Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews
A terrific taste of a rarely visited part of the world
While much of the U.S. is thinking about roast turkey for its main meal on Thursday, at our house there’ll be a different sort of Turkey—this one is meatless and marvelous. It’s not the main course, but it will enhance the flavor of pretty much everything else we eat, both that day and beyond. I’m talking about the terrific olive oil we just got in from the folks at Oro di Milas in southwest Turkey, or as they would more accurately write there, Türkiye. Be sure to grab a bottle of this one to bring to your house!
I’ll add up front that although Turkish oils have gotten little attention here in North America, the Oro di Milas olive oil is as delicious as any of the three dozen others we’ve selected so carefully to sell on our shelves. Oro di Milas’ farm, as per its name, is in Milas, an ancient town located in the Muğla province in Türkiye’s southwest. Olive growing there—as it does in all the Mediterranean—goes back something like six millennia. During Ottoman times, oil was one of the region’s most important exports. Turkish olive oils today are, again, on the rise amongst the cognoscenti, and the country’s top oils—like Oro di Milas—have been winning a wealth of awards.
Like many of our best oils, Oro di Milas is a monovarietal—it’s made solely from the very special, unique to that part of the world, Memecik olives. The farm does only old-school hand-picking of the olives from all of its roughly 500 acres of carefully managed trees, and the olives, large and round in shape, are all pressed within eight hours (often less) on the farm’s state-of-the-art mill. Both the picking and the speed with which the olives are pressed after picking are critical contributors to quality, quality you can taste in the finished oil.
The co-owner of Oro di Milas, Emine Colin, was born and raised in Istanbul, and, in recent years has returned to her homeland after a long, exciting career in the United States. When she married her American-born husband Mark, he inspired her to return to her Turkish roots. The two traveled around Türkiye, found a property with neglected olive trees, and set to work to craft a world-class oil. Ten years later, they’ve succeeded. The oil is special and super tasty. If the varied character of regional olive oils were akin to an orchestra, the flavor of Oro di Milas might be the viola; complex, elegant, and fruity with a nice hint of pepper in the finish. It’s not as bold and peppery as a Tuscan oil, but it’s elegant and attention-getting in wonderful ways that remind me of almonds, green grass, and green tomato leaves.
From everything I’ve read and heard in our conversations, Emine is a creative anarchistic spirit after my own heart. As she tells it, “A true rebel spirit, I refused to abide by the rules of the strict Turkish society at the time and I felt that I needed to explore the world and start a new chapter in my life.” She left her homeland for the U.S. to get some space at the age of 19. In California, she joined the ROTC, trained as a dentist, served in the National Guard Dental Corps, and for many years has had her own endodontic practice. Now, many years later, she returned in order to caringly and confidently create a traditional Turkish product on her own terms. The land was purchased from an elderly woman who had no one to leave it to—in this sense, Emine and Mark are helping to maintain Turkish tradition. Every bottle we buy helps keep that tradition alive!
The oil is terrific on pretty much everything from salad to steak. It’s a perfect addition to any freshly cooked fish or seafood—add it when the fish is already cooked and on the plate en route to the table. As per Turkish tradition, it’s especially great with vegetables, and also, I’ll add, with lamb! I like it on toast with some great varietal honey—the Appalachian monofloral honeys I wrote about last month would be marvelous. Great on fruit as well. Gently sauté some heirloom apples or pears in the oil, sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt (and if you like things sweeter, add a small bit of sugar and/or some high-quality raisins). When you’re ready to serve, drizzle on a little more of the Oro di Milas. This simple dish would be delicious for dessert atop some Creamery gelato, as a palate cleanser, served as a sweet side dish with a savory main course, or added to a grilled cheese.