About Mike Coldani

Husband & father of two. CalPoly SLO graduate with a degree in Crop Science and a minor in Agricultural Business. Currently managing farming operations and Master Miller for family owned & operated Calivirgin-Coldani Olive Ranch in Lodi CA.

Olive Solitary Stress Reduction

How hectic and busy is your day?  I feel as if each year that goes by our lives get busier and busier.  Event free weekends are few and far between and now that my wife and I have two little ones it seems as if an hour of doing nothing is unheard of.  If this sounds close to your schedule I invite you to take a walk through one of our olive groves; even if it is for only 30 minutes.  I never really thought about it until the other day while I was out checking our irrigation lines; being in the middle of an olive grove almost places you in a whole new world.  Our trees are planted in a high density fashion along trellis as an 8 foot tall long hedge.  In the middle of the grove you seem lost to the outside world.  You are limited to tunnel vision so you hear sounds you normally wouldn’t hear and the trees block out sounds such as traffic or neighbors.  On a still day you feel as if you are wandering in a Hunger Games’esq labyrinth delicately walking and taking in every sense of sight, sound and smell you can; quietly waiting for what your senses will observe next.  You notice the sound you make in the grass below your feet and the sound of the bees flying around carrying off pollen.  You hear the caw of crows you can’t see and you see the outline of a rabbit 75 yards ahead of you down the row.  You also notice the slight fragrant smell of the trees and the earthy smell of soil.  The trees are so dense that they have become home to wildlife we didn’t see much before.  Seeing a Jack Rabbit was slightly rare but now the groves have become loaded with them.  Quail and doves frequent the area and you can almost always spot at least one coyote any day of the week.  Because of the thickness of growth you often find yourself walking right up on some of these critters; startling you both.  While writing this I am laughing because I know it sounds like I have been “chasing the white rabbit” or something.  Trust me, there is something therapeutic about it.  I am not really as eccentric as I am sounding here.  I am sharing this with you and at the same time I know I am blowing my cover.  I am sure I will hear it next time I go to leave a house full of crying children to “go work on the ranch” leaving my wife to fend for herself.  If you are in our area feel free to stop and take a stroll down a row and let me know what you think; I am sure you will not be disappointed. 
Ciao, Mike

8 Random Friday Facts

It’s Friday!  Enjoy some tidbits of the everyday things going on in our lives here at Coldani Olive Ranch.

I planted a six inch seedling the day my wife Julie and I got married ~ 9/16/2006 ~  Quite frankly; as an olive tree farmer the tree looks a little pathetic because it has been restricted in this pot but we also received the beautiful pot as a wedding gift and I wanted to be able to take the tree with us if we moved so don’t pass judgment on my farming skills from the looks of it!  I like to think it’s an antonym for our marriage.

June 8th 2012 will be our first ever pick up party for our olive oil Club Members.  We will be holding it at Abundance winery in Lodi.  More notice will go out but it should be a great time with oil tastings/pairings, a band and a complimentary glass of wine.  If you are a club member and in the area swing by and grab your shipment and enjoy the evening with us.

Get your Allegra or Zyrtec ready.  Working in these groves while the trees are in bloom is messy work and will cause a fit on your allergies even with a dust mask.  Olive pollen is very fine and can even travel miles away in gusty winds.

Look for our new sign on the side of a semi truck.  Currently parked on our oldest block of trees off Interstate 5 and HWY 12.  This is the second one; the first truck had been stolen in the night after it sat for about three days.  WHO steals an entire semi truck trailer!?  Who would have thought that I would have to pull off decent tires from this trailer and install bald ones trying everything to keep this one from being tempting?

This is a mission olive tree I planted for aesthetics in my front yard.  Nearly every day there is a cat using it as a scratching post and I have seen at least three or four different cats on this tree.  I’d like to think that someday when this tree gets to be 100 years old there will be an interesting visual story around the base of it.

They’re here!  Calivirgin needed more hands so my sister Gina and her husband Scott moved from the always sunny and mild weather of San Diego back to Lodi to work with the company full time.  At least it wasn’t like they were moving to Alaska.   I think last I checked we have been picked up by 33 different retail stores since January first of this year so cracking the whip seems to be working.

There are many different uses for olive oil.  I could make an entire blog post on them alone and I just may do that but one that we have been receiving many comments on is the use of our lemon olive oil as a makeup remover.  It works! Plus it leaves your skin moisturized with a light fragrant smell of lemons.  Try it sometime!

I saved my favorite photo for last.  At first I thought a twenty pound gopher or ground squirrel had finally done us in.  Our irrigation nemesis jumped out of this hole.  A mother coyote and eleven, YES ELEVEN!  pups scattered in all directions from this den which was dug right in the middle of one of our rows of trees and about in the middle of the entire grove.  Coyotes are a real problem, they chew on our drip irrigation nightly to the point that we will not fix the drip lines until the night before we water otherwise we will just have to fix it twice.  They like the drip lines as a source of water but there is also evidence that the just chew on them as a chew toy.  Coyotes easily cost us in the thousands every year in repair parts & labor.

Happy Friday, Mike Coldani

Buddha’s Hand Citron And An Olive Oil That Brings Prosperity?

Buddha’s Hand Citron (citrus medica var. sarcodactylis) also known as the fingered citron, fragrance citron, or simply that weird lemon squid looking thing sold in some markets; is often gawked at but relatively unknown and somewhat mysterious. 

                For centuries the Buddha’s hand citron has been treasured by Japanese and Chinese cultures symbolizing prosperity, longevity and happiness.  Often popular at New Year’s , it is supposed to bring a household good fortune.  It is often used instead of flowers as a centerpiece that perfumes a room for weeks with its delightful citrus smell and a fruit with the fingers in the closed position has been said to resemble praying hands.

 I have seen them as high as $7-$14 each in some specialty stores which is quite a premium for a produce that has traditionally been a culinary misfit.  This strange fruit is relatively fleshless with a thick rind almost to the core.  Because of its properties it doesn’t produce much juice at all which left it as a source of zest for cooking.  I have also seen it shaved over fish for baking and grilled then laid over salad but both with a relatively mediocre result in taste in my opinion.  It can be candied and added to baked goods but probably the best use I have found was for infusing Vodka.  UNTIL NOW!  After hearing it symbolizes bringing good fortune, longevity and happiness who wouldn’t want to bathe with the Buddha’s Hand!  Now that is actually possible, plus I feel that what we have done at Coldani Olive Ranch is offer an abundance of cooking possibilities for the Buddha’s hand citron by making an agrumato style flavored olive oil out of it.  Introducing Calivirgin Buddha’s Hand Citron olive oil.  We use California grown Buddha’s Hand

A bin of Buddha Hand Citrons before being cut up into pieces and processed with olives

Citrons from a valley grower and created an assembly line of family members to hand cut each fruit into smaller pieces so that they would fit into the olive mill.  The Buddha’s Hand is then processed with our estate arbequina olives and the result is a unique tasting citrus flavored olive oil.  I may be going out on a limb but I have searched the world and I believe we are the first and only ones who make a flavored olive oil out of this fingered fruit.

 I am often asked what it tastes like but I am still working on a good answer.  It doesn’t taste like lemon or our Lusty Lemon olive oil.  The Buddha’s Hand olive oil has a true citrus flavor.  Tasted straight by itself, your first taste is somewhat pungent followed by the floral bouquet of citrus.  I find that it is better accompanied with foods than by itself, the citrus flavor really makes salads pop with brightness adding a nice compliment to bitter lettuce greens.  In the short time we have had it available people have told me they enjoy the flavored oil on fish or as a flavored substitute for butter in cakes and even an accent to marinade wakame seaweed salad.  I recently mixed some with garlic and a dash of paprika and coated some artichoke halves before grilling them on a BBQ and they turned out fabulous. 

As far as bathing in prosperity, longevity and happiness . . . olive oil makes a great skin moisturizer and our Calivirgin Buddha’s Hand olive oil has a nice citrus smell so lather up and perhaps this magical fruit will change your life!  That might be a stretch but I know a lot of chefs and foodies will appreciate what we have done and have fun pairing it with food in the kitchen.          

– Alla Salute!  Mike Coldani

Historical Fact Source: http://www.flavorandfortune.com/dataaccess/article.php?ID=162 D.Karp

Trade Shows, Farmers Markets, and Fairs…Oh My!

Our company still consists of all family members and we split up the jobs of farming, sales, marketing, packaging, & distribution.  Growing this small family business has been a blast and our best sales pitch to date has always been to simply get someone to taste the oil.  We are proud of the unique and elaborate packaging and design but we always say it tastes as good as it looks.  Getting a following and people to taste the oil often involves setting up tasting booths which leads me to this topic.

Our Flight of Oils

At first glance it seems our yearly calendar has something on nearly every weekend of the year.  Our family trades off who attends the events and many of them are attended by all of us as a group.  From the Paso Robles Olive Oil Festival to the San Francisco Fancy Food show all the way down to our local Lodi Spring Wine Show and St. Marys Italian Olive Oil Festival; just to name a few.  Each event has its own flavor and along with that, its own idiosyncrasies.  We have met many great vendors traveling acts and olive oil families on the road, as well as many interesting and intriguing customers.  Learning event or market etiquette has also been a hoot and at times eye opening.  Learning things such as the fact that homeless vagrants will eat all of your bread before the market even opens if you have it displayed  early have been mistakes we have made a few times.

Paso Robles Olive Oil Festival

The last hour of wine tasting events always draw a long line to our Calivirgin booth as well.  “Why”, you might ask?  Because we often have the only food available at that hour.  Watching purple toothed people hold each other up while grabbing handfuls of bread is comical; however, it is often in this last hour of wine events that we have most of our sales as well!

Setting up and taking down these elaborate displays is always a rat race.  Each event has strict and sometimes unique rules for what you need to have, how you can display, and how to take down.  Trying to balance displaying all of your products as uniquely and appealing as possible with ease of taking it all down and getting home as fast as you can is the quandary.  To avoid repacking cases of unsold products and hauling them away, we quickly learned that trading products is often vendor practice at these events,  especially large events such as the San Francisco Fancy Food Show.  A certain family member of ours has a hard time saying no to said proposed

San Francisco Fancy Food Show

trades .  This last year I think we went home with an elaborate box of chocolates, some coffee flavored tea, a huge wheel of brie cheese the size of a basketball, truffle sea salt, Madeleines/Brownie Bites/&Palmiers from Sugar Bowl, and a package of macaroni pasta that was supposed to be animal shaped but looked a little more phallic than the package suggested.  I’m not sure the theory of going home lighter works in our case but if you are looking for a group of suckers who will trade a $15-$30 bottle of oil for a pair of mint flavored chopsticks swing by our booth!

If you have ever sold products or worked a booth at a farmers market, trade show or expo you know the expression, “people say the darndest things.”  Recently over dinner our family was reminiscing about some of the classic one-liners we have heard over the years working countless display/tasting booths and it got me thinking about sharing some of them.  My apologies in advance if you remember giving me material for this piece; believe me when I say that it is often phrases like these that make the long hours of a market or show bearable at times.

While keeping in mind that the majority of patrons who taste test our products seem to genuinely enjoy them (or at least they are really good fakers), there are from time to time people who express their distaste.  I’m not afraid to admit it; if you are in the food industry and you say that you have never had a negative comment then you are a liar and I don’t care if you are giving away ice cream topped with $100 bills.  Someone, somewhere, sometime will blow you away and complain or offer a suggestion on how it could be better.  This is in part why these events are so much fun.  I truly enjoy interacting with people and the anticipation of the facial expressions or reactions they get when they are about to taste our oils or vinegars are almost like a mini adrenaline rush.  Again, don’t get me wrong; I could go on and on with positive quotes or reviews from chefs, aficionados, foodies or the occasional Sunday stroller but today I wanted to add a little humor.  Now for some one-liners!

“Your olive oil is fantastic but it looks like shampoo” –Referring to our bottle.  We have had a few people say it looks like perfume too!  I usually laugh and add that it is actually a French cognac bottle.  I’ve had a few, “cognac huh, looks like perfume to me”

One lady tasted every product we had.  All of our balsamics, our extra virgin olive oil and all of our crushed flavored olive oils and then plainly looked at us and said she didn’t like any of them. (Kind of bold but fair enough right? I appreciate the honesty)  Then about two hours later she came by and bought two bottles.  I really wanted to ask if we were to be included on some “things not to buy” list but resisted.

Our Calivinegar balsamic and our Premium Calivirgin olive oil were in dishes side by side and after tasting both of them, one lady told us that she “Liked the black olive oil way better than the light gold olive oil.”

Most people who taste fresh extra virgin olive oil can’t believe how much flavor it has.  They are used to the rancid and sometimes refined garbage they typically buy and didn’t realize how fresh olive oil is supposed to taste so we get a lot of feedback on this.  Taste descriptors such as a grassy taste or fruity are often discussed.  Some people swear we have added something to the oil to add taste. “You put bananas in there don’t you!” I have been told.

Calibody Skin care made with Calivirgin Olive Oil

At a few events, (usually wine tasting events) we have turned our back for a second and then returned to find someone (usually a guy, sorry guys) with a spoon eating our samples of Calibody hand moisturizing cream made with olive oil.  I guess with fragrances like Cucumber Melon and Lemon Pound Cake it can be sort of suggestive but I am pretty sure the last guy ate Cool Rain.  He seemed to enjoy it and I didn’t have the heart to embarrass him.

– Author Mike Coldani

Flavored Olive Oils, Infused Olive Oils, Crushed Olive Oils . . . What’s The Difference?

Generally speaking, flavored olive oils are oils made from olives with the health benefits and characteristics of olive oil combined with ingredient(s) other than olives which give the resulting olive oil an additional flavor.  Olive oil purists may balk at the idea of a flavored olive oil and I personally feel they do not replace the use and taste of a fresh extra virgin oil seconds after it has been milled; however they do offer a plethora of creative culinary uses beyond just dipping bread.  Many people use the term “infused” oil when talking about all flavored oils.  Consequently, many people do not realize that there are a few different ways to accomplish the task of flavoring an olive oil and that the end results are not all entirely the same.

Some Calivirgin Flavors

Infusing olive oil is achieved by adding an extract or flavoring to oil that has already been processed/milled. This method is relatively easy to do but sometimes the results are lacking.  I find that some infused oils taste artificial.  For the same reason that Grape soda doesn’t taste like fresh grapes, many infused citrus or herb flavored oils from extract tend to have an artificial taste.

The other way to “infuse” olive oil is to submerge your ingredients in the oil for a length of time until it imparts a subtle flavor to the oil.  The two tribulations with this method are the flavors can often be very subtle and you need to make sure the ingredients you add do not contain any moisture.  For this reason it is recommended to use dried herbs or produce.  An example would be the bottle of olive oil you see with fresh pieces of garlic

or herbs floating in it.  This may be fine for one or two days but the moisture in the produce can cause botulism to occur and make the consumer sick or even be fatal.

It is for these reasons that our Calivirgin flavored olive oils have all been made using a third and more labor intensive approach.  We add fresh produce and herbs  right on top of the fresh olives so that they are all crushed and processed together.   Some people call this method simply “fused” instead of infused while others refer to it as the agrumato method.  A growing term in popularity and the one used on our Calivirgin flavors is crushed.  We are essentially using the same process, settings and procedure we use for our extra virgin oil by crushing the produce and olives together.  The oil in the olives and produce are released in this process before going through a centrifuge and finisher which remove all water content and solids leaving a very aromatic and tasty natural flavored olive oil with nothing except exactly that in the bottle; oil.  This process creates some of the best tasting flavored olive oils so you have to ask yourself, “Why doesn’t every company use this method?”  Simply . . . because it is a pain.  Everything a flavor touches has to be addressed before a different oil comes in contact with it.  Cleaning out processing equipment between and after each flavor in order to not have

Fresh produce & fresh olives about to be crushed together

any crossover flavoring takes a lot of time.   This applies to cleaning bottling machines as well.  You also have to store each flavor in its own individual container which takes up room and  I also find that because of the added produce there tends to be more sediment than with plain olive oil so I need to rack it many more times than normal.  This means using transfer pumps which means cleaning transfer pumps multiple times.  It is very time consuming and most companies would rather not mess with it but I think the finished product is often exceptional in taste.  Chefs and home foodies alike enjoy creatively using these flavors as ingredients or finish oils over their dishes.  Believe me!  I understand why most companies don’t crush their flavors but sometimes a little more work pays off and here at Coldani Olive Ranch we feel our flight of Calivirgin Crushed Flavored Oils are something to be desired.

-Author Mike Coldani