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Some have been known to sneak back olive oil from various European destinations (particularly France) simply because these connoisseurs could not find the same taste and quality in the U.S. Until now. Last May, the Provence-based boutique Oliviers & Co. opened its first American store in New York City, and Francvin, Inc., the first national distributor of fine French olive oils, launched a collection of seven superb award-winning oils. Olivier Baussan, the founder of L'Occitane, the French high-end beauty-care company, knows all about luxury. Oliviers & Co., his "Mediterranean specialty stores with olive oil at the heart of them," one located in Grand Central Terminal and one farther uptown on Manhattan's Upper West Side, offer 21 different vintage oils from Spain, Greece, and Israel. Some are monovarietal—made from a singular type of olive, ensuring an extremely pungent flavor—such as the Haute Provence from Les Mées. Others masterfully blend three varieties, such as the Italian Toscano, which has notes of pepper and spice—the perfect dressing for beef carpaccio.
High-end olive oils are actually similar to fine wines: The subtle flavors reflect the terroir, climate, and soil in which the olives were grown. Some are even awarded the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée or A.O.C. "Most French oils you buy," says Francesca de Bardin, who co-owns Francvin, Inc. "are actually not made exclusively from French olives, they are a blend." The A.O.C certificate, which distinguishes four Francvin imports, assures that the olives are grown in France, the oil is produced locally, and no foreign oil is added at any point. The golden Moulin Jean-Marie Cornille from the Vallée des Baux bursts with the aroma of ripe olives, and the Huile d'Olive de Nyons has hints of almonds and hazelnut. Oliviers & Co., Grand Central Terminal at Graybar Passage; 877-828-6620; www.oliviers-co.com
Francvin Inc. oils, at Citarella in New York, Drager's in California—for additional retail information and mail order, 212-679-4674; e-mail Francvin@hotmail.com