On today’s post, we are talking “Greek liquid gold” which translates to olive oil. One of my all-time favorite ingredients that can always be found in my kitchen pantry.
Not only am I excited to talk about Greek Olive Oil but I am ecstatic to introduce a fellow Maniati on Kouzounas Kitchen. As most of you know my father is from Mani, Greece. My Greek roots stem from the Mani region as both my grandparents were from two small villages in Mani; Kotrona, and Parasyros. Our featured guest, John’s, mother is from Mani.
I would like to welcome my friend from Toronto, Canada to Kouzounas Kitchen. Please help me welcome John Poulis, owner ofNektar Foods
Q & A NEKTAR FOODS
How did Nektar Foods come about?
Nektar Foods came out of wanting to elevate the perception of Greek cuisine to the rest of the world. There was an article written 2012 fromTaste.com.authat I happened to stumble upon a few years back, believe it or not, that was my starting point. It was called MasterChef’s Matt Preston and George Calombaris reignite an ancient food fight. The article is light and funny and compares the Italian and Greek cuisines. In the article, Matt Preston, who is an English born Australian food journalist makes the case of Italian cuisine being superior and regulates Greek cuisine to being sub-par at best. He goes on to mention feta as Greece’s only great cheese and asks do we have cured meats? At one point he states Greece’s cuisine is borrowed from different cultures. Now we have to keep in mind that this was all in fun, but it is to an extent how Greece’s cuisine is perceived around the world. Chef George Calombaris did defend and his one comment “much of our cuisine is far too precious to share with the rest of the world” sums up Greece’s cuisine on the world stage. It was at that point I decided I wanted to contribute to elevating the perception of Greece’s cuisine.
2. Can you tell us a little bit about Nektar Foods?
Nektar Foods is a Canadian based company and our mission is “Sharing the Gastronomical Wealth of Greece”. We are a new company, just started operating in April 2018 and we want to be ambassadors of Greece’s premium and traditional products. We started with the basics, importing Greek Olive Oil, but this Olive Oil is a little different than what is currently being imported into North America.
We import Olive Oils from different regions and olive types, we import from Lesvos (kolovi olive), Alexandroupoli (makri olive) and of course Peloponnese (koroneiki olive). Also, all our Olive Oils compete in the international Olive Oil competitions and have received the highest honors. All have placed gold in the most prestigious New York Olive Oil competition and we have the only Greek Olive Oil, Argali, to have ever won the prestigious best in class award. Our partners in Lesvos and Alexandroupoli have taken turns winning best Olive Mill in Greece in 2016 and 2017. Our PJ Kabos brand is the official Olive Oil of the famous Nobu Restaurant Franchise. Needless to say, we carry some of the best Olive Oils from Greece.
We also wanted to explore Greek Charcuterie and started with sausages. Believe it or not, the sausage has deep roots in Greek Cuisine, it transcends all regions in Greece, every region has a recipe. We produce four gourmet style sausages that focus on the more popular regional flavors. Spicy with Leek from Kastoria, Leek, and Cumin from Thessaloniki, Spicy and Citrus from Kalamata and Traditional Smoked Orange from Mani.
3. For a beginner foodie who hasn’t tried cold pressed Greek olive oil, what information can you tell them?
The environment, the culture, the aromas, and the flavors that are hidden in the soil and form the character of the product, this is called “Terrioir” when discussing wine and is just as significant in extra virgin olive oil, “Topikos” or “Periohi” is the Greek translation. Greece has the first documented cultivation of Olive Oil from 3500BC on the island of Crete, the history and traditions that Greece has is so rich that Greek Olive Oil is a must for anyone who wants to try olive oil for the first time.
We carry olive oil from Ancient Olympia, where the ancient athletes covered themselves with it prior to competition, our Olive Oil Kyklopas is grown in the valley of where Odysseus and his crew were to have maimed the Cyclops, according to the Homer’s Odyssey and our ACAIA and Aeolian Olive come from the island of Lesvos, where the Kolovi Olive is indigenous to this island, “bays of olive groves” has the highest per capita of olive trees in the world.
4. You carry about 5 different Greek olive oils from Greece. Can you tell me a little bit about each olive oil and the region it comes from?
Argali Superior Organic Olive Oil (koroneiki)– Our organic olive oil, from the capital of olive oil production in Greece, Messinia. No fertilizers, pesticides or weed killers used and not watered either. They sacrifice quantity to produce the best quality oil with a light ecological footprint. Intense flavor. Only Greek Olive Oil to win Best in Class Award.
Kyklopas Early Harvest Extra Virgin Olive Oil (makri)– From Northern Greece, Alexadroupoli, the trees are between 500 and 2500 years old, one of the oldest Olive mills in the Mediterranean. They are In full control of every stage of the oil production. Medium to the Intense flavor. 2016 Best Olive Mill in Greece, most awarded Greek Olive Oil.
PJ Kabos Extra Virgin Olive Oil– From Ancient Olympia. Official Olive Oil of the Nobu Restaurant Franchise. In complete control of all Olive Oil Production phases, abiding by strict standards which protects the environment and produces the highest quality medium flavor. Gold medal at New York Olive Oil Competition 4 year straight 2015-2018.
PJ Kabos Virgin Olive Oil– From Ancient Olympia, comparing with most Extra Virgin Olive Oils, it is surprising it is categorized as Virgin.
ACAIA/Aeolian (kolovi)– From the Island of Lesvos. Olive Indigenous to Lesvos only. Olives are grown and handpicked at an altitude just under 2,000 feet. Over 11 Million Olive trees in Lesvos. Delicate flavor. ACAIA Gold medal at New York Olive Oil Competition 4 year straight 2015-2018. Aeolian Gold medal at New York Olive Oil Competition 2007.
5. Olive oil is the liquid that makes Greece. Can you tell us how you feel about olive oil representing Greece?
There is no better symbol to represent Greece. The olive tree is reliable, long-lasting and fertile, the olive branch is a symbol of peace, olive laurel wreaths are symbols of victory and honor.
Odysseus Elytis 1979 Nobel Prize winner for Literature puts it best- “If you deconstruct Greece, you will, in the end, see an olive tree, a grapevine, and a boat remain. That is, with as much, you reconstruct her.”
Olive Oil is deep-rooted in Greece’s daily life, as Homer put it is“liquid gold.” It is the main food staple. During the aftermath of World War II, when my parents were children, food was scarce and bread dipped in olive oil and covered in salt was the meal that helped sustain them throughout the day.
Olive Oil is the key component in religious sacraments Baptism and Holy Unction.
6. What makes Greek olive different from the rest of the olive oils let’s say in the states and other countries.
It is the “Terroir” of Greece’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil that distinguishes it above all other Olive Oils.
7. What Greek chefs do you look up to?
Lefteris Lazarou, Christopher Peskias, George Calombaris, Georgianna Hiladaki, Nikos Roussos, Akis Petretzikis, Vasilis Kallidis, Pano Karatassos, and Erik Cosselmon.
8. What’s the importance of olive oil in the Greek cuisine?
Olive Oil is of central importance in Greek Cuisine. It is Greece’s superfood, providing health benefits that have put several regions in Greece as part of the Blue Health Zones (living to 100 years old). There is no replacing it- from frying with it to dressing food and using it in finishing sauces. It is important during the Lent period when meat, fish, eggs, and cheese are abstained from and Ladera are the main dishes prepared.
9. What do you think needs to be done or changed in order for Greek olive oil companies more specifically in Greece, to be successful?
I believe the companies we are partnering are doing the right things that more companies should follow. These companies are dedicated to the pursuit of excellence, constantly pushing forward and learning new things. They work on their branding, their exposure, and they understand that competitions provide them with more awareness around the world. These companies are born out of the economic crisis, young professionals that are using modern and traditional means to produce quality. Diamonds are produced out of the greatest pressure and that is how I feel about the companies we have partnered with, they are diamonds. I believe we will see more and more of these types of companies due to the pressure of the economic crisis and they may be the key to getting Greece back on track.
10. What is your all-time favorite quote?
Benjamin Franklin Quote: “You can do anything you set your mind to.”
11. Is Nektar Foods available for purchase in the USA?
Yes, our olive oil will be available in the USA onAmazon.com, just shipped my first shipment to them and they should be updating their website accordingly.