The first time I visited 'inoteca, Frances McDormand was sitting across from me. The last time I dined at 'inoteca, it was wine and crostini with librarians. This weekend I was accompanying Hagan Blount of 93 Plates on his mission to eat three meals a day for a month with food bloggers.
I think he was surprised that I wasn’t Asian. (I was surprised that I agreed to be on video.) There's no use questioning why Asian ladies dominate at photographing and writing about what they eat; it's a given like how there will never be a Staten Island food blog (ok, there is one).
Hagan insisted he saw Glenn Beck pass by, Mike Bloomberg out the window and Dash from The Incredibles sitting at the head of the large wooden table next to us. Ok, the guy nearby did have the in-motion blonde hairstyle down pat. Maybe if you drink enough Aglianico del Taburno dubious celebrities will appear.
Shaved Brussels sprouts, the vegetable of the moment, with walnuts, a funky crumbled fiore sardo and pomegranate seeds started things right. This sweet and salty salad was one of the highlights along with the octopus below.
The scent of truffle oil is impossible to miss when the fancified Italian Popeye sprinkled with bottarga is placed in front you. Oozing yolk and warm fontina melded into a thick slab of chewy bread would be fitting brunch snack. But as soon as the square turns room temperature, all the components stiffen up. It's not for leisurely nibbling—just tear into the thing.
The shapely octopus leg--from the curled charred tip to the meaty end fat as a bratwurst--wasn't just a conversation piece, it was also the hit of the night. The Meyer lemon and olives lent a Greek flavor while the escarole stayed in Italy. Cooking cephalopods with corks to ensure a tender final product always seemed like an old wives' tale to me, but we were told that was the exact method used by the chef.
More of those runny yolks, this time adorning polenta along with hen of the woods mushrooms.
One goat cheese, a sheep's milk and one blend. I preferred the soft runny goat variety that I think was Brunet. It was even better spread on warm toasted flat bread.
Cheese and dessert is really a bit much. Consequently the budino (not pictured—I’m fairly certain this was the affogato, though I don’t recall anyone ordering it) was neglected. And maybe our senses were dulled at this point because the alleged pumpkin flavor was nearly undetectable. Just stick with the cheese unless you can’t stand ending a meal on a savory note.
'inoteca * 98 Rivington St., New York, NY