By Kathy Saunders,
Wading through the olive oil options at grocery stores these days is as confusing as navigating a maze of olive trees.
Olive oils, especially extra-virgin olive oil, became extra popular when doctors started touting the benefits of their monounsaturated fat. And let’s not forget that television personality Rachael Ray used the term “EVOO” so much she started selling her own brand.
Taster’s Choice judges dipped bread chunks into 17 flavors of extra-virgin oils from the Mediterranean basin.
Their favorite was an Italian oil, Lucina, purchased at Wal-Mart $6.24 for 8.5 ounces. The oil received 91 of 100 points, joining the Taster’s Choice Hall of Fame.
The greenish-golden colored oil was a sweet blend with a very light texture.
Judges raved about a fruity tinge to its flavor. One judge detected a vegetable flavor and said she would put the oil in her salad dressing.
All five judges said they will buy the oil in the future.
“It’s like a fruit smoothie” said one panelist. “This would be excellent on fish.”
Colavita Olive Oil ($10.99 for 17 ounces at Publix) was the second choice, with 84 points. Again, all five judges said they would buy the brand.
The Colavita company boasts that its oil is squeezed from Italian olives the day after harvesting. Not surprisingly, food experts say that the taste of olive oil depends largely on the freshness of the harvest.
The Colavita extra-virgin olive oil, which had a texture like clarified butter, was smooth, with a bit of a bite.
Albertsons’ olive oil store brand, sold in a 34-ounce jug ($10.99), was another favorite. Judges gave it 82 points and said they definitely will buy a bottle.
The Albertsons brand was a bit thicker, with a pleasant golden color and a buttery aftertaste.
“It’s good, clean and neat,” said one panelist, who described the oil as “sunny.”
Also sampled were olive oils from:
Pompeian ($4.49 for 8 ounces at Sweetbay);
Crisco ($5.19 for 17 ounces at Sweetbay);
Hannaford ($4.79 for 17 ounces at Sweetbay);
Filippo Berio ($6.49 for 17 ounces at Sweetbay);
Bertolli ($6.79 for 17 ounces at Sweetbay);
Bella ($5.79 for 17 ounces at Sweetbay);
DaVinci ($8.99 for 17 ounces from Publix);
Gia Russo ($6.59 for 17 ounces);
Rachael Ray ($9.99 for 17 ounces from Publix);
Publix brand ($9.99 for 34 ounces);
Badia ($3.79 for 8.5 ounces at Albertsons);
Vigo ($11.78 for 34 ounces at Sam’s Club);
Carapelli ($7.56 for 25.5 ounces);
Great Value ($4.17 for 17 ounces at Wal-Mart).
Nan Jensen, registered dietitian with Pinellas County Cooperative Extension;
Bob Devin Jones, artistic director of Studio@620
Mary Jane Park, St. Petersburg Times staff writer and “On the Town” columnist;
personal chef and mother of four, Julie Overton;
and Kim Thomson, fifth-grade teacher at Pasadena Fundamental School.
All foods were tasted blind.
Olive oil Judge’s ranking