For several months now, I’ve been working with my friends at Villa Campestri here in Tuscany to develop an olive oil program that will, we hope, go a long way toward expanding knowledge of this precious ingredient that adds both good health and bountiful flavors to just about everything in the kitchen or on the table. Now we’re ready to go public with the following offering:
AMOROLIO: FOR LOVE OF OLIVE OIL: An Extra-Virgin Intensive for Food Writers and Others
When: October 15 to 21, 2011
Where: Villa Campestri Olive Oil Resort (www.villacampestri.it) in the green rolling hills of the Mugello northeast of Florence
What: A full five-day program to expand and deepen our knowledge of extra-virgin olive oil: how it’s made, what’s good and what’s not good, how to recognize and describe flavors, understanding nutritional values, and how to choose, and use, this remarkable ingredient in the kitchen and at the table. We’ll explore the world of super-premium olive oils that go “beyond extra-virgin” to create a new category of high technical standards and outstanding sensory profiles, part of the Oleoteca/OliveToLive program developed at Villa Campestri and now featured at the Culinary Institute of America’s California campus in the Napa Valley.
This intensive five-day program is specifically for food writers and others interested in developing a more profound knowledge of extra-virgin olive oil. It’s a chance to get together and explore one of the most widely used and still most mysterious ingredients in the modern (and ancient!) kitchen. At the same time that we’re learning about olive oil we’ll also have a chance to share writerly problems, exchange advice, and profit from new knowledge and new friendships.
We’ll be headquartered at Villa Campestri, a splendid 13th-century retreat, just a few kilometers north of Fiesole, high on a hill overlooking the Mugello (home of Giotto, Fra Angelico and the Medici, among others) where the Pasquali family, Paolo, Gemma and Viola, offer warm hospitality to their guests, harvest their own olives, and make their award-winning oil. Paolo is well-known to olive oil enthusiasts for his development of Oleoteca Villa Campestri and the OliveToLive program, a unique way to appreciate and understand high-quality, super-premium extra-virgin olive oils that is featured at the Culinary Institute of America’s California campus in the Napa valley.
- We’ll take part in the harvest of olives from the extensive groves at the resort, then quickly press and taste the fresh new oil—an astonishing, truly mind-bending experience.
- We’ll be introduced, through guided tastings, to a surprising variety of extra-virgins from around the world, all representative of the super-premium program for olive oil excellence sponsored by the Accademia dei Georgofili in Florence, and all illustrating the enormous range of flavors and aromas that extra-virgin includes.
- We’ll have hands-on classes in the Villa kitchen to explore cooking with extra-virgin–braising, frying, sauteing, baking, and even making ice cream, as well as using extra-virgin to garnish and finish dishes.
- We’ll visit an old-fashioned frantoio (olive mill) in the Mugello to see how olive oil was traditionally made, and we’ll learn about recent changes in olive cultivation and olive oil production that make fine extra-virgin more available for consumers.
- We’ll have meals in traditional restaurants in the vicinity to explore the culinary heritage of this fascinating region of Tuscany, known in Italy as the cradle of the Renaissance, and we’ll see how other cooks are using our precious ingredient.
- As time permits, we’ll also explore some of the other traditional food processes for which Tuscany is famous for—wine, for sure, but also cheese-making, the production of salumi (cured pork products), and the time-honored craft of baking in old-fashioned wood-fired ovens. If you have special interests, let us know–they will be accommodated whenever possible.
English is the language of instruction. We’re happy to include spouses or partners on a first-come first-served basis as space is limited.
Cost: € 2,500 per person, includes pick-up and delivery at Santa Maria Novella, the main train station in Florence, six nights at Villa Campestri, all meals, and transportation to off-site events and activities. (Reduced prices may be available for accompanying spouses or partners who don’t wish to participate in the full program.)