Chilean Olive Oils at Con' Olio

Con' Olio
Con' Olio (Photo by John Anderson)

In response to the rampant misrepresentation in the olive oil industry, specialty olive oil and balsamic vinegar shops have sprung up around the country. In Austin, that shop is Con' Olio Oils & Vinegars, which has two locations, one in the Arboretum and one Downtown on Lavaca across from the W Hotel. All of the extra virgin olive oils sold by Con' Olio are chemically tested to ensure authenticity, stored in lightproof, airtight bulk fusti containers, and can be tasted prior to buying.

Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is best thought of as a fruit juice; like other fruit juices, it is best when it is freshly squeezed, and loses quality over time. For maximum benefits, EVOO should be consumed within a year of its pressing. It should be kept out of the sunlight (dark glass bottles are better than clear ones), and it should have a "best used by" date. Contrary to what you may have heard, freshly pressed olive oil has a smoking point of 500 degrees, rendering it a good choice for panfrying. It is only years-old olive oils that are unfit for high temperatures.

Con' Olio buys olive oils from all around the world, from the Southern Hemisphere as well as the Northern. Because their growing season is the reverse of ours, fresh-pressed South American and Australian olive oils come onto the market just as the northern hemisphere oils are beginning to age.

Jeff Conarko, owner of Con' Olio, is thrilled with this year's Chilean EVOOs. "This is some of the freshest olive oil available," he explains. "Even professional chefs have seldom tasted oil this fresh. We have an Arbequina, Empeltre, Favolosa, and Frantoio." Those are varieties of olive tree, and each oil has a distinct flavor. The Arbequina is buttery, reminiscent of avocado. The Empeltre has a green, vegetal flavor with a peppery finish. The FS-17 (Favolosa) has notes of tomato leaf and artichoke, and a mild green flavor, and it is arguably the most approachable. The Frantoio is the most arresting: It's extremely rich, pungent and slightly bitter, with a peppery, arugula-like finish. Of all the Chilean oils, it has the highest concentrations of health-giving phenols and antioxidants.

Should you frequent the Downtown farmers' market, it is only a step over to Con' Olio to sample these and other EVOOs to enjoy on your locally-grown vegetables.

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