Artisan Partner: Paul Hatz, Extra Virgin Foods

141210_321 (1) (1280x852)

Paul Hatz, a passionate Greek native who has worked with food his entire life, now direct-imports hand-picked Greek products from his friends and neighbors in Greece.

Eleones olive oil comes from a place on earth that very few people have access to. Mount Athos, considered one of the holiest places on earth, is also a world heritage site and autonomous polity under the rule of the Orthodox church.  Paul Hatz, of Extra Virgin Foods, direct imports olive oil grown and pressed on a tiny 32-acre farm that belongs to his cousin there.  Sharing a name with the peninsula on which they’re grown, the Halkidiki olive doesn’t yield much oil—it takes 10 kilos of olives to make one kilo of olive oil.  Therefore, this low-yield olive typically gets brined for eating, not pressed into oil.  But it makes an exceptional-tasting oil:  the rugged, seaside climate of Mt. Athos, combined with the fertile, relatively untouched Mediterranean soil creates conditions for this olive that are unparalleled elsewhere.

After harvesting, these olives must be rushed to the mill to press while they’re still vibrant and bright.  However, the Byzantine landscape means that there’s no such thing as roads to travel on—so they load up animals to carry the olives to the sea to waiting boats, to then continue on to the mill.

Greek Cheeses:

First, the obvious: Feta, as in—real feta—can only be made in certain regions in Greece, from Greek sheep’s milk, according to the EU.  This is the real deal (as opposed to the many feta-style cheeses that abound elsewhere.) Comes brine-packed in 9lb tins.  An excellent, briny well-balanced cheese.

Sfela, the lesser-known but seriously cool cousin to halloumi, means “fire-roasted” in Greek, and that refers to the whey being cooked in barrels over an open fire.  If feta and halloumi had a love child, this would be it.  Sold by the 9lb case.

Kefelatori, a hard pecorino-style sheep’s milk cheese, can be used much in the same way that pecorino is—shaved into a salad, paired with braised lamb, and so on.  Comes by the wheel, approx. 6# each.

Graveira, a Gruyere-like cheese that’s also made from sheep’s milk, has good fondue-like melting qualities, or used anywhere else like you would an alpine cheese with a brinier, saltier presence.  Comes by the wheel, approx. 6# each.

Olives, Oils, Peppers & Figs:

141214_003 (1280x852)

Olympiana Early Harvest Olive Oil:  In Paul’s words,

“first and foremost we are olive oil lovers, and it is the mainstay of our business. We are intimately involved in the production, harvesting, and selection of our oils, focusing on offering the very best oils that our family and neighbors in our village of Androussajust outside Kalamata produce.”

Fruity, grassy, and bold, with a peppery kick at the end.  Awesome—house favorite.  Offered in 3ltr jugs, and cases of six 3ltr jugs.

Eleones Olive Oil:  see above.  Comes in 3ltr jugs, cases of four 3ltr jugs, or 500ml bottles, great to use as a finishing oil, for bread service,

Kalamata Olives, from the same groves used to produce the Olympiana Olive Oil, are available in large and jumbo, pitted and unpitted, in gallons.  Barrels of whole colossal-sized kalamatas are also available by pre-order.  Please, let us know what you’d prefer when ordering.

Florina Peppers, aka Roasted Bullhorn Peppers, from Macedonia, are classically stuffed with whipped feta, broiled, and paired with ouzo for a snack.  This meaty pepper is a cool alternative to piquillo or roasted red peppers, great for small plate-size snacks, and comes roasted and packed in oil, salt and vinegar.

Kimi Figs are intact, large, moist, plump white figs.  These are hand-packed and could be used whole after plumping them, turned into white fig & sherry mostarda, white fig & walnut salami, or any other place where you’d use figs.  Also a good alternative, both flavor and size-wize, for medjool dates, such as fig toffee pudding.   These are significantly larger and nicer than most commercially dried figs.  They are sundried, hand-packed, and not treated with any preservatives.  Also, they are significantly moister than most dried fruit.

By Diego Maldonado