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Olive Oil For Dipping


Stevarino
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Somewhere, Somehow...

Somebody decided to mix some dried spices, herbs, and parmesan cheese with the lowest quality olive oil money can buy, and put it on the table to garnish "the bread course" at some of our finer dining establishments.

I would like to hear the opinions of eGulleters on this practice, from both a diner's and operator's points of view. I have my own, but wanted to let everyone else have a crack at it first.

Stevarino.

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Um...I like it, but I suspect from the tone of your question, I am in the wrong for liking it. So, I will quietly continue to enjoy it, and hope that no one else takes offense at my continued enjoyment.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“A favorite dish in Kansas is creamed corn on a stick.”

-Jeff Harms, actor, comedian.

>Enjoying every bite, because I don't know any better...

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Disclosure: I am a bread snob -- if it isn't good enough to eat plain, I generally will not eat it. If I top it with anything, it will be butter, olivada, cheese, or exceptional preserves. NOT oil -- good, bad, or fancied up. Somehow, it just seems wrong/repulsive to me. That said, oil is somewhat popular, though perhaps a starting-to-fade fad.

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I like it. Natch, the better the oil the better... if ou're going to put "stuff in it" it better be good stuff.

I like olives that you can eat while dipping the bread. Or chile flakes...

does this come in pork?

My name's Emma Feigenbaum.

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I think the whole oil dipping thing is terrible. I was Chef at a sleezy italian place back in the day while I was in school that used to use amazingly cheap olive oil from 1 gallon tins. :x But then again, this was the same place that used chicken stock from a paste, demi-glace from frozen packets, wine from a box. So I wasnt expecting much. They paid REALLY well... then again they were run by the mob. :/

Anyway, give a nice bowl/ramekin/plate of super fatty butter and little Maldon salt... thats a meal in itself to me.

-Chef Johnny

John Maher
Executive Chef/Owner
The Rogue Gentlemen

Richmond, VA

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But, if we can all agree that lousy products are lousy, why is good butter better than good olive oil? Ten years ago we'd be talking about butter instead of oil. Maybe in three years we'll be complaining about shoddy rillettes.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I don't like stuff in the olive oil itself, but I like some good bread , good olive oil and some DUKKA along with drinks ! Outside, preferably...........

I'd never heard of "dukka" before. (I must have missed This Topic back in '02?)

It looks to me like just the thing for crusty bread and good quality olive oil. I think the mouth feel of a good oil would be important?

SB (might try this tomorrow night :biggrin: )

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I like it, but only with good quality olive oil, fresh crusty bread, and a bit of rosemary crushed in. Sometimes I'll even go all the way and add some balsamic vinegar (should I be embarrassed to admit that? :unsure: ) if my olive oil isn't great.

I see it as just another way to get my beloved bread and extra fatty goodness in my body.

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Anyway, give a nice bowl/ramekin/plate of super fatty butter and little Maldon salt... thats a meal in itself to me.

-Chef Johnny

I love butter, too, but it is totally different for me than olive oil. I am not a oo/balsamic dipper, but I like dukka. With butter, just give me good bread !

I'd never heard of "dukka" before.  (I must have missed This Topic back in '02?)

It looks to me like just the thing for crusty bread and good quality olive oil.  I think the mouth feel of a good oil would be important?

SB (might try this tomorrow night :biggrin: )

Steve~

I never saw that thread but think it is well worth reviving. I like dukka as a crust on grilled salmon..... :wub:

Do try it. It is very personalizeable (??? :huh: )...uhhh, you can make it however you like it ! :laugh::laugh:

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So many people rave about the Mediterranean Diet that it is somewhat amusing to see the most staple of all food items now poo-poohed. The use of fine olive oil, perhaps with a few drops of Balsamico added (no herbs, no Parmesan) has been considered a delicacy in this part of the world since the days of the Caesars. Serve a bit of fine coarse Brittany or other sea salt alongside for those who like it and you have a feast fit for the gods.

And on the off chance that olive oil doesn't make it for you, consider instead of or alongside the butter, a fine aioli.

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Perhaps this is where I can finally find out how-when-where this dipping practice got started.

The dipping of bread into olive oil while waiting for a meal is something I have never seen in Italy (where I have lived for 28 years), except in restaurants trying to keep their American tourists happy. Bread is eaten plain unless you are making bruschetta or unless you are comparison-tasting oils (or some such), and then the oil is poured over the bread, not into a (wasteful) dish. Putting stuff in the oil would be even more alien, unless, possibly, again for the purpose of tasting. The only time the bread goes into the oil, as opposed to oil being poured onto the bread, is to "fare la scarpetta"--mop up what's left in your plate after eating something else. In fancy restaurants butter is occasionally served, and at least one super-fancy restaurant I've been to makes a show of opening a small bottle of boutique oil at the table, but you are supposed to pour drops of it onto the bread, to taste the oil, not dip to grease up the bread.

I hesitate to use words like always and never, but I'm pretty sure it's safe to say the practice did not come from Italy. So how did it get started?

I have a theory (based on nothing) that around the time the new wave of Italian restaurants (as opposed to Italian-American) were opening, restaurateurs found the customers (who had grown up on buttery garlic bread) balked at the basket of plain bread and asked for butter. The oil would thus have offered a compromise between the butter the customer wanted and the plain bread the restaurant wanted to serve. Anything in that?

Maureen B. Fant
www.maureenbfant.com

www.elifanttours.com

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Well, I like it....of course it's faddy and perhaps it's pretentious. But I'd much rather have an infused oil, even if of comparatively low quality, than what passes for butter in many places....anything from Butter Reddies nice and chilled straight from the reach-in, and tasting like the inside of the reach-in, or the whipped.....ah, butter-like substances so unfortunately common these days.....as Bourdain says, you can't believe it's not butter? I can! As far as good bread needing to be eaten plain, I agree in theory, but in practice I seem to have a pathological need to eat grease. So I dunno.....I think this trend will pass, but what shall replace it I can't predict.

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Thank you all for your input :biggrin:

There is obviously a difference between pomace oil and EVOO. I have a hard time accepting that people think that pomace oil has any distinguishable quality oil features. I guess that once one adds the "stuff", pomace oil is "good enough" but could be better. The remainder lies in the practicality of economics, and whether to dip, or not to dip.

Many of us understand that EVOO on its own should not be adulterated, distracting our attention from its own unique subtleties. Quality olive oil drizzled over bread with a little sea salt is certainly sublime, but perhaps too simple in the eyes of most. (I have been over ruled for my lack of imagination.)

My opinion remains whole heartedly with Maureen. The bread should be used as part of the meal, not as the first course. Putting all that "stuff" in some industrial grade chemically extracted oil, and having the American Society "thinking" its the cat's ass is a problem with me, as a food service professional. I am dead set against it, and the deciding force thinks its a step forward. So... I guess I will give them EVOO with all that stuff.

I did learn about Dukka from this topic, and thank you Dockhl for bringing it forward. I will present it to them, along with the pizza blend. Unfortunately, I already know which one they wil prefer.

Thanks again for the replies.

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My opinion remains whole heartedly with Maureen. The bread should be used as part of the meal, not as the first course.

Maureen didn't make this explicit, but in Italy, bread is regularly served before the meal. Just not with oil.

Anyway, I suspect that the use of olive oil as a dip was just a response to its increased popularity and perceived health benefits. It seems like I started seeing it maybe 10-15 years ago, which is about the right time frame for that, I suppose.

And I like the combination of good bread and good olive oil. Add wine and you have all the hallmarks of civilization. Cheap bread and cheap oil is terrible, of course; but that's hardly the only sin committed by bad restaurants, is it?

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maureen said--

"I have a theory (based on nothing) that around the time the new wave of Italian restaurants (as opposed to Italian-American) were opening, restaurateurs found the customers (who had grown up on buttery garlic bread) balked at the basket of plain bread and asked for butter. The oil would thus have offered a compromise between the butter the customer wanted and the plain bread the restaurant wanted to serve. Anything in that? "

yeah, right, and it's also closely related to the round loaf and crock of butter that you used to get at surf & turf joints.

I've always thought that it's kind of silly--for one thing, yes, olive oil is extremely good for you, but it's still a fat--and a tiny schmear of butter on a piece of bread has to be less fattening than dipping your bread--I'm sure it soaks up at least a tbls of oil each dip.

Ripping off a hunk of bread, drizzling some OO over it to hold off hunger pangs while sitting on the deck with friends, drinking a glass of wine, and waiting for the meat to finish cooking on the grill is sublime--dipping doughy bread into some weird mixture of seasonings in cheap OO is a waste.

Zoe

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In our little (Italian) winebar we don't serve olive oil with the bread, instead we offer a simple puree of chickpeas and garlic with a cayenne oil drizzled. Only occasional requests for oil or butter.

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Sorry to be the myth-buster once again, but the serving of olive oil and bread is not at all a new habit, being documented during the reign of Herod at his palace at Massada and at the home of Lucullus. It seems the Romans (noble or otherwise) were wise enough to realize that imbibing a bit of olive oil before setting down to serious drinking would slow down the intoxication process. They may not have known about blood circulation but they did know that coating the stomach with oil or buttermilk somehow let the alcohol get to the brain a bit more slowly.

As to Italy, serving olive oil with bread has been a la mode in Sicily and in Campania at least since the 13th century, and later came into fashion with the Medicis in both Rome and Florence. True, the habit never made its way to restaurants but was and still is traditional in many homes. With regard to France, bread was often served with olive oil during the reign of Adolphe Duglere at Cafe Anglais (take a good look at Babette's Feast and you will see olive oil on the table and at least the General dipping his bread into it).

With regard to Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Greece - as Zorba might say it There is no greater sin than a day without olive oil, garlic, bread and wine". And so it has been since the days of Odysseus.

And yes, I do consider the coarse salt a fine addition indeed!

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Sorry to be the myth-buster once again, but the serving of olive oil and bread is not at all a new habit, ...

As to Italy, serving olive oil with bread has been a la mode in Sicily and in Campania at least since the 13th century, and later came into fashion with the Medicis in both Rome and Florence.  True, the habit never made its way to restaurants but was and still is traditional in many homes.  With regard to France, bread was often served with olive oil during the reign of Adolphe Duglere at Cafe Anglais (take a good look at Babette's Feast and you will see olive oil on the table and at least the General dipping his bread into it).

...

I will look forward to re-viewing Babette with that in mind. And as for ancient peoples, of course they combined bread and olive oil. Everybody combines bread and oil. They're delicious together, and salt is certainly a component of bruschetta. But if you can give me chapter and verse for dipping in antiquity, as opposed to simply combining, I'd be much obliged, since ancient cuisine is an interest of mine and I would put the citation to use.

I wouldn't dream of contesting your assertions about later uses, but again, are we talking about dipping or just combining? It would certainly be incredible if a hungry (and probably well-off) person had never poured out some oil and saturated a piece of bread in it. But my question was how the widespread practice of dipping in oil got started in contemporary America since it is absolutely not normal practice in contemporary Italy, so I'm assuming it didn't come from here. It may be practiced in those parts of Italy where it's considered unhospitable not to stuff your guests till they burst, but the contribution to New World Italian food of those areas antedates the dipping bowl by generations.

Other points (and I apologize I haven't figured out the multi-quoting yet):

Manni oil -- yes, that's what I was referring to. They do that at La Pergola in Rome, but last time I was there, if you wanted to dip, you used your butter plate. It was expected you would pour drops on your bread to taste the precious oil, not consume 400 calories of it and spoil your appetite. And you definitely don't put stuff in oil that costs more than your wine.

Yes, bread is served early in the meal and you nibble it dry to stave off hunger pangs till something else arrives. Properly it's served after the pasta, but that's theory, not practice.

I can think of one case of dipping something in oil, pinzimonio. This is served as an antipasto or occasionally as a salad, and in Sardegna it concludes the meal. It consists of raw vegetabes, more or less trimmed, and good oil, salt, pepper, and vinegar as an option (many people don't use it). Each diner has a teensy bowl (sets of these are sold) and mixes his own dressing. If there's any dressing left after the vegs are gone, you can pour it on bread or do a "scarpetta" (in this case, morally a dip).

I sometimes put Manni oil in a tiny pinzimonio dish and designer salt in another and set them out with a mini-colander of tiny tomatoes and toothpicks as an alternative to olives with the aperitivo before the guests are seated. But if anybody stuck a piece of bread in that oil I'd faint. A tiny tomato will grab only a couple of drops, but bread will soak up the whole dish. If somebody wants to taste the oil by itself, I let them put some drops from the bottle on a little piece of bread or, better yet, give them a spoon.

Edited by Maureen B. Fant (log)

Maureen B. Fant
www.maureenbfant.com

www.elifanttours.com

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