Invite your friends over to celebrate Chanukah and the miracle of oil with a different spin at an olive oil tasting party. While any younger guests are spinning dreidels for gelt, the adults can spin the tops off a few bottles of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) for a delicious evening.

You’ve been to a wine tasting? So breathe. It’s that easy. Ask friends to BYOOO (yes, that means “bring your own olive oil”) or head to a specialty shop and ask the owner to recommend a selection of 5-6 oils in your price range. Your average supermarket will have a few choices, but freshness is key. Look for a harvest date within the past year. See below for suggested markets.

Set out clear or white dipping bowls to appreciate the color of the oils. If your friends didn’t already know you’re cool, break out your collection of shot glasses to use as tasting cups. Big points there. Offer the oils one by one, working from mild to greater intensity. Swirl, sniff, slurp, swallow…shmooze! You can even create your own rankings, scoring points for color and taste.

Be sure to offer your tasters slices of granny smith apples between different oils. As a good white bread is to a wine tasting, green apples are to olive oil tastings – a great palate cleanser. But you’ll want to break out the bread, too, for dipping and discussing. Slice up a mild, sweet French bread and fan out on a platter. Sourdough, albeit delicious with EVOO, will obscure flavor of the oil.

While a night eating bread and olive oil sounds like a little slice of heaven to me (somebody grab me some sweatpants and a fleece blanket, please), your guests may appreciate a savory appetizer to round out your tasting. Introducing…the edgeh! If an omelette and a pancake fell in love, you’d get an edgeh. Crunchy on the outside and chewy in the inside, I hope you’ll fall in love with edgehs, too.

Edgehs are fried in (you guessed it) olive oil and traditionally served on Chanukah in Syrian communities. The rest of the year you can find them at street stands in innumerable variations throughout the Middle East. But, apparently, edgehs have a universal appeal. While photographing for this post, I took my platter of edgeh outside to my front step to snap some pics in natural light. As I’m setting up my shot, our mailman pulled up in his truck and walked over. Perhaps a little hungry too, he asked what I was doing and I offered him an edgeh. He happily obliged, took a bite and said, “The only thing I’ve ever eaten that looks like these are crabcakes…but they’re great!” Crabcakes, you’ve been warned: the edgeh is here!

In addition to the mailman, kids will love them too. Attention, mommies and daddies! Edgeh are an easy light meal any day of the week and a great vehicle for leftover veggies. Add a cup of cooked zucchini, spinach, mushrooms, cauliflower, artichoke, or potatoes to the batter. Just make sure to squeeze out excess liquid or you’ll be running after the batter…and your little ones!

Since edgeh can be served warm or at room temperature, before your tasting, arrange some small edgeh whole on a platter, or make larger patties and slice into wedges for easy snacking. And these mild creatures love to carry bold flavors, so you can top with your choice of chopped fresh herbs, crumbled feta, a drizzle of tahini, or a side of sour yogurt.

When the edgeh are all gone, but your guests are staying, follow with a main course, sides and desserts using the olive oil “stars” of the evening in different ways. For a really special touch, at the end of the evening hand your friends a beautiful party gift of rosemary-infused olive oil. This easy DIY craft will make you feel like an Etsy hipster and ensure that memories of your tasting party will linger on the countertops of your friends’ homes for months to come.

To stock up on olive oils for your tasting party, swing by Literri’s, Washington’s oldest Italian grocery store featuring a massive selection of Italian EVOO’s that would make even Rachael Ray’s head spin. For high quality oils from major growing regions around the world, try Ah Love Oil & Vinegar in Arlington, VA, and sample your way through the store before experimenting on your friends at home.

A. Litteri, Inc.
517 Morse Street, NE
Washington DC, 20002
(202) 544-0184

Ah Love Oil & Vinegar
4017B Campbell Avenue
Arlington, VA 22206
(703) 820-2210