I attended an exciting unveiling by STAR® Fine Foods of their new California Extra Virgin Olive Oil last week. The event was co-hosted By STAR® Fine Foods and Amy Sherman of Cooking with Amy (shown left in the photo below) and held at Zaré at Fly Trap Restaurant in SOMA, where we enjoyed Chef Zaré’s cuisine which is described as Mediterranean with a Persian influence. STAR® Fine Foods was founded in San Francisco by the Guirlani family in 1898, and has been producing olive oils and kitchen staples such as olives and vinegars ever since. They are launching their first grown-in-California olive oil and promoting the Mediterranean diet which of course involves copious amounts of olive oil.
The specially crafted menu paired Chef Zaré’s dishes with some of the STAR® olive oils which will be rolled out in stores throughout the West this fall with a special emphasis on the California Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a blend of cold-pressed olives grown in the Central Valley. The first course was a refreshing mound of cucumbers that were cut in long strands in the shape of linguine pasta tossed in a dressing made with crème fraîche, STAR® Mediterranean Extra Virgin Olive Oil and fresh dill. This was topped with lightly smoked trout, and garnished with a dollop of finger lime, which if you have never had it, looks and acts just like caviar, but instead of tasting of the sea, the tiny pods contain a citrus essence that bursts when you bite into them, filling your mouth with a gorgeous explosion of bright lime flavor.
The next course were grilled marinated sardines seasoned with harissa and served with chunks of heirloom tomatoes, Persian cucumbers, paper thin slices of onion, pungent garlic chips, and drizzled with a black garlic vinaigrette featuring STAR® California Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The chunks of black garlic were dense and chewy and were sweet like garlic caramels and each bite was full of exotic and heady flavors. I practically licked the plate clean…
The main course was Lamb Abgoosht, a spectacular dish of tender slow cooked lamb that had been shredded and mixed with potatoes, tomatoes, smashed garbanzo beans, roasted garlic and formed into a patty. It was served in a savory broth flavored with turmeric and dried lime along with a handful of fresh peas and topped with a slice of grilled baguette strewn with edible flowers and micro greens, drizzled with STAR® Originale Pure Olive Oil.
A bowl of pickles called Torshi was passed along, Chef Zaré recommended that we add to the broth for extra flavor. I put in a couple of spoonfuls which added a piquant depth to the savory broth.
A basket of flatbread was served in addition to the grilled baguette, which I liked to wrap up the lamb in, kind of like a taco, although I think you are supposed to tear the bread up into little pieces and put that in the broth like croutons.
To finish our meal we were served a gorgeous creamy buttermilk-vanilla bean panna cotta. It was topped with fresh red currants, sprinkled with black sea salt and a drizzle of STAR® California Extra Virgin Olive Oil. This was my favorite dish, I really loved the rich custardy panna cotta drizzled with olive oil and biting into the crunchy salt crystals. Actually, this was the only time during the course of the meal that my attention was really focused on the olive oil, which added a lovely rich fruity sheen to the creamy panna cotta.
We each received a box stuffed with tiny samples of STAR® olive oil and balsamic vinegar, which are perfect to take on picnics or to keep at my desk to perk up an unenthusiastic take out salad.
It’s heartening to see an old familiar brand is still kicking it… A lot of people use STAR® olive oil for cooking because it is so mild and reasonably priced; it is great to see them forging into new territories. I was very intrigued by these bottles of infused olive oils developed by flavor wizard Ferran Adrià, which were set on the tables as decoration. Unfortunately we didn’t get to try these…
Thanks to Amy, the STAR® Fine Foods team and Chef Zaré for hosting this informative and delicious event!