© Justin Chapple
Armando Manni Taking a Swig While Thomas Keller Watches OnSluuuurrrrp…slurp…smack! Smacksmacksmack!…cough…cough, cough. Is this a four-year-old finishing a milkshake? Oh no, these are the inelegant sounds of me and F&W Test Kitchen wunderkind Justin Chapple at a recent press event, taking mini shots of what is considered by many to be the world's best (and possibly most expensive) olive oil. The slurping aerates the oil, the smacking opens up its molecules and the coughing results from the sweet burn of polyphenols (organic chemical compounds that carry both the antioxidant kick and the pleasant, grassy flavors). Italian film-director-turned-olive-oil-maestro Armando Manni produces his extraordinary oils in small batches in Tuscany, and while it was previously only available in the US to those willing to shell out for shipping, it's now available at Williams-Sonoma stores or from their website. Fan Thomas Keller, whose team catered the event, is so devoted that it is the only olive oil he uses at Per Se in Manhattan and the French Laundry in Napa. He thrilled the crowd with small bites starring the olive oil, like a Vidalia onion crouton with an olive oil jam. He and Mr. Manni stress that these distinctive oils are not for cooking—the high heat damages the delicate polyphenols and sabotages the flavor and health benefits. Use it for dressing already roasted vegetables, drizzling over grilled steak or, like Keller, as an ice cream topping with a sprinkling of Maldon salt.
$80 for 6.8 oz exclusively at Williams-Sonoma.