Some people are book-driven travelers, setting off to find the wine-dark sea of Homer’s Odyssey. Others are movie-driven travelers, delighting that they have found the house in Anacortes where The Goonies was filmed. In my family, however, we are food-driven travelers, taking every opportunity to enjoy the bounty of the land.
Last summer afforded us such an opportunity: we had been in Pismo Beach for my cousin Dara’s wedding and on the way home took a detour to visit Pasolivo, an olive orchard and producer of award-winning olive oils. We followed a winding road through rolling hills covered with silver olive trees, rows of grape vines and the ever-wild California Live Oak. A charming barn and farmhouse set the quaint tone of the Pasolivo orchard. The walls inside the tasting room were splashed with cheery yellows and greens, and bright printed tablecloths and cookbooks were for sale. A party of ten raucous visitors dipped their cubes of bread into the six oils and brazenly passed their judgments. As my parents and I counted out six bread cubes to taste the oils, the woman proctoring the tasting explained that Pasolivo is a family-run orchard on 45 acres and has been producing for eight years. We tasted all of Pasolivo’s oils: an extra virgin oil, a California blend, a Kalamata oil, and Meyer lemon, lime, and tangerine flavored oils. Pasolivo has won ten gold medals in the last three years in the Olive Oils of the World Competition. The bottle we purchased, their extra virgin olive oil, won Best of Class in the 2007 Los Angeles International Olive Oil Competition. As we tasted the oils, the woman suggested food pairings for each oil-salmon, grilled eggplant, ceviche. Lastly, we mixed one of the citrus flavored oils with a local honey, foretelling a wonderful breakfast with crusty bread and figs. The tasting room sold other olive oil related products: olive oil lip balm and lotions, chocolates made with tangerine olive oil, and garlic-stuffed olives.
While I was reading a framed article about Pasolivo, four bikers, arms sleeved with tattoos, entered the tasting room. One of the bikers pointed to a bottle of the California blend olive oil and said to his friends, “Man, this is my favorite stuff. I use it all the time.” The woman behind the counter, having caught a glace of this lover of olive oil, raised her hands in welcome and exclaimed with a smile, “Hey! We like this guy!” The tasting room broke into a happy chatter of friends catching up and enjoying good olive oil.
We all left at the same time-the ten rowdy tourists crowding into their white limousine chartered for a tour of the wine country; the bikers rumbling away into a cloud of dust on their Harley Davidsons; and my parents and I straining for one last glimpse of the seasoned farmhouse, our new bottle of olive oil tucked safely in the trunk. I wondered where the tourists’ and bikers’ travels would take them-maybe an upscale restaurant or a show, maybe a hole-in-the-wall pub or an aunt’s Victorian mansion. Even as my parents and I reached our destination, our home, I knew our travels weren’t over-there were still more olive oils to taste, more wines to sample-we simply had to find them.