I inherited an indiscriminate palate from my father. We can eat a large amount of most anything, and consider it all “pretty good.” When it comes to cooking, my food is a function of both this lack of pickiness and my busy schedule –– quickest, cheapest, healthiest, most filling. I have about five ingredients in my arsenal: mushrooms, kale, chicken, eggs, and rice. I can make them multiple ways for three meals a day, for weeks straight without tiring of it. I just switch up the seasoning and sauces and if I’m feeling really fancy, the variety of mushrooms and kale. Reliable, but not exciting. I get this from him too; I’m still unsure whether he knows how to turn on a stove, but the man is a wizard with store-bought rotisserie chicken. Luckily, I’ve leveled up to being able to cook chicken on my own, but its unwavering presence at the top of my grocery list is just like his.
Like many new products, I came upon Brightland Olive Oil because of the packaging (if you follow my TQE articles, you may begin to see a pattern here). Admittedly, I first wanted to try Brightland because I thought the bottles would look good with the green kitchen tile in my new apartment. I ordered Brightland’s flagship product, The Duo and spoiler alert: they did! But The Duo did more than add color to my countertops: I was not expecting the extent to which these two beauties would expand my cooking practice and add depth to my perpetually fixed menu.
A Brand With California Soul
Once I did a bit more digging, the brand’s mission hooked me. Founder Aishwarya Iyer and her husband found themselves researching the ingredients behind American-made olive oil after a foray into cooking left them feeling a little sick. What Iyer found was that the extra virgin olive oil they, and many of us, often use is not nearly as “healthy” as it is touted to be. So, she decided to start the conversation by creating a company that is straightforward about the who, what, where, when, and how their products are created. And thus we have Brightland, whose heirloom olives are sourced from a family-run farm in California. In many ways, the company seeks to embody what it means to live in the Golden State: simplicity, freshness, local ingredients, and an emphasis on sustainability, flavor, and nourishment. And let’s not forget the effortless, laid-back aesthetic. I couldn’t wait to see why so many have been flocking to add Brightland to their repertoires.
A Mindful Approach To Ingredients
For those of us who are not exactly expert chefs, Brightland makes clear the nuances, processes, and origins behind each blend. This is another perk about good, eye-catching design: it is ultimately very user-friendly. The Duo includes two of Brightland’s signature flavors, AWAKE and ALIVE. They are meant to bring balance to your kitchen, both serving a variety of different but complementary purposes.
Each bottle lists its suggested pairings on the back –– ALIVE olive oil is smoother and lighter, to be enjoyed in salad dressings, marinades, dips, and drizzled over desserts. AWAKE olive oil is the heavier, richer of the two, great with stews, pastas, breads, roasted meats and veggies. Even just reading this for the first time made me more thoughtful about the way I was cooking. It had truly never occurred to me that olive oil could make enough of a difference on my plate for me to go with anything but the cheapest one.
In an instant I became more excited about the idea of trying new ingredients, and my following trip to the grocery store was decidedly more meticulous. I took care comparing and considering produce rather than just picking up whatever was on top of the pile. In other words, I decided to shop and cook for the fun of it, driven solely by the excitement of finding the best things to pair with my two new friends. For experienced home cooks, this probably sounds like child’s play. But as someone who works on their feet, turning cooking into something fun and relaxing rather than another post-work chore is life changing for both my mental health and energy levels.
The Shrimp & Chill Test
For our most recent “Shrimp & Chill,” a weekly ritual in which my boyfriend makes me shrimp and I sit down and eat it, we prepared the shrimp in two ways so as to really see the differences in each oil. When he opened the first bottle, he let out an audible “mmm…” before even bringing it up to his nose. That’s how pungently fresh it smells. He’s the cook of the two of us, and he said it was the best-smelling olive oil he had yet to cook with. He couldn’t wait to work with it.
When he opened the first bottle, he let out an audible “mmm…” before even bringing it up to his nose. That’s how pungently fresh it smells. He’s the cook of the two of us, and he said it was the best-smelling olive oil he had yet to cook with. He couldn’t wait to work with it.
With AWAKE, we sauteed the shrimp with Za’atar and lime and had it over brown rice. For the second dish, we served the shrimp cold over arugula and citrus, and drizzled ALIVE over the top with some salt and pepper. In both cases, the oil added a surprising amount of depth and flavor to their respective shrimp. The strong smell is a testament to its quality, and the flavor is still subtle enough to pair and enhance a variety of dishes. It tastes like its own ingredient, without being overpowering in any way. Using each one felt like a delightful little luxury, and made for a more involved cooking experience for our tried-and-true date night.
Really, Really, Good Sh*t
Brightland’s approach to creating quality ingredients is playful, classy, and earnest all at once. No gimmicks, just really, really good products, made by people who really, really care about your experience using them. All in all, I only have two small qualms about The Duo. There is no stopper on the bottle, so to avoid any waste you should be sure to get a spout attachment (luckily, Brightland sells a sexy gold one for $9 on it's site). At $74, I think I’ll be sticking with a more basic olive oil for daily use, and save these two for special meals and dinner parties. They are a lovely way to impress friends, and make simple meals feel intentional and adventurous.
Cooking is a notoriously intimidating practice. With Brightland, the joy of cooking is infectious: a light suggestion on the back of the bottle leads to digging up old cookbooks to make new discoveries. The Duo has been an absolute joy to have in my kitchen. In one fell swoop, Brightland has completely changed my attitude about cooking, a practice I’ve always admired, but never bothered to make a fuss about. I cannot wait to keep slowly building my collection. While I’ll still never tire of roast chicken, I’ll be taking suggestions for a whole new menu.
With Brightland, the joy of cooking is infectious: a light suggestion on the back of the bottle leads to digging up old cookbooks to make new discoveries. The Duo has been an absolute joy to have in my kitchen.
5 More Reasons to Love Brightland:
- Artist Collaborations: Can’t get enough of the packaging? Brightland has also collaborated with artists like Lilian Martinez, Marleigh Culver, Peter Som, and B.D Graft for some of its newer releases.
- If You Can’t Take the Heat….: Both high-quality oils have a smoke point of 410℉, so there’s no need to worry about cooking at the high temperatures that some dishes need.
- DIY Beauty Aid: I’ve been using olive oil in home beauty recipes since I was a teenager trying to figure out how to care for my natural hair and hormonal skin. Brightland’s olive oils have several health benefits and can be used on your face, body, and hair for softness and shine. As an extra co-sign, Brightland teamed up with organic skincare brand Circumference to make a lovely olive oil-based cleanser, which I’ve written about before.
- SPF: The Duo comes in glass bottles that have been UV-coated to protect each oil from light damage.
- Best-Seller: The people have spoken. Since its launch in 2018, Brightland has already been featured in The New York Times, Fast Company, The Wall Street Journal, and Food & Wine, to name a few. Plus, the Mini Essentials Set has already sold out 3 times since its launch in October 2020!