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Thursday, June 14, 2018

A Beginner's Guide to Tasting Olive Oil

Co-author of 7 Wonders of Olive Oil, Cécile Le Galliard has been tasting olive oil professionally for over five years. She says you don’t have to be an expert to recognize  good olive oil.

               When blind tasting, professional tasters use blue glasses to hide the real color of the oil 

Photo credit: Gaëlle Ferridis

Have you ever watched a professional olive oil taster blind tasting a sample of extra virgin?

Perhaps your olive oil merchant invited you to taste a few samples of olive oil -  you declined because you had no idea what to do.

 Olive oil tasting is a bit like wine tasting. You won't  get it immediately, you have to learn  what to look for and once you understand the basics you’ll start appreciating the subtle unique aroma and enjoy identifying  the different tastes.

So where do you start?

Unlike wine tasting, fresh is important - ask when the olives were pressed into oil, it'll tell you about   the quality of the oil. Try to avoid buying oils that were processed more than one year before.

Check the aroma

If it’s good olive oil, it will smell good. When you inhale your sample, you should get a fruity sensations; it could be floral or it could  remind you of green aromas. Experts always use the word fruity to describe the aroma of olive oil.  Be vigilant, don’t buy anything that smells (or taste) rancid, moldy, greasy, metallic or like cardboard.

Going deeper, you can decide whether your fruity oil is mild, strong or between the two. If the olives were picked early in the season, you might even detect aromas of herbaceous plants, grass, green olives and tomato plants.

Cupping the oil before tasting
Photo credit: Gaëlle Ferridis

Tasting the oil

Cup the container in both hands for a few minutes to warm the oil before taking in a good mouthful. You do need a good mouthful, enough so  that the oil covers the whole mouth area: not only the front of the mouth but also the sides of the tongue, the palate support, and the throat. 

Don’t swallow immediately but instead let the oil linger in your mouth for awhile. Pay attention to mouth feel, the oil should be crisp and clean.
Experts look for something they call the retro- nasal sensation. What they mean is that the aroma and flavors come together in our mouths which in turn connect with our nasal cavity at the back of the throat.

Your good quality oil will have these two qualities when you taste:


If you feel bitterness at the back of the tongue, this is a good sign; it means the oil has a lot of polyphenols,  healthy natural antioxidants contained in this pure oil.


Pungency is a stinging sensation you feel in the throat when you swallow the oil, also  a good sign showing strong polyphenol content. Did it make you cough? This is a sign of a good olive oil.

To sum up you must first smell the oil and decide if it’s pleasant and fruity. Secondly taste and look for pungency, that peppery bite when you swallow.

Above all, let tasting olive oil  be a hedonistic experience - pleasurable and fun.

Remember too that not all olive oils are fresh; keep an eye out for oils that are rancid.

Want to learn more?

 In 7 Wonders of Olive Oil, olive oil expert Cécile goes into more detail on this intriguing subject of tasting olive oil.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Why you should visit Antibes this Summer

The writer F. Scott Fitzgerald took his wife Zelda to Antibes in 1925.  Back then it was a quiet place ideal for writing. Antibes on the French Riviera has preserved its charm; captivating, traditional and still relatively calm.

The Fitzgeralds  left their elegant Long Island home not for gay Paris, but Antibes, a much less expensive region. Inspired by his new surroundings, Scot Fitzgerald shut himself away and finished off his masterpiece Tender is the Night.

Much has changed since then, but Antibes is still an ideal place to escape to.  Historic, delightful, and beautiful, this little town halfway between Nice and Cannes is much less busy than the rest of the glitzy Riviera.

What makes Antibes, different from the rest of the Riviera hotspots? 

For me, it’s the old town with its narrow cobbled streets, the choice of outdoor cafés, and the atmosphere.  The locals, however, are proud of:

n  The Picasso Museum
n  The Antibes Market
n  The Millionaire’s Port

They are right, here are three must-see spots in Antibes.

View of the old town from the sea 

The Picasso Museum

It would be a pity to miss the Musée Picasso at the Chateau Grimaldi.  Spectacularly positioned, the 14th -century chateau houses a magnificent collection of the maestro’s paintings, lithographs, and ceramics.

 As you look out from the castle’s fortified windows unto the magnificent port of Antibes on the Côte d’Azur, you’ll understand Picasso’s enthusiasm when he first came to live in Antibes. The Spanish painter and sculpture had grown tired of busy Paris and together with his lover, Françoise Gilot headed down to the calmer gentler South of France in the summer of 1946. Picasso’s works may be seen all over the world but it was here in Antibes that he created some of his most impressive oeuvres. Musée Grimaldi became Picasso Museum, the first museum dedicated to Picasso in France in December that year. 

Picasso is the big draw but go here to discover the lesser known Russian artist Nicolas de Stael. The modern abstract painter attracted attention in both Paris, and New York and was just getting known for his success, at the peak of his career when he moved to Antibes where sadly he took his life. Nicolas de Stael’s unique consideration of space, light, and color comes over quite strongly when we look at his vast canvasses such as Le Concert, his last painting.

 The Antibes Market
Antibes Market

The covered food market in Antibes is only a few streets away.  Here’s where you get carried away by fresh Provencal goodies – olives, fruit, herbs, spices, sausages and for cheese gourmets an excellent array of fine cheeses from the mountain. Run daily from 6 to 1 p.m from June, the market in Antibes is not as large as the market in Nice, but, you’ll have time to talk to the local friendly vendors such as olive vendors who will let you will let you try before you buy. Voted by CNN as one of world’s ten best fresh food markets, this is one of the most visited markets on the French Riviera. Admittedly, prices are a bit high, the fruit and vegetables a little more expensive than other markets, but everyone loves the unhurried atmosphere, the delicious smells, and gourmet food.

The Millionaire’s Port

Be mesmerized at the home port of some of the world’s largest mega yachts.  You won’t bump into any millionaires, but you can marvel at the super yachts and mega yachts in Port Vauban. Nicknamed the Millionaire’s Quai, this is one of the largest harbors: it’s freely accessible to everyone so you can walk, stare in awe and observe the young mostly international crew working and preparing the yachts for the summer season from May to October.

Like all of the French Riviera, Antibes is delightful and wonderfully scenic, but, Antibes has more, it has a relaxed feel to it, it is inspiring. Fitzgerald and Picasso followed their heart; they wrote painted and enjoyed this special place in the sun.

One more thing, Antibes is still relatively peaceful, but it might not be for long - check it out this summer.  

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Preventing Obesity Begins at Home

Adult obesity rates are not looking good. Obesity continues to increase and has now become a worldwide health problem.  The disorder can be controlled, however, once we decide to make lifestyle changes and stick to them.

According to Cancer Research UK, obesity is the second biggest cause of cancer in the UK after smoking.  The American Medical Association classes obesity as a disease, associated mostly with our eating habits.  Granted, the Government has increased taxes and levies on specific food in most countries, but in the end, it’s up to us to make changes at home.

To avoid the epidemic from spreading and for our family’s good health, we need to tackle the weight problem in the early stages before it gets out of hand. That means changing our lifestyle habit especially our diet.

As parents and caretakers, we can curb obesity at home.

Being obese means you are overweight. Put simply, you are moving too little and carrying too much body fat.   Excess fat is something the body does not like. Researchers show that obesity can result in type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and a string of other complicated health issues. More seriously obesity is now linked to certain cancers including breast and bowel cancer.

Why is obesity increasing?
  •        As food and soft drinks have become cheaper and more convenient  over the years, we are eating more of it; our bodies are ingesting more salt intake, more processed food, and more sugar in sweeteners and soft drinks.
  •    With our busy lifestyle eating out in restaurants has increased and we tend to have more meals on the go.
  •     We’re not finding enough time to exercise.

So what can we do to fix the problem?
  •    Educate and promote healthy eating habits at home

An obese child will most likely become an obese adult.   Parents have a strong influence on children’s wellbeing so setting an example when they are young will help maintain a healthy weight for later on. Do this by encouraging healthy habits, removing high sugar and fat content and more especially explaining what a balanced diet means.
Indian vegetarian cuisine is  varied and savory *

  •          Cut down on meat, stock up more on vegetables and learn to appreciate the richness and diversity of vegetarian cuisine. Indian cuisine is a fine example of how cooking with vegetables can be colorful, varied and savory.

  •  Limit TV viewing, computers, and electronic games 

If we’re spending too much sitting and watching the screen, it means we are not getting enough exercise. Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) reports that 40% of adults do not participate in leisure activities.

Worrying too is the effect on children. Technology is great, but it can also be extremely damaging when it comes to the health of our children. Researchers showed that children who watched television for more than one hour a day were 52% more likely to be overweight than their schoolmates who watched less TV,

Curbing obesity should be every one’s responsibility today and every day. What’s needed more than anything is to make sure everyone is aware of the risk factors involved when we become overweight and obese.