4 Pizzas From Otto Pizza - Portland, ME

When you role into a town that is in one of the far corners of the US, you are bound to get a lot of recommendations about local attractions and food attractions in particular. We were fortunate enough to be steered to Otto Pizza in Portland, ME. The pizza's are fresh and the staff is super cool. I loved the smallness of their shop and the smiles on their faces. I let the cashier lady put my order in for me and had her give me 4 of their most popular pizzas.

Sweet Potato, Cranberry, Goat Cheese The above pizza was by far my favorite. The flavors just mesh so well together to give you a pizza that isn't too greasy and seems healthy in the end. The sweetness of all three toppings is what really shines in this pie!

Tomato, Basil, Ricotta This is a variation on a classic margarita pizza but instead of fresh buffalo mozzarella Otto's uses ricotta which gives it a much lighter flavor. You really start to notice how they are working with subtlety at Otto rather than punch you in the face flavors. Super nice!

Bacon, Basil, Mashed Potatoes I would consider this pizza that was born out of necessity of being in a cold northern town. It really tastes like a loaded baked potato when you closed your eyes with the crust being like the skin of a well baked potato, crispy, crusty, goodness. They did a good job of not over seasoning the potatoes before putting them on so the whole pizza isn't overly salty at all.

Sausage, Onion, Tomatoes This is the big punch you in the face pie. You'll love it if you want fresh ingredients that will fill you up and give you the energy you need. The sausage is cut nice and thin while the onions are cut a little larger. The nice balance of those two ingredients alone made for a great pie.

Check out Otto Pizza online.

--Joe Kwon

Local Eats: Sandwhich - Chapel Hill, NC

Bread and Butter (Gorganzola/Parmesan compound butter)
What a wonderful way to spend a beautiful summer night. The temperature was just hovering in the upper 70's and there was just enough of a breeze to cool your warm back from the sun. There were people walking all around and the town just felt alive. That seems to be what food means to me these days. It's a wonderful life indeed.

I've been to Sandwhich a handful of times and I've always been so impressed at how simple ingredients could come together to make such alluring meals between two pieces of bread. The old Sandwhich was housed in a small near a boutique cupcake store and shared a common area with Penang. Another sad excuse for an ethnic themed restaurant. The new location is right on the main drag that is the life line of Chapel Hill, Franklin Street.

Local Bibb Salad
Tonight there was 6 of us. I love it when you go out to dinner with people who you know just well enough to eat family style with. We all passed around our dishes as if we were siblings at Thanksgiving. The local bibb salad is just what it says. It's simple, is dressed with a nice light dressing and a little sea salt, and was so fresh.

Beets, Blue, and Walnuts
Leon and I had to go with something a bit bolder of course. And with my love of beets it was a clear choice to go with the earthy beets with blue cheese and spiced walnuts. I swear sometimes, it's the little flavor that just kicks you in the back of the head, that makes you rekindle a new love for certain foods. The walnuts, in this case, were just slightly spiced with some cayenne or some other spicy pepper that got you just in the back of the throat, and were toasted to perfection!

Whole Roasted Chicken with a Side of Broccoli Rabe
It was agreed upon that enough of us were into getting chicken such that we ordered the whole roasted chicken. I take much pride in being able to dismember a chicken carcass down to the bone and remove every bit of skin, meat, cartilage, and connective tissue as humanly possible. Sandwhich does a great job with their chicken. Cooked with a crispy outside skin and well seasoned on the inside as well. When you get to the carcass in the middle it's full of herbs and yummy goodness. Thinking back on it now I realize why our food was taking so long to come out. We ordered a whole freaking bird. What on EARTH were we thinking! Even still, this chicken fed 4 and we were all full by the end of it.

The broccoli rabe was a younger thinner variety than I've had, but I love the bitterness of rabe so much more than regular broccolini. Their version was simple sauteed in some garlic and olive oil and complimented our chicken quite nicely.

Our French Fries
This was our second side selection that came with our chicken. I've said it before and I'll say it again. If there are french fries on a menu I have to order them. If they are fresh cut, double fried, fries, then it's a no brainer and you better watch your hands if you want to keep them. Don't come in between this man and his fries!

Mac & Cheese
Now if you take a look at a menu in a restaurant and there is a section called "For The Table" and you find "Mac & Cheese" as your first option. You might as well expect the mac & cheese is going to be a gimme. You HAVE to order it. If a restaurant takes pride in their mac & cheese it's for a reason. Trust me on this one. Order it. You won't be dissapointed. Rich, gooey, slightly spiced, and all baked to a nice brown crust. Perfection in a bowl.

It takes a special person to be able to down a sandwich that's key ingredient is sardines. In fact it takes a German woman to do it. Ulla, ordered the one dish I was afraid to order. Of course, I wasn't afraid to ask to try it though. If you've never had a sardine this is not the time to try it. It'll knock you on your back with flavor and if you're not ready for it it'll quite possibly make you a little queazy. I loved it, although I don't think I'd be able to make a meal of it.

Cremini Mushroom Risotto
When it's just cool enough outside, and someone has already ordered a whole roast chicken, only then is it permissible to order risotto. Just kidding. But traditionally risotto is a dish you order when you've got some time on your hands and you're not worried about pissing off the kitchen. If you've ever made risotto, it's a bit work intensive. You practically have to stir for a solid half hour while adding broth in small amounts to get the creamy consistency every risotto deserves. It was obvious Hitch, was no stranger to risotto. Wonderfully executed, rich, and full of flavor.

Hitch - Owner/Chef

--Joe Kwon
Special thanks to Ulla, Bri, Sarah, Mary, and Leon for a wonderful evening!

For more information about Sandwhich visit their website.