Local Food News: Behind the Green Apron with Maria Garcia“We have over 70 different local, domestic and important items in our Olive Bar,” explains Maria. “We source from California, and also from France, Greece, Italy and Spain as well as Chile and Asia.”
As our community prepares to once again celebrate winter’s fruit of the Valley at VinOlivo, we caught up with Maria Garcia, who has managed Sonoma Market’s cheese and olive department for more than 20 years.
Maria and Sonoma Market General Manager Al Minero will be sampling delicacies from the Market’s Olive Bar at the "Grant Tasting" event, part of the 10th Annual VinOlivo, hosted by the Sonoma Valley Vintner’s and Growers Alliance. The Grand Tasting will be held Saturday, March 14 at The Lodge at Sonoma.
Some fun facts about olives:
· Much like wine, olive oil tastes of its terroir, and the fruit at its heart. It is fun to experiment with different pairings!
· Olives are picked when they are ripe, semi-ripe or green, and their color corresponds. Green are the least ripe, purplish and black olives are fully ripe when picked.
· Olives are naturally bitter and must be “cured” and fermented. That is where their briny flavor emerges.
· Sonoma County has more olive oil producers than any other county in California. Many of our wineries also grow olives and harvest them.
· Low in sugar and with a high oil content, olives are a staple in the “Mediterranean Diet,” which many believe can contribute to overall wellbeing and heart health in particular.
Maria stocks the Olive Bar at Sonoma Market primarily with olives, but also with other ‘antipasto’ (or “before the meal” treats) which are marinated in oils and spices that are meant to wake up your appetite and round out a cheese or charcuterie board, such as artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, capers, and pickled garden peppers.
Some of Maria’s favorite pairings include:
· An olive medley with Parmagiano Reggiano
· Kalamata Olives with Feta Cheese
· Oil Cured Olives with Ricotta Salata
· Super Colossal Calabrese Olives with Gorgonzola Cheese
· Gorgonzola-stuffed Olives with Fresh Asiago
· Garlic-stuffed Olives with Taleggio
· Sundried Tomato-stuffed Olives with Goat Cheese
Maria’s department also creates beautiful and delicious tortas – layered dips that feature cheeses and olives, such as our layered brie with roasted garlic and kalamata olive spread.
At the end of the day, Maria says to simply “Enjoy! At your table the best pairing is good food, good cheese, good wine and good company.”
Fun facts in this article were culled from Wikipedia, The International Olive Council and Olive Oil Times.
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