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07.30.08

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Olive this is True

I am always happy to read about California olive oil in the press ("Snake Oil?" July 23). We are a young industry but have managed a Berlitz approach to olive oil that has allowed us to match the best of the Old World's premium extra virgin in a couple of decades.

I think that Alastair Bland's article is misleading on a couple of issues. First is the adulteration question. There is no doubt that the adulteration of olive oil with less expensive oils is a problem (dating back to BCE, no doubt). But the larger issue for American consumers is one of quality.

Most of the "extra virgin" olive oil on supermarket shelves is made only from olives and not adulterated. One of the reasons is that even in the United States it is illegal to adulterate olive oil. The more elusive issue is whether or not the oil is truly extra virgin. In order to qualify, it must be found free from defects by a trained taste panel. This is where the average supermarket product falls short. It would never pass a taste test (the most meaningful part of the IOC standard for EVOO), and would not be considered EV in Europe. So it is sent to the United States where "extra virgin" has no enforceable legal meaning yet. And good on Pat Wiggins for leading the charge in the California legislature.

A word about lampante. There ain't no way on God's green earth you can hide the flavor of lampante. As a taste-panel member, I can assure you that is not going to be masked by anything. You left out the part where all that nasty oil is refined to produce a flavorless, colorless olive oil product. Flavored with a little good EVOO, it is a perfectly acceptable choice for things like frying, where good EVOO would be too expensive. Nothing intrinsically bad about it (as long as it's not rancid), it just isn't extra virgin or even virgin. Remember that the next time you look at a bottle of "Extra Light in Flavor" olive oil, you are paying for a bottle of refined olive oil with a tiny bit of ersatz extra virgin for flavoring.

Alexandra Kicenik Devarenne

Petaluma


   

 

Geography of Cinema

Yet more reviews of movies showing in Marin theaters? Do all of your film reviewers live in Marin? Or do you have an arrangement with Marin theaters—the Smith Rafael Film Center, in particular? It was my impression that the Bohemian is printed in Santa Rosa for a predominantly Sonoma County readership. Apparently, re films, I was wrong. How else to understand reviews of Up the Yangtze, Redbelt, Brick Lane, Herzog's Encounters, etc., noting they're playing in Marin, when a short time later they will open in Santa Rosa? In Film Caps, the only films theater-identified are those playing in Marin. I can understand the chain theater problem, but what about smaller theaters? And conserving gas?

Doesn't the Bohemian realize we have a film gem in our own backyard that deserves our support and heartfelt thanks? In addition to great films, Rialto Cinemas Lakeside has exciting special programs and series. Unlike those of the Rafael Center, the Rialto's gifts to the community are rarely even noted.

A favor. Could von Busack restrain his offensive, possibly libelous personal/elder comments? "When I grow old . . . I shall look exactly like Ian McKellen, full of decades' worth of vices no clean person wants to even think about."

Terry Popp

Santa Rosa

 The North Bay Bohemian serves Sonoma, Marin and Napa counties, which means that we can dip freely among the three to highlight films that are of a better quality and more acute interest than the typical mainstream fare. That said, you've hit upon a weekly tussle for us; we don't want to be the ad hoc publicity arm for either the Rafael or the Rialto, and so strive to serve as best we can, highlighting films at wineries, parks and such as the Jarvis Conservatory in our Movie Caps and Movie Times images as well. It's a balance, and sometimes that balance tips. Thanks for pointing that out.

Regarding von Busack, we have to chuckle that the above McKellen snark is one of his better lines—and leave it at that. You'll see reviews by Jon Keifer occasionally, too, as we try to mix up the voices in the book.


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