notable NY chef of Croatian descent.
Dishes featured from the Croatian coastal regions of Istria and Dalmatia, included seabass tartare with lemon foam, octopus salad, seafood pasta with squid ink, filet mignon with champignon mushrooms, and delicate fruit crepes stuffed with fig-ricotta and wine-walnuts. Each dishes complimented very well with Chiavalons’ world-renowned extra virgin olive oil, and took me back to memories of being in Croatia.
If you can afford to take a trip to wander around the historic city of Zagreb, interact with the friendly locals of Samobar, or drive around the coast near Dubrovnik, then you won’t be disappointed by the scenery or the food! Personally, I will be dreaming of having olive oil, wine and truffles in Istria. In the meantime, click here to order Chiavalon olive oil online.