We heard about this Spanish olive oil that was a good deal on the Good Food podcast. A few days later we were at Vera, and we saw it was the olive oil that Mark Mendez was using. A few days after that we saw it on the shelf at Publican Quality Meats; we were about to grab a bottle when suddenly a voice behind us said "Oh yeah, that's the good stuff, we use it all the time." We turned around, and it was Paul Virant touting the stuff. How did one olive oil suddenly become the favorite of so many chefs?
Well, winning the 2011 Sofi international competition for olive oils helped put Castillo de Canena on the map, but just as important is that chefs are recognizing that Spanish olive oils represent excellent flavor for the money— and the third piece is that the current generation of owners of this family olive oil dating back to 1780 are savvy enough to know how to capitalize on interest in places like Chicago.
Rosa Vañó worked for Coca-Cola in Europe before she and her brother took over the family olive groves in southern Spain and moved away from commodity production to their own branded line. They make three extra virgin olive oils, one from arbiquena olives, one from picuals, and a special first-day-of-harvest oil whose label, like a wine label, is designed by an artist— in the current case, Spanish-born Pau Gasol, better known as a player for the Los Angeles Lakers. We spoke with Rosa during the National Restaurant Association show earlier in the week about how her olive oil conquered Chicago; our four-minute interview video is below.