Aishwarya Iyer never thought she would found an olive oil company. At least her background in start-ups and venture capital never led her to thinking she would. But after realizing that the oil in her pantry was making her sick, she began researching the kitchen staple—and discovered that most of the olive oil consumed in America is rotten, rancid, or adulterated. It’s also perishable, one of many little-known facts about the ingredient.
So Iyer decided to make her own, and launched Brightland in 2018. Using olives from a family-run farm on California’s central coast, the Los Angeles–based company makes extra-virgin olive oil, including more adventurous lemon- and basil-infused versions, without the use of fillers or artificial preservatives. We caught up with Iyer to discuss the myths, truths, and outright lies about olive oil, and how Brightland sets the record straight.
Debunk some false truths about olive oil for us.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that olive oil is just like wine—that it ages beautifully and should be saved. That’s not the case at all. Ultimately, an olive is a fruit. It is pressed and turned into oil and absolutely has a shelf life.
Another myth is that you can pour olive oil into a clear glass container and keep it out on your kitchen counter. When you do that, it will go bad within a week. Light is one of olive oil’s biggest enemies. You never want light to hit the product in any way.
Most people think there’s just one kind of olive oil, but there are actually hundreds of varieties. There’s a specific region and process by which the olives are picked, a specific time they were harvested, a specific blending of them. All of those things have an impact on how the oil ends up tasting.
How can the average person know if their olive oil is fresh?
Look for a harvest date. Unopened, it’s fresh for eighteen months from then. Or grab a spoon, and taste it. Good olive oil tastes grassy, fruity, layered, nutty—it is alive, a product of agriculture. If it tastes like waxy crayons or plastic, it’s not good.
In the U.S., extra-virgin olive oil is not regulated by the FDA. A 2015 investigation by the National Consumers League found that six out of 11 national brands misrepresented quality grades to consumers. Common forms of fraud include blending olive oil with other vegetable oils like soybean or sunflower oil, and refining oil made from rotten olives at a very low temperature, which removes the taste of rancidity. Why has so much deceit happened in the industry?
It’s been happening for thousands of years. In ancient Rome, when they put harvest dates on pots of olive oil to prevent deception, people would cross out the dates to lie about when it was made. Olive oil was liquid gold. Because there was such a demand for it, people cut corners.
Have things gotten any better?
We have started to ask more tough questions about food. It’s not like olive oil is the only fraudulent food out there—there’s honey, salt, saffron, wine, and many others. When you don’t ask questions, you don’t really know. The last few years have definitely been an unraveling of that [kind of scam].
I don’t know if anything has really changed, though. What I do know is that when I started Brightland, people told me, “Oh, nobody cares about how olive oil tastes. They don’t want anything super bold or pungent or peppery. They just want something buttery.” I took the exact opposite approach. I can only speak to my own experience, but it’s been amazing to see people get excited by the nuances and flavor profiles of our products.
How does Brightland respond to the bad things you’ve seen happening in the industry?
We put the harvest date on the label of each bottle, which has a white, organic UV casting that protects the oil inside. From a content standpoint, we do as much education as possible on social media and on our blog. That means talking about the olive varieties we use, where our olives are harvested, why a glass bottle is better than a plastic bottle, why the bottle should not be clear—no one was really discussing those things before.
This past summer, you ventured into vinegar with Parasol, a raw, double-fermented champagne vinegar made from California chardonnay grapes and navel and Valencia oranges, and Rapture, a double-fermented balsamic vinegar made from California zinfandel grapes and Triple Crown blackberries. Is there fraud happening in the vinegar industry, too?
There are common vinegar additives, like GMO brown sugar, caramel coloring, thickeners, and corn syrup. Most people don’t realize that many manufacturers do not use real fruit. We were lucky: There’s a vinegar farm in the same area as the olive farm we work with, so we get the fruit to make our vinegars from them.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about olive oil since starting Brightland?
I didn’t go to culinary school, so it’s amazing to see how people use olive oil in recipes. I saw someone make this incredible ice cream. Someone else posted that she used one of our spicier oils to make pancakes. I’ve seen every type of application. We also have a chef-in-residence named Noreen Wasti. Her latest recipe uses Brightland products to make a flaky South Asian flatbread called parathas. I grew up eating that bread, but we never made it with olive oil. Noreen incorporated it beautifully.
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Daytime drinking is on the up—hey, it’s 5 p.m. somewhere (not that we can keep track of time these days, though the #HandMarkingTime Stories on our @slowdown.tv Instagram at least help us remember which day of the month it is). But if you prefer not to risk getting a hangover, or weakeningDram Apothecary makes a version of the increasingly popular drink in a range of flavors, such as cardamom and black tea, using CBD extrWild Mountain Sage) and switchels, as well as a set of CBD tinctures that you can either drop directly on your tongue, or add to any drink
The ongoing Covid-19 crisis has put a sudden and massive halt on the restaurant industry: Bars, small businesses, mega-c“morbidly high business death rate.” (There’s an episode of our At a Distance podcast on this very subject with Esquire food and drinks editor Jeff Gordinier coming out soon.) As wholesale restaurant suppliers now find their client bases on
As people everywhere settle into new home-cooking routines, finding resourceful ways to make their pantry goods stretch victory garden. Luckily for apartment dwellers without a backyard or access to much green space (more than half the world, basically), all you need is a corner of a countertop to grow some fresh herbs indoors. Better still, and for the botanEdn. The company makes wifi-controlled kits that come with a built-in LED grow light; simple seed pods for no-fuss, soillesSmall Garden order placed—a welcome reminder, in these uncertain times, that your efforts to stay indoors can make a difference for
Self-quarantine and social distancing in the age of the coronavirus are not to be taken lightly, and if, like us, you’refor your own safety and for the safety of others—you may be asking yourself what to stock your pantries with. Add to cart: DADA Daily, a line of tasty and healthy snacks that are neither heavy-handedly survivalist nor overprocessed and, not to mention, so don’t be that bulk-buying, toilet paper-stockpiling jerk.
As the daughter of Slow Food pioneer and Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters, Fanny Singer has had her share of Proustian Always Home: A Daughter’s Recipes and Stories (Alfred A. Knopf), offers a warm and sensorial portrait of her mother, and of an upbringing that often revolved around
Dimes, the all-day café, bar, and market founded by Sabrina De Sousa and Alissa Wagner in downtown Manhattan, has always doneDimes Times: Emotional Eating (Karma Books)—which she says is the first in a series of more publications to come.
Rich Shih, founder of the blog Our Cook Quest and co-author of the forthcoming book Koji Alchemy: Rediscovering the Magic of Mold-Based Fermentation, is a self-taught cook and fermentation expert who makes everything from takuan pickles to fish sauce from scratch, twekoji, the source of umami in fermented ingredients like miso, soy sauce, mirin, and more.
South Korean cinema has been on everyone’s lips this week, in the afterglow of director Bong Joon-ho’s triumphant OscarsParasite, the grand finale to a months-long award spree that began with a Palme d’Or win at the Cannes Film Festival last year. making history in more ways than one. By his second acceptance speech, Bong, whose reactions were being duly memed, was ready to hit the bar. His exact words: “I’m ready to drink now, until the morning.” A total mood.
Zach Mangan, founder of the specialty Japanese tea importer, gallery, and café Kettl, tells us what to look, smell, and taste for in a top-quality matcha.
Phil Winser, co-owner of Silkstone, the hospitality company behind celebrated restaurants such as The Fat Radish, on NewThe Orchard Townhouse, a cozy restaurant in Chelsea that’s soon to open a garden and six fully furnished long-stay rental apartments upstairs
Turmeric, a flowering plant that’s part of the ginger family (and similarly harvested for its roots), is having its momeNYT Cooking’s spiced chickpea stew—so popular it’s simply referred to as #TheStew—by cookbook author and columnist Alison Roman, whose flavorful and simple recipes often go viral and are known to spike the sales of certain ingredients.
Eighteen years ago, Italian-born Fabio Chizzola traded fashion photography for farming, when he purchased an heirloom apWestwind Orchard year-round. While summer and fall are easily his busiest seasons, with spring spent preparing for both, Chizzola tells
Holiday heart is a real thing, and as you ease back into work this coming week, you may consider jump-starting the decadClean program, founded by Dr. Alejandro Junger, an adrenal fatigue expert and the author of new book Clean 7, whose work has garnered A-list devotees in everyone from Demi Moore to Naomi Campbell. Gwyneth Paltrow, another die-hard3-day mini cleanse (which recently launched and comes with far fewer demands that make it feasible to incorporate into a long weekend). Th
Artist, cookbook author, and chef Julia Sherman has had her fair share of memorable meals—her popular blog, Salad For President, posts photographs and recipes of the many dishes she’s shared in the company of friends and fellow artists: jerk shrimdukkah with Joan Jonas, Gwenn Thomas, and Joana Avillez. But it was a happy accident that led to the idea of her latest projecJus Jus, a sparkling alcoholic beverage made from verjus, a tart juice pressed from unripe grapes that’s typically used as a vinegary note in salads and marinades. Sherman had