The other day I read a great article in the Washington Post by food writer Jane Black (free registration may be required), all about how anything Thomas Keller touches turns to gold. Producers clamor to be considered, sending samples of their best butter, cheese, chocolate and pork in hopes that it’ll become part of the pedigreed French Laundry pantry.
The piece goes into some depth about a particular Spanish olive oil, Valderrama, that the Laundry recently started using, a product that is only available in very limited quantity and that meets Keller’s (and chef de cuisine Corey Lee’s) exacting standards of quality: The entire process, from harvest to pressing, takes only 45 minutes. The oil is then kept in an inert nitrogen or argon atmosphere and is only bottled when it is ordered. Of course, I thought, this stuff is probably quite expensive.
It’s imported by Le Sanctuaire, so when I was over there last week checking out items for our forthcoming holiday gift guide (have you been yet, food geeks? You must check it out!) I asked to taste the four varieties, each made from a single variety of olive. They’re buttery, fruity, delicious—Keller and Lee know their stuff. But I was most astounded by was the price: a mere $19 for a 16-ounce bottle—used judiciously, it should last me a couple of months and, since a visit to Yountville isn’t in the cards for me anytime soon, it’s the closest I’ll get to French Laundry-quality food.