'Local' olive oil
Those of you eagerly awaiting the opening of area farmers' markets are probably licking your chops for local lettuces, strawberries and the like. But don't forget the olive oil.
Olive oil is a surprising find at producer-only farmers' markets around here. But it's legit. Seller Dimitrios Giannakos lives in Northeast Baltimore. Only his olive orchard resides overseas.
Giannakos said he had to talk his way into Baltimore-area markets.
"It was a problem coming in," he said. "It is my product. It's just a little bit outside the 150-mile radius," he added with a laugh, referring to the normal limits of the local-foods designation.
His farm is in southern Greece, 20 kilometers south of Sparta.
Giannakos came to Baltimore from Greece when he was 12 years old. He was in the restaurant business for many years, starting as a waiter and bartender in Little Italy restaurants. He owned the Athenian restaurant on Eastern Avenue and had Taverna Athena back when Harborplace opened.
Then five years ago he took over the Greek olive farm that had been in the family since his great-grandfather's day. The 65-acre spread produces about 15 tons to 18 tons of olive oil in a good year. (Every other year production is low, which is just the way it is with olives.)
He produces the oil there, but sells it over here. He has mostly focused on selling to area restaurants. Woodberry Kitchen, The Prime Rib, Blue Hill Tavern, The Black Olive, Chameleon Cafe, Ikaros, Zorba's and several restaurants in D.C. and Virginia buy his oil, he said.
But last year, he decided to sell at area farmers' markets. He does nine between Baltimore and Virginia, including the seasonal markets held under the JFX, at the Baltimore Museum of Industry and in Bel Air. He also sells at the year-round Waverly market.
Market shoppers seem to appreciate the oil, which costs $18 for a 1-liter bottle. It's extra-virgin, cold-pressed and -- most importantly, he said -- unfiltered oil.
Filtering, he said, "shines the color up but it takes everything out that belongs in there and that's what gives it the better aroma, the better flavor."
San Francisco Chronicle photo