A couple weeks ago I got to tag along with my friends from Cobram Estate Olive Oil for a typical day of harvest in the olive groves (and lots of olive oil indulging to celebrate the season). The Italian olive oil lover in me is always up for a visit to their groves and any chance to eat really really fresh olive oil. For those who may not be as familiar with Cobram Estate, they’re the leading olive oil producer in Australia and began producing in the Sacramento area as well a few years ago so they’d be able to ship the absolute freshest olive oil (due to two harvest seasons) across both hemispheres. Also, if you follow CITNB regularly then you know my friend Kevin, Cobram’s Chef at Large, (I met him on a harvest tour a couple years back)… and so you know I never miss a chance to eat whenever he’s involved. He has inspired my palate and cooking skills over the years–and has taught me so much about cooking with olive oil. Most recently Kevin cooked for my friends and I for my “non-birthday party” ha! It was such a delicious night.
Even though I have experienced harvest with Cobram a couple of times now I continue to pick up new insight on olive oil and had the best couple of days hanging with their team. From riding on the harvester and learning more about Cobram Estate’s high attention to quality, to drinking my weight in olive oil and learning how to tell the difference between really great EVOO and the not-so-great, and a cook-off with some of the top Bay Area chefs (I felt like I was on one of those reality cooking shows for a minute)… I had the absolute best two-days nerding out about olive oil. So let’s rewind and let me take you through a visual diary.
We kicked things off in the groves locally here in Woodland. I’ve said it before a number of times, but living in the heart of the farm-to-fork capital is pretty awesome. Makes me feel really good about what I’m eating and the access to really fresh produce that we have. There’s truly something so special about getting to eat fresh olive oil that has literally been picked and pressed that week right in the groves. Also did you know the fresher the olive oil the higher the antioxidant levels which is why you should always seek out the best stuff and use it quickly. I’m often surprised when friends don’t realize olive oil should be treated like produce, it does expire!
We rode harvesters, walked the groves, tested the fresh press (I had multiple cups-full personally)…
As the sun began to set we gathered around for a glass of wine, cheese, and made olive branch floral crowns with Hannah of Fully Belly Farms. I ended up hanging my flower crown on my front door the next day and it’s been my October / November-door decor!
Kevin on the grill! I was very excited to see butternut squash on the menu (always my favorite this time of year).
Yep, I’m still thinking about that butternut squash…
Kevin’s olive oil infused cakes always surprise everyone with the flavor! This carrot cake iteration was a new one for me, and the olive oil icing was out-of-this-world delicious. You could make it as strong or as subtle in taste as you want. So so good. I’ve posted his olive oil cake recipe on the blog before (at the end of this post) and I can’t recommend it enough! So light, but unique in flavor, and the perfect after dinner bite.
The dinner setting… there’s something truly special about dining in the groves (especially at dusk). Those pink and purple skies are magic.
Day two began in St. Helena among the vineyards at the historic Rutherford House. It was such a stunning setting to spend the day.
There’s nothing like an early morning olive oil tasting to invigorate your palate for a day of cooking. Who needs coffee right? We were teamed up with various California chefs from some of the top restaurants (from Sacramento, Napa and even Ojai) and all given a particular Cobram Estate varietal to cook with. I was on team Sactown–with the duo behind Niche Bread & Co (Daniel Stephan and Marques Ochoa). And we made shrimp toasts–their fresh bread drillzed with plenty of Cobram Estate EVOO. At the end of the day everyone came together with their dishes for a family dinner! The evening ended with plenty of wine to go around, live music by Manzanita (which later turned in karaoke and yours truly joining in on harmony). What can I say, good food and a down-to-earth fun group always leads to the best of nights!
They made a lemon infused bread for the shrimp toasts–I loved the subtle hint of lemon zest. (By the way, Niche Bread & Co. will be opening their physical location downtown on K street soon and I can’t wait!)
Shrimp Toast, servings 6
For the shrimp:
1 lb medium sized shrimp (shelled and cleaned)
2 cloves garlic (sliced lengthwise)
5 cups Cobram Estate Coratina Olive Oil or First Harvest
For the aioli:
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup Cobram Estate Coratina Olive Oil or First Harvest
1 tsp pimenton
1 clove garlic (chopped)
zest of 2 lemons
1 loaf of rustic country bread
parsley (cut stems 1/2” from the top leaf)
maldon sea salt
Put a large pot on a burner on low heat. Add all 5 cups of olive oil with garlic and bring to 180 degree F. Add shrimp and lower temp to low. Cook for 15 minutes.
While shrimp are poaching, take a aioli ingredients (minus oil) and add to blender. Start blending and slowly add oil until consistency is reached. Put in a bowl and chill until ready to plate.
For the bread, slice into 3/4” slices and brush with olive oil. Grill until crispy on one side.
To plate, take one piece of the grilled bread with grilled side facing up. Spread aioli onto bread. Place two shrimp side by side onto bread. Garnish with parsley, maldon sea salt and more olive oil.
You know me, I’m always up for styling a table and so when the Cobram team asked me to help I of course jumped up and ditched the Niche boys at our station (ha!). Of course the dishes from the day were the main event but I grabbed olive branches, fall flowers from around the house and seasonal squash… keeping everything super simple.
There was something just so special and rewarding to come together at the end of the day to taste everyone’s unique dishes after spending so much of the afternoon cooking in our separate teams. We dined on lamb and a variety of fire roasted veggies made by Jaret and Mona, the talented Portland couple behind Tournant, halibut ceviche made by Maeve and her sister (former chef of Saltwater in Inverness and soon to be opening a restaurant in Ojai), fresh bread from the Niche boys with plenty of Cobram Estate fresh pressed olive oil for dipping, and our shrimp toasts and olive oil cake for dessert, made my chef Jodi Chavious (of Fair Oaks restaurant Shangri-la).
For a complete menu and more recipes from the day you can head to Cobram Estate’s blog.
Thank you to Cobram Estate for including me in your harvest celebrations this year and for collaborating on this post!
Photography | Myself + Melissa Gayle Fuller