For lovers of fine gourmet food products, a membership in Gourmet Cooking & Living’s Italian Olive Oil of the Month Club can make for an excellent gift, especially with the holiday season approaching. This club offers subscribers a monthly shipment of premium, artisanal olive oil from some of the best olive oil-producing regions of Italy. While the monthly price of $32 may seem high for a single bottle of olive oil, the quality is exceptional and many of these small-batch produced oils cannot otherwise be easily obtained by American consumers.
The health benefits of cooking with olive oil have long been extolled, and many home chefs now make sure to keep “extra virgin olive oil” on hand for use in their daily recipes. But no two olive oils are the same, as gourmet food lovers can attest, and the use of a truly exceptional olive oil can elevate a meal to greatness. Indeed, many olive oils sold in supermarkets are actually blends of olive and vegetable oils or include other ingredients to stretch the product, but negatively affect their taste. Gourmet Cooking & Living offers one the chance to sample some of Italy’s finest olive oils through their Italian Olive Oil of the Month Club. For $32 a month (including shipping), members of the club receive one 500 ml bottle of exceptional olive oil a month from a different region of Italy, such as Tuscany, Umbria, Calabria or Sicily. These oils are produced exclusively from Italian olives, cold pressed, and come only from the most recent olive harvests to ensure freshness and quality. Most of these olive oils come from small family farms and “green” producers who work to maintain traditional harvesting methods and celebrate the culture and history of Italian olive oil. As such, most of these olive oils are not products you will find on any supermarket shelves, nor even in many Italian specialty shops in the United States. Given that high quality imported olive oils can easily run $20-40 a bottle, Gourmet Cooking & Living’s club price is not unreasonable for the product provided.
Each bottle is very carefully packaged and shipped, with UPS notification sent to the subscriber upon shipment and confirmation of delivery. In several years of belonging to the club, as well as maintaining a gift membership for someone else, I have never had a bottle delivered damaged nor had a shipment go missing. Along with the bottle of olive oil, each shipment from Gourmet Cooking & Living contains a two-page newsletter discussing the specifics of the month’s olive oil selection, some historical facts about the use of olive oil, and recipes which highlight the particular flavor of the oil. Some oils may be particularly fruity and light-bodied; others more spicy to the tongue and wonderful for simple salads and pastas. You may even receive an earthy, rich unfiltered olive oil which is excellent for more hearty use such as winter stews or braised roasts.
One particular favorite recent shipment was the LuMe’ Olive Oil from Sicily, which is made from a blend of three different olives: Nocellara del Belice, Biancolilla and Cerasuola. Some olive oils are even produced exclusively for the Gourmet Cooking & Living Club, such as the Magaria Limited Edition, which was an exceptionally flavorful unfiltered oil produced during the month of October, when yield is minimal but the acidity of the oil is at its lowest. If you find you particularly enjoy a month’s olive oil selection, you can order additional bottles of the oil through Gourmet Cooking & Living’s website at a 10% discount off the regular list price.
Membership in the club renews monthly and is cancelable at any time. There is no discount for signing up for a longer period of time, however there is a discount for multiple memberships if shipped to the same address ($57 vs. $64 for two memberships, or $85 vs $96 for three.) Overall I have found Gourmet Cooking & Living’s Italian Olive Oil of the Month Club to be very worth its membership, both for myself and as a gift for others. My mother, who lives in a very rural community where she cannot get quality Italian specialty products, loves her membership in the club which I began for her last Christmas. She tells me how she looks forward to each new month’s shipment, which typically arrives just in time to replace last month’s nearly depleted bottle. I would recommend this Olive Oil Club to any Italian food enthusiast or home chef. Once you have started using these exceptional olive oils in your cooking, you will find it very difficult to go back to regular supermarket and mass-produced olive oils again.
* Gourmet Cooking & Living: Olive Oil Club.
* Personal experience.