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Paso Robles Olive Oil Festival 2009

 
Source: Nancy Ash - Strictly Olive Oil
09/01/2009

Event Review

A celebration of all things olive welcomed visitors to Central California’s Paso Robles on Saturday, August 22nd for the Sixth Annual Olive Festival. On a rare, cool summer’s day, Downtown City Park was filled with the hungry, thirsty and just plain curious who tasted and shopped their way through over 125 booths, most representing locally-made food and crafts.

In a day filled with activities, including recipe and cooking competitions, music, dancers, the Kid’s Zone, and an olive oil tasting seminar taught by this writer, the festival provided entertainment for the entire family. And with many of the downtown businesses offering discounts at their stores, the entire city of Paso Robles seemed vibrant with the festival spirit.

Most of the 36 oil and olive booths featured the efforts of local growers from San Luis Obispo County. Both the California Olive Oil Council and The Olive Center of UC Davis were festival sponsors and distributed flyers with information for both producers and consumers. Four nurseries, including Sierra Gold and Novavine, were on hand to answer questions about growing practices and olive varietals. Table olives, flavored oils, vinegar (some produced from local wines), and olive-themed crafts were also available; among my favorites were the hand-carved olive wood plaques and utensils made by Nick Canigiula of Tuscali Olive Oil.

The busiest spot was retailer We Olive’s booth which offered free samples of olive oil ice cream with an optional topping of balsamic vinegar. Though this may not be your usual dessert, it was cool and refreshing, and devoured by young and old alike. We Olive, a festival sponsor, also hosted cookbook author Fran Gage, who signed copies of her recently released book, The New American Olive Oil, for attendees.

In addition to olives and oil, festival goers enjoyed foods from a handful of vendors, including crispy taquitoes sold to raise funds for the local Cinco de Mayo Scholarship Committee. Nearby restaurants and cafés provided plenty of additional dining options, and I can highly recommend both Panolivo and Artisan where I enjoyed breakfast and dinner respectively.

The area surrounding Paso Robles is well-known by wine connoisseurs who were not disappointed with the festival’s viniferous offerings. For a fee of $15, which included a commemorative wine glass, you could select tastings from 16 local purveyors, including the award-winning Eberle and Peachy Canyon Wineries.

Saturday’s festival was preceded by a Friday evening Social Mixer at the Paso Robles Inn attended by many of the Festival’s sponsors and vendors. Featuring local wines and appetizers prepared by the Inn’s chef (I especially enjoyed the endive filled with Hook’s Paradise blue cheese and candied walnuts, drizzled with fig balsamic vinegar), the highlight of the evening was the presentation of awards from the festival’s First Annual Olive Oil Competition as follows:

Spanish-Style Olive Oil

  • 1st Place Olio Nuevo
  • 2nd Place Carriage Vineyards
  • 3rd Place Joelle

    Italian-Style Olive Oil

  • 1st Place Lucero
  • 2nd Place Laraneta Vineyards
  • 3rd Place Hidden Hills

    Mission-Style Olive Oil

  • 1st Place Olio Nuevo
  • 2nd Place Lucero
  • 3rd Place Carriage Vineyards

    Flavored Olive Oil

  • 1st Place Lucero
  • 2nd Place Pasolivo
  • 3rd Place Pasolivo

    Upon winning his third honor that evening, it was commented that producer Dewey Lucero was beginning to resemble Michael Phelps with all of those medals hanging around his neck!

    It is a testament to the growth in this region’s olive oil industry that each year’s festival is bigger and more successful than the previous year’s. Many thanks are owed to the hard-working volunteers and generous sponsors of the festival, and especially to this year’s Main Sponsor, olive oil producer Olea Farms. To join in the festivities next summer, be sure to mark your calendars with the date of the Seventh Annual Paso Robles Olive Festival which will be held on August 21st, 2010.