On our trip to Sonoma last week we stumbled into DaVero on our way back from a visit to Hop Kiln winery. One of the things that caught my attention was the beautiful set of trees in front of the building still showing their Fall foliage with hues of yellows, reds and rusty orange colors. I had to stop, if not to taste their olive oil, at least to take a shot of those trees!
DaVero has been doing organic and biodynamic farming since 1982. They produce not only olives, but also grapes, stone fruits, apples, pears and pomegranates. They also raise pigs and chickens. Everything is supposed to mirror a Tuscan lifestyle. The original grapevines and olive trees were brought here from that part of Italy. The olive oil comes from four kinds of olives that are blended in a specific ratio: Leccino, Frantoio, Maurino and Pendolino.
When we visited, they offered an olive oil tasting of three distinct blends.
The first one, labeled just “DaVero,” the clerk characterized as an olive oil for finishing dishes. You splash a bit on at the end just before serving. I assume that it was a blend of the oils from the four olive varieties, but she never said for certain. She did say that the olives for this oil were harvested back in November 2010. It had a beautiful greenish yellow color. It had a nice silky, grassy, green and slightly piquant flavor. I really enjoyed it. The bottle held about 400ml of olive oil and cost me the hefty amount of 32 bucks. But I was convinced by the organic, biodynamic and the whole Italian approach behind it, lol! The web site claims that it is the “premiere house oil” at Mario Batalli’s Babbo restaurant in New York.
The second oil was like the first but flavored with Meyer Lemon. Actually, they make a big point on the web site of saying that it is not “flavored” as they crush the olives together with the Meyer lemons. Well, however you want to put it, this is an olive oil that tastes like Meyer lemon. I like olive oil and I like Meyer lemon, but I detest mixed olive oils. Enough said.
The third was called “Thirty Weight Utility olive oil and Line Lube.” The name’s supposed to be a joke about restaurant cooking. It is a bit cheaper by volume than the DaVero and comes in a bigger bottle. This one is a mix of last year’s harvest that is blended with 30% of the latest harvest. It reminded me of some Greek olive oil I used to buy from the stores near our old pad in Astoria, New York. I wasn’t a huge fan but Steven liked it.
They told us at the shop that Mario Batalli loves their utility oil so much that they use it in all of his restaurants. Good for DaVero! Though I’m really not that impressed, as I’m no fan of Iron Chef Mario.
I used to like his show. You know the one where he traveled around Italy with that clueless side-kick? The two would go food shopping everywhere, get behind the scenes at local restaurants and always finish the show with some cooking, Italian wine consumption and chitchat about the good life on the Boot. We were enthralled, so much so that one time I made a reservation at Batalli’s restaurant, Babbo.
The reservation was made a month ahead for a special occasion. Our dinner was scheduled for 9:30pm on a weeknight, which was the best that they could offer for two on “such short notice.” We weren’t worried as the helpful website said that you could sit at the elegant bar for a drink while waiting.
We were hungry and a little excited by the Babbo experience, so we arrived a bit too early. The place was packed! Even the bar was full with people eating regular dinners. As a result, the rather brusque maitre d’ told us to go to the bar across the street for a drink while we waited. That’s annoying.
Well, we did and came back on time for the 9:30 reservation. But they wouldn’t seat us. They were too full. It was strange. We waited for about twenty more minutes. I couldn’t help but notice other parties of two waltzing through the doors, apparently unburdened by a reservation, and getting seated immediately. That was really annoying. Perhaps these lucky couples had connections? It was amazing. I inquired about it but was sort of rudely brushed off. We waited a bit longer before we gave up.
Babbo never honored our reservation and we never went back. That night, we ended up walking out about a quarter after ten, hungry and extremely angry. We went to a quaint Italian restaurant down the street for a perfectly satisfying and undoubtedly more affordable meal without a wait or any unpleasantness. This happened about ten years ago but still seems fresh in my mind like it was yesterday.
I almost didn’t buy the DaVero olive oil when they started talking about Babbo and Mario Batalli. Strange.