I was contacted near the end of September by the PR firm that represents Star Fine Foods; wondering if I would be interested in helping them to arrange a local food blogger dinner. The intent was to introduce local bloggers to their olive oils and most specifically their California Extra Virgin Olive Oil. My role would be to find a restaurant that was willing to participate and use Star’s products exclusively for the meal they would prepare as well as help fill the tables with guests. I was fortunate that some friends had been in attendance at a similar event in California and had shared with me what an amazing time was had by all.
The truth is I seldom go out for dinner; I enjoy preparing food and having friends over for a meal. But I do have a couple of favorite places and a new one I had just been to with a friend had risen to that spot after only one meal. My friend Barb and her husband had discovered Ototo, located on Pearl Street in Denver. Their son attends The School of Rock nearby and they will often gravitate to a local place for a cocktail or glass of wine with a couple of small plates while waiting for his class to finish. She knew I would love it as much as she did and she was right. Warm, cozy, friendly staff and for us that first night, the piece de resistance? We sat next to those floor to ceiling windows in the photo above that we did not realize until the manager asked if he could open them were like a garage door. We were soon feasting on fried sunchoke, steamed mussels and Waygu beef tartar with the perfect late summer evening breeze joining us at our table.
After the details between parties were worked out, it was on and I started to invite people that I knew would appreciate the opportunity to sample Star’s Olive Oils in this cozy environment. I had asked the company to ship some samples to Denver prior to the event and they outdid themselves; everyone who attended was sent home with a bag of goodies including their Extra Virgin Olive Oils from Spain and California, Holy Land Olive Oil from Israel, a flavored oil and the biggest pimento stuffed green olives I have ever seen!
The evening started with a tasting of the Star Olive Oils; I think we’ve come to expect good products from Italy and Spain but I think everyone was not just surprised but excited about how good the California product was. I would compare it very favorably to a much pricier brand that I often have in my kitchen. Without reservation this will become my go to brand; it’s well priced and readily available in local grocery stores. Although purists might not be as favorable towards flavored olive oils, I have to tell you that I enjoyed them and that the Lemon one is The BOMB!
After we had some time to socialize and taste the different oils, we were seated in Ototo’s cozy back room. It was the perfect spot for a group our size; fitting up to about 20 people. We were provided with a menu of what we could expect from Chef Darren and his staff and I believe everyone in that room was excited.
The first course was grilled zucchini that was accompanied with tomato jam, anchovies, capers, and olive oil. It was not only beautiful but the perfect starter with the jam and anchovies packing just a touch of oomph into each bite of the zucchini wrapped around warm chevre. Totally delicious but not too filling; we had a lot to cover in this one evening.
Appearing next was this beautiful dish. Ahi tuna cured in olive oil mixed with orange segments and an olive oil confit of tomatoes served on top of the most amazing tagliatelle pasta. I did not want this course to end. True confession? I have never had tuna this rare. I will never eat it any other way. So Perfect.
I admit when I saw halibut on the menu I most likely felt a bit ho-hum about this course. I want to apologize openly to Chef Darren. This fish was exquisite. Alaskan halibut was poached in extra virgin olive oil and accompanied by fennel that had been poached in saffron. The plate was finished with a fennel puree and fennel olive oil and the resulting colors made for both a gorgeous dish and one with sublime flavors. Despite the seeming abundance of fennel it was the perfect and subtle accompaniment.
Our next course is the lamb that is featured at the beginning of this post. Every course served seemed to outdo the previous one but I was so in love with that halibut that I was sure nothing could compare. I was wrong, so very wrong. Chef Darren Pusateri (on the right in photo) has a private resource for Colorado lamb and it was the most tender, moist and flavorful piece of lamb I have ever eaten. The combination of that perfect piece of meat with the crust of pistachios and olive oil was, in a word, divine. The Chef provided me with the recipe for this dish which I’ve shared at the end of this post; I fear I will have to stalk him after work and find his secret lamb resource…I AM making this for our Christmas dinner! When I say good? I mean I picked up that piece of bone and gnawed every last bite as if it were a chicken leg good. And I know for a fact I was not alone!
The only photo of the meal I did not have was for the Olive Oil ice cream and Salted Caramel Sauce with Hazelnut Souffle and a Honey Olive Oil Tuille. Our fabulous finish. As luck would have it though, my friend Karen who also attended the dinner made her own version of the olive oil ice cream and the salted caramel sauce. I have lifted this photo without her permission and will ask her forgiveness later but also hope you will visit her blog, Savoury Table, where she has provided a recipe for this delicious finish, claiming this ice cream to be one of the smoothest and creamiest ever. Exactly. A spot on description. Add the salted caramel sauce and it was just the perfect finish to our meal.
You might think an entire meal with the emphasis on each dish including olive oil would be overdone but it was anything but. It complimented everything but overpowered nothing. I personally use olive oil in most of my dishes, either alone or often mixing with butter for the fat component. Except when using it as a dipping sauce for bread I don’t think the idea is to actually taste it on its’ own, it’s like other ingredients, the melding of all of them together is what makes the perfect whole. And to a dish, this whole meal was amazing.
I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Chris Yemma with DGWB Advertising and Communications out of Santa Ana, CA. He worked with me through this entire process, was so easy to work with and I hope, despite having to travel to Denver in a snow that came way too early while suffering from the beginnings of a cold, that he enjoyed this spectacular dinner as much as everyone else did.
I continue to hear kudos for the meal; I mean huge kudos. The combination of Star Fine Foods products combined with the effort by the staff at Ototo made for what many have called one of their best meals ever. We are still talking about it, actually dreaming about it might be more accurate!
I’m pleased to be able to share with you the amazing lamb dish that was prepared by Chef Darren but be sure to check out the sweepstakes at the end of this post that I’m doing. Star Fine Foods has provided a fabulous gift basket for the winner; now you can try everything we had at our tasting and more!
Huge thanks to Adam Larkey for photos of the olive oil tasting and dishes we enjoyed during the evening, to Karen Harris for her photo of the ice cream and to Ototo for the outside photo of their establishment.
Now for that Sweepstakes…
I thought that after teasing you with how wonderful this evening was that it would be only fair if my readers had an opportunity to experience some of Star Fine Food’s products. They were happy to oblige and have promised to ship this gift basket filled with an assortment of their products to the winner of a sweepstakes. Included in the basket are Cara Mia Artichoke Salad and Artichoke Hearts, and an assorted of Star products including Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Extra Light Olive Oil, Garlic Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, Seasoned Rice Vinegar, Spanish Olives, Spanish Salad Olives, Maraschino Cherries and two recipe books.
How to win?
- Main Entry [Required] – Leave a comment below sharing your favorite use for olive oil.
Want extra entries?
Each item you do will get you ONE chance to win for a total of 3 chances. If you are already doing any of these, they do count; just make note of that in your comment. You MUST leave each entry as a separate comment or only one comment will count!
- Follow @creativculinary & @Star_Fine_Foods on Twitter and tweet the following statement then come back to this post and tell us you tweeted:
I just entered 2 win a basket of Olive Oil, Olives & more fm @creativculinary & @Star_Fine_Foods – Enter here http://su.pr/2GSEA3 #giveaway
- Subscribe to Creative Culinary’s email updates. This is different from an RSS feed! When you click the link, you will see “Subscribe to Creative Culinary.” Once you subscribe to the email updates, you will get an email confirming your subscription and announcements of new posts will be delivered via email. Or let us know you already get our email updates.
- This sweepstakes is open to USA residents, age 18 and above only and will run until Sunday, November 13, 2011 at 11:59 pm EST.
- Winner will be generated via random.org and will be notified via the email provided on the comment form information.
- Winner will have until midnight, November 18, 2011 to claim the Star Fine Foods gift basket or we will choose another winner.
- Winner will receive one gift basket of Star Fine Foods products (retail value of $65). Product will be shipped directly to the winner by Star Fine Foods.
This sweepstakes prize is provided to you by Creative Culinary and Star Fine Foods. The views and opinions expressed on this site are based upon my experience with this product. Star Fine Foods paid for my assistance in setting up this event and provided similar products to me free of charge, however, I was not compensated for this article or expected to provide a positive review.