The first step in building a well-stocked pantry is selecting a good extra virgin olive oil. I've taken this step several times, thus leading to an over-stocked pantry.
In my cupboard, next to the oddball walnut or avocado oils, there are typically three or four bottles of extra virgin olive oil. Although it's more cost efficient to buy such pricey items in bulk, I can't help but flip-flop on my favorite brands of blends.
Some days, I'll opt for Frantoia, a robust Sicilian blend, composed of three olive varieties (Nocellara, Cerasuola and Biancolilla), which impart a fruity aroma and almond after taste. I first learned about Frantoia by spotting Amanda Hesser cooking with it via Food52.
Other days, I drizzle Liohori, a smooth blend from Crete atop my daily salads of leafy greens. A waiter at Michy's once mentioned it's the olive oil of choice in Michelle Bernstein's kitchen.
And, sometimes, I grab my bottle of Lucini, the brand of Tuscan olive oil owned by a Miami company that's spearheaded by the president of Slow Food Miami. Lucini also happens to be the bottles gracing the side tables at Michael Schwartz's Harry's Pizzeria.
When it comes to olive oil, it's clear that I seek inspiration from others.
But, like wine, each bottle of olive oil will taste differently depending on the conditions where the olive varietals were grown. A single-varietal olive oil from Sicily won't taste the same as a single-varietal from Crete. The same approach applies, also, to blends.
So I conducted a blind taste test of four different blends, hoping to understand what would be the best applications for each. Later, I assessed taste, aroma and price in order to rank these olive oils from worst to moderate to best.
4. Colavita - $6.19 for 8.5 ounces, available at Publix
Colavita gets points for being made by olives harvested and pressed in Italy (and for being so affordable), but the bland, vaguely off-putting aromas hardly stood up to the rest. It left me wondering how this bottle got into my pantry in the first place.
3. Liohori - $35 for 102 ounces, available online via Ingredients Gourmet
Liohori is smooth, with a fruity aroma and affordable price point. It's has a delicate taste that would pair nicely with other smooth and light flavors, like a butter lettuce salad.
2. Lucini - $16.37 for 17 ounces, available at Publix, Whole Foods
Lucini would be great for drizzling atop fresh burrata or ricotta cheese. This olive oil is pricier than Liohori and Colavita, but it also has a more distinct aroma.
1. Frantoia - $16.99 for 17 ounces, available at Gardner's Markets, Whole Foods
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Frantoia is bold and it's the kind of blend that guests will probably ask about during a dinner party. The aroma is spicy. The taste is fruity. Together, these two factors are very enticing. Also, since the olive oil is so robust, you can get away with drizzling a little bit less.
Do you have any favorite olive oils? Or any I should try next?
Follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyCodik.