These days, grocery stores are carrying a dizzying variety of extra-virgin olive oils. One store near us carries nineteen brands. But after holding a blind tasting of sixteen nationally available extra-virgin oils, we no longer have to waffle over which ones to buy. For the most part, none of the olive oils we tasted blew us away. Of the sixteen, however, two stood out as a cut above — good enough to use as a garnish over slices of fresh tomato or for dipping a crusty wedge of bread into. Three others were highly regarded — considered solid choices for cooking and for salad dressings. The top two were relatively on par with one another, so they’re listed alphabetically. The second tier oils are listed in order of preference although two, Dal Raccolto and Carapelli, were a dead tie. The other oils in the tasting included Badia a Coltibuono, Bertolli, DaVinci, Filippo Berio, President’s Reserve, Rao’s, Spectrum Organic, Star, Tassos, 365 Organic, and Trader Joe’s.
$11.99 for 17 fluid ounces (71 cents per fluid ounce) Both fruity and grassy, this oil had hints of chive, melon, and banana. Vibrant, pleasant, and balanced overall, the oil had just a subtle peppery finish and a moderate overall assertiveness of flavor. Available in supermarkets nationwide.
$6.49 for 17 fluid ounces (38 cents per fluid ounce) This oil had a distinct albeit subtle combination of flavors, including almond, herbs, fruit, and grass, and a building pepper finish. As one taster wrapped it up, “Clean, mild, and relatively balanced.” Available in supermarkets nationwide.