The Kokoraki olive oil from Zakynthos was an easy one to add to the list. It's pretty special stuff for most every reason you can think of—like the Dos Cafeteras coffee candies, it's a good story, a good product, and it also has great design. It scores high on every count: It tastes great, it comes from a place from which we have no other oils, it's uses a varietal we've never carried before, and it's made by people with whom we have a long-standing personal relationship. The bottom line is ... it's excellent, especially so on the salad I wrote about with the figs, feta, and hazelnuts.
Many folks here know Daphne Zepos because we import our Comté through her little company, Essex St. Cheese, or because she comes here to co-teach the ZingTrain Cheese Mastery course with Carlos. I've known her since something like 1995 when we met up in the northern Greek mountain town of Metsovo. This exceptionally good oil is from the farm her sister Amalia, and her brother-in-law, Stathis Potamitis, have on the Greek island of Zakynthos. Located in the Ionian Sea, off the western coast of the Peloponnesian Peninsula, Zakynthos is known for its amazing beaches, its high numbers of hard-to-find-elsewhere sea turtles, its currants, and the quality of its olive oil. By doing all the little, not very glamorous things that it takes to make a great oil, Amalia, and Stathis, have really crafted a pretty amazing offering.
Even if you don't want to taste the actual oil, at least ask for a smell. I love the aroma so much that I seriously feel like I want to surround myself with the scent. Of course, personally, I'd taste it; the more I taste the Kokoraki the more I like it, which given how much oil I get to taste is pretty surely a very good sign. While the flavor of the oil is big, the project itself is pretty small-scale by most standards. The land has been owned by the family for nigh on 180 years. Coincidentally, that's also roughly the number of trees they have. The whole year's production is very small and we liked it so much we worked it out with Amalia to take everything she doesn't set aside for the family to use over the course of the year. Thanks to Grace, Vanessa, and the retail and receiving crews for doing the actual bottling and labeling here in Ann Arbor.
The olives Amalia and Stathis are growing are the Koromiko and Zakynthos Dopier varietals, organically grown. All the olives are picked by hand, then pressed the same day they're gathered from the tree. They leave it all unfiltered because they, like me, like their oil that way. Leaves a bigger mouthfeel, and often a bit of added punch to the flavor.
Speaking of the flavor . . . to my taste, this is one really good, really complex oil. The aroma really is pretty amazing. Nice big nose that makes me want to crawl inside the bottle. Flavor of . . . argali, a bit of pepper, olive. As Jason Hogan, who works on the retail line at the Deli, said, "It's peppery but not too peppery; it's got some grass to it, but it's not like a whole lawn." Got me laughing when he said that last bit, but it's a nice description, so there you have it.