Olio2go at the Smithsonian Associates

Buoni Amici,
On Saturday, February 23rd, Olio2go’s, Luanne Savino O’Loughlin and Italian Products’ Cecilia Ercolino, presented Stocking Your Italian Pantry to over 90 attendees at the Smithsonian Associates in Washington DC.

Our session centered on four topics: Balsamic Vinegar, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Pasta, and Fruit and Nuts.

For each segment, we conducted a comparative tasting of a common supermarket product and 2-4 specialty products as we discussed food authenticity. In the final phase of each segment, we revealed a modern product extension.

Inherent in the discussion, we covered certification and labels, including the IGP/PGI and DOP/PDO denominations, as well as the equivalency between the EU and USDA Organic programs.

Balsamic Vinegar: Is it Authentic?

We tasted a grocery store product, followed by the Campania del Montale’s “Anniversary” vinegar, Vigna Oro, and the family edition, Extravecchio.
We enjoyed two modern product extensions — Acetaia Cattani White Balsamic Vinegar and Campania del Montale’s balsamic pearls served on gelato.

Campania del Montale Balsamic Vinegars

Acetaia Cattani White Balsamic Vinegar

Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Is it Real?

For extra virgin olive oil, we began with a famous name from the grocery shelves, purchased the week before, with a stated best by date of July 2020. It was well on the way to rancid!
Our guests had the opportunity to taste the award winning olive oils from Fonte di Foiano and Frantoi Cutrera as they learned about the differences between Tuscan and Sicilian extra virgin olive oils. And we studied the symbols and terms on the labels.
We concluded this session with Giorgio Franci’s video on olive oil production at Frantoio Franci.

Pasta, Prosciutto, and Grana Padano (Is anything better?)

Our pasta demonstration was full of feeling! Each table had two bags of pasta — one contained smooth-surfaced (teflon shaped) commercially made pasta, while the other held bronze-die-artisan-made pasta. Our guests could feel the difference in the surface textures!
This was fun and the “students” enjoyed the exceptional treat of DOP Prosciutto di Parma and Grana Padano. With any discussion of pasta, one must nibble on cheese!

Fruits and Nuts: Searching for Clean Authenticity

In the final segment, we tasted a common jam (look at the percentage of corn syrup!), followed by Tenute Librandi’s Organic Orange Marmalade, made with only oranges, brown sugar, and lemon juice!

Guests also enjoyed a taste of Pear Mostarda, a delightful and intense fruit preserve often served with cheese or roasted meats.

Several final treats included a tasting of the mysterious fat chocolate and hazelnut spread, followed by tastes of Vincente’s Pistachio Cream (DOP Bronte Pistachio), Chocolat (chocolate and hazelnut cream), and Fratelli Motta Cannoli!