You can’t celebrate good times, good friends, good conversation without good food. You just can’t, not in my world. And so it was that the first ever [females of] FBM Holiday Cookie Swap was organized (and I assure you, there will be an FBM Cookie Swap 2011, if I’ve anything to do with it!), and Otto was chosen for both its proximity to BlindBaker’s workplace and its wonderful, delicious food (diligent readers may realize that the end of 2009/beginning of 2010 saw me at Otto more times than I generally go to a place, marking it as a favorite immediately). KC and Hungry were both game, as KC said it was also one of her favorites and Hungry likes it as well.
What happens when you put three food bloggers and an amused friend who loves Italian food together at Otto, home of the small plates?
Yeah, we ordered a lot. I won’t say overordered though 😉 Oh, and I took really blurry photos because I was super hungry and just wanted to eat.
This was actually the first time I’d ever ordered any cheeses at Otto, though I’d previously enviously noted the gorgeous plates of truffled honey, candied apricots and amarena cherries to grace the tables of those around me who had. This time, the plates arrived on our table and I eagerly tried each of them in turn. Yep: as gloriously jewel-like as apricots can look, I still just don’t like how they taste, dried, fresh, candied, whatever. The cherries, however, juicy and slightly tart, were excellent foils to every cheese we ordered; I would love a jar to call my own (ahem). As to the truffled honey, I know Hungry enjoyed it a lot, but I was less than enamored with it. Probably because I still don’t like truffles that much.
As for our plate of five cheeses: triple creme goat cheese from Coach Farms, parmagianno reggiano, fontina, Talleggio (which I hate, because it’s stinky!), and quadrello, which KC said was her favorite on the plate.
Sformato, a cheese souffle listed under the salad section for some reason – the radicchio & pomegranate arils laced with a tangy vinaigrette on the side served as a salad – pretty damn good too – but the sformato itself was airy, light, and smacked of cheese. Love.
Domestic prosciutto. Not bad – sliced thinly and abundant on the plate, nice and salty.
Brussels sprouts, which KC insisted on ordering and wow, these are way better than any that I make… until now! I’m totally making this myself – I think cranking the heat will get the outside charred nicely and keep the center crisp.
I was ravenous at this point, and started grouping plates to take the pictures now: lentils (top left), which went mostly untouched; broccoli, which was good but not special; roasted beets, which I thought were passing but not as wonderful as roasted beets I’m used to.
The bottom row, left to right: calamari & potato; mussels peperonata; octopus, celery & lovage.
Shrimp e ceci (chickpeas); anchovies and breadcrumbs. These last 5 bowls are part of the pesci grande; basically, the dishes alone are $8 each, or $21 for all 5, so why wouldn’t you get all 5?! I am particularly fond of the anchovies, so briny and vinegary they are, with these ginormous breadcrumbs that deserve an anchovy or two each by itself. So good. The rest are varying deliciousness, though I surprise myself with my favorites: mussels peperonata I also find to be much better than I’ve ever had elsewhere, and the calamari with cubes of barely cooked potato also holds a special place in my heart. The other two are still good, but just not favorite status.
Shocking exactly no one, my anal retentive OCD-ness required that I assemble an entire plate with a little bit of everything, photograph it, then begin eating. How I loved thee, plate of yummy!
Did you think that was all we ordered? Nope, two pizzas to come: vongole – clams, garlic and mozzarella.
Good char. I loved this pizza. The flavors all worked perfectly well with each other, and though I hadn’t expected clams in the shell, I was happily rewarded when I removed the meat from the shells, placed them strategically around my slice, and ate it with the fresh parsley. Mmm, delicious.
Potato, anchovy and ricotta pie.
Again, good crust. They do thin crust here right (although sometimes too thin), for sure. I liked my bite with just potato and ricotta; once I ate further and had anchovy in my mouth – though I’d loved the anchovies in other dishes! – I thought the anchovy overwhelmed the potato and ricotta. I’m not sure what drove the decision to add the anchovies; once they were cooked a bit, they tasted much fishier than they had in the other dish. Blah.
I got to take the leftover pizzas home, and both pizzas held up well for next-day reheating. (I ate them the very next day because both contained seafood and I don’t mess around with leftover seafood/shellfish.) A quick pop in the toaster oven on ‘toast’ and the crusts retained their crisp, while the cheeses melted back up great.
I thought everyone was ordering dessert, or I’d have declined. Well, I ordered the mocha budino with fresh whipped cream atop it; it’s hard to tell, but that’s an espresso cup. Basically a pot de creme but Italian-style, I suppose. I liked this enough – it was a small portion, so a perfect sweet ending for me, and only $5. I shared it happily as well.
BlindBaker ordered a trio of gelatos; creme fraiche, olive oil, and hazelnut. I know she liked them a lot. I took the above picture trying to capture both BlindBaker & Hungry taking photos of the dessert, but BlindBaker moved too quickly (the blur in the background is actually KC+her BlackBerry). Ah well. The joys of eating with bloggers… thankfully, Hungry is, like me, super quick to take the photo and move on, as I’ve learned to do so people don’t stab me. (Eating with food bloggers can sometimes be really frustrating, they’re taking pictures instead of eating it while it’s hot… sigh.)
After we were completely stuffed and sated, [females of] FBM COOKIE SWAP 2010 commenced! But I’ll let BlindBaker tell you about that… today at 2:15pm, check back for her post with details of the cookie swap!!!
Yvo says: Once again, Otto does not fail to deliver on wonderful plates, reasonable prices, excellent service… It’s excellent for just about every moderate occasion (well, if you’re like me, and special occasions require super fab splash out nights) there is. A group of friends, an intimate but casual dinner date, an after-work drink, a bite, whatever it is… I know I’ll be back over and over and over again. As I already have. Also of note: I couldn’t secure reservations via OpenTable for an appropriate time, so I planned for us to just hang out around the tall marble-topped tables in the bar area to enjoy our holiday festivities. When I arrived, though, I checked with the hostess and she said it would not be a problem to seat us within 30 minutes; check back when our party was complete. Fifteen minutes later, when our entire party had arrived, she seated us immediately! How great is that? Where else can you get such lovely food and service for a reasonable price and still get a table late on a Sunday evening? I just love, love, LOVE Otto.
highly super fab recommended