Nestled in the rolling, scenic mountains of Stellenbosch, Tokara Delicatessen is home to the freshest and arguably most delicious olive oil we’ve ever had touch our tastebuds. We discovered a whole new world of olive oil on our trip to Tokara, and a whole new appreciation for the “liquid gold” too.
Arriving at Tokara on one of the last few sunny days winter had to offer, was a scene that even the crisp Tokara Sauvignon Blanc served upon our arrival couldn’t make us forget. Midday had the sun gleaming down on the rich greenery of the olive vineyards, with a clear blue sky and perfectly warm, yet cool early winter weather.
We were greeted by Gert van Dyk, olive farmer and oil producer at Tokara. Expert in all things olive oil and farming, Gert took us through the medium-sized, sunlight room, where the uniquely South African exquisite olive oils are produced. In a few processes, the olives go from whole fruits to extra virgin Tokara olive oil. With no use of chemicals and industrial refining, the purity, along with all of its health benefits, are maintained. The simplicity of this process is what makes it “extra virgin” olive oil.
After our tour of the olive oil making process, we were seated at a long dining table and began our tasting, and were enlightened to the correct way an olive oil tasting is done. Three small, blue cups were placed in front of us, each containing a cold-pressed Tokara olive oil, fresh off the press.
First, we needed to warm up the olive oil in order for it to release its full flavour. We placed the first cup in the palm of our hand and held the top of the cup with the other. After about 30 seconds of holding, swirling and anticipation, we removed our hand from the top of the cup.
A soft and mild, balanced and grassy aroma hits the nose as we take a whiff of the Mission Tokara olive oil. We then sipped a small amount of the olive oil and let it envelop our tongues. The aftertaste highlighted subtle fruit and nut tones, with a slightly efflorescent palate.
We repeated the same warming up-flavour releasing technique as before, and tasted the second olive oil, the Tokara FS17. A nutty tone dances on the taste buds as the fresh and medium tasting olive oil goes down smoothly.
Lastly, we tasted the Coratina. An olive oil with a robust pepper and green herbaceous apple intensity with full flavour. The spicy flavour on the tongue had a few coughs erupt throughout the tasting, but is perfectly balanced by some bread, salt and cheese.
After tasting the olive oil on its lonesome, we poured a splash of each variety onto our plate, sprinkled a pinch of salt and dipped a piece of fresh ciabatta into the oil, then the salt and topped it with some light, white cheese. The combination went particularly well with the spicy Coratina variety olive oil.
After our tasting, we were treated to some deliciously garlic-y focaccia to end off the tasting, and begin our three-course lunch menu.
For starters, a gorgonzola, beetroot and citrus salad was served. A combination of flavours one would not normally put together, but had us scraping our plates clean. Then, the main meal. We were spoilt for choice with an option of mushroom risotto, line fish and chips or a tender piece of red meat. We went for the mushroom risotto, as it seemed like the lighter option after the olive oil, bread, cheese, focaccia and salad we had just filled up on. The risotto was rich and creamy, delivering the perfect combination of mushroom and cream, with parmesan to top it all off.
Dessert was a winner all round, and was made with olive oil too. An orange polenta cake topped with candied orange slices and powdered sugar, along with a scoop of orange sorbet, ended of our lunch on a high note and a full stomach.