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Manni Olive oil

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By Malcolm Jolley

Apart from being some of the world's most famous chef's at the world's best restaurants, what do Thomas Keller, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and, Giorgio Locatelli have in common? All three use and swear by Italian film director Armando Manni's extra virgin olive oil ("evoo"). The oil, reputedly the world's most expensive, comes in two flavours: Per me ("for me") a bolder fruit forward oil, which we tasted, and Per figlio ("for my son") a lighter version made for his little boy. Manni makes oils as great vintners make exceptional wines, blended from low yield trees on small estates, picked by hand.

Manni was in Toronto a little while ago, holding forth at a Cookbook Store tasting held at Pangaea. Lucky foodies tasted his 2002 and 2003 evoo vintages as he explained his process of halting all oxidisation in each 100 ml bottle. Manni keeps their bottles small to ensure freshness.

Taste is not the only concern to Manni. As he explained, his oils have the highest levels of polyphenels, thought to control "free radicals" and fight "bad cholesterol". These are present in all evoo's but quickly deteriorate due to oxidisation and ultra-violet light. Manni worked with chemists at the University of Florence to develop a method of using nitrogen to bottle the oils, eliminating contact with oxygen. The bottles themselves are made of dark glass to prevent light exposure and are always shipped via air to reduce shipping time, as all oil will lose polyphenels eventually over time.

When tasted, both vintages were strangely dry on the tongue, yet fatty on the lips. The overall effect was a beautiful wash of fruit and flower. Manni claims the purity of his oils actually cleanses the palate, and tasters were given dark Tuscan chocolate to taste with the oils. The result of the combination was a much stronger and cleaner chocolate taste.


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