The Austin Chronicle

Olive Oil Dinner at Fonda San Miguel

By Kate Thornberry, August 26, 2012, 12:20am, On the Range

Because I have spent the entire week researching Texas Extra Virgin Olive Oil and hanging around with olive oil growers, producers, scientists, and retailers …

… I was very cordially invited to the Con’ Olio Olive Oil Dinner at Fonda San Miguel, which was given in honor of Tom Mueller, the author of the groundbreaker book Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil. One of the things I have learned in the last week is that olive oil isn’t just a vegetable oil, extracted from seeds as are the oils of rapeseed, sunflower, and tree nuts; rather, it is a fruit juice. Like other fruit juices it is at it’s best the fresher it is, and in order to be the amazing health and flavor resource it can be, it must be stored properly and used within 12 months of its pressing.

Another thing: when olive oils are properly made and stored, the range of flavors they encompass is as vast and varied as all the varieties of wine. There have been wine dinners focused on the pairings of wine with food; as far as I know this is one of the first Austin dinner focused on the pairing of food with olive oil. (Of course, there was wine, too!)

I got to sit at the same table as Tom Mueller (the Author) and Jeff and Tabitha Conarko, the entrepreneurs who run Con’ Olio premium olive oil and vinegar tasting bar and store. Each course of the dinner was drizzled with a different premium extra virgin olive oil (in the Mediterranean fashion), and it was just a fabulous dinner with conversation to match!

The first course (this is where you will begin to hate me and start planning to become a food writer yourself) was TWO different glass bowls of ceviche: Whitefish Ceviche with Arbequina EVOO (Arbequina is a variety of olive tree native to Spain) and Lobster Ceviche with Con’ Olio’s Blood Orange EVOO. Both were exquisite, naturally (this was Fonda San Miguel after all!), but the Lobster one was by far the very best ceviche I have ever been lucky enough to eat.

Second course, a farmers market fresh salad of mango, radish, cucumber, carrot, and strawberry (on top of lettuce and onion) drizzled with Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar and Chemlali Olive oil. Nothing is as good as a nice, fresh salad; it was lovely.

The third course was Pescado Veracruzano—Broiled fish fillet in the traditional Vera Cruz tomato sauce, capers, onions, & Spanish Olives. Finished with Coratina/Frantoio EVOO. As an added surprise, it was served with Rancho Gordo beans. The beans were just cooked simply and salted, but anointed with EVOO, they were timeless.

To top it all off, dessert was authentic Spanish Churros, fried in Olive Oil and served with a decadent chocolate ganache (both were much, much better than the churros and chocolate I had in Spain in May, if that gives you any idea of how superlative this olive oil diner was!)

If you haven’t been to Con’ Olio yet to taste what actual, fresh extra virgin olive oil really is, get your butt down there ASAP! Because this is what food is supposed to be!

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