In 1993 I had a several course meal at a tiny fairy-lit, tree filled outdoor restaurant located on a cliff off a winding road outside of Naples, Italy. At that time, it was what I considered the best meal of my life. To this day I have not tasted a boccoccino (baby mozzarella...in their case probably as local as down the street) that would even vaguely rival what exploded in my mouth that night. Unbelievable. Every course was flawless and burgeoning with flavors I had never experienced before. I had tasted food that "tried" to be this great, but my god, it was perfection.
I have had many truly great meals since because I have been very, very lucky. A home-cooked meal in Morocco of roasted sardines and vegetables....right up there.
And, now, there is my new love, Casanova. I was supremely blessed last weekend to have been taken to Casanova in Carmel (http://www.casanovarestaurant.com/). We were in town for my friend's 50th birthday and her brother, sister and sister-in-law took us there as it is one of their favorite spots. They know their food and they really know their wine, so they helped with their Casanova-expertise.
After the table was graced with perfect olives, tapenade, fresh baked crackers and breadsticks, they ordered Spinach Gnocchi as our first course. They were literally the best gnocchi I have ever eaten. I haven't even tasted anything in the same league before this. They were soooooo light...like little pillows, and full of spinach flavor, swimming in a rich -- but not too heavy -- cheesy sauce.
My next course was mussels in a just spicy enough wine and tomato sauce. I've eaten a LOT of mussels and these were the best. No kidding. The best. The french fries it came with were fried in some kinda yummy oil and sprinkled with course salt.
No need for me to go on and on about the other photographs below...I didn't even photograph everything ordered for the table. Each and every morsel was divine. The desserts featured -- and I didn't even photograph my lemon tart because I was too busy eating it -- are Lavender Flan, Profiteroles and Mushroom (yes mushroom) Ice Cream.
The wine that our amazing hosts ordered with the help of the brilliant Sommelier were outrageous. This was my favorite restaurant wine pairing experience ever. This Sommelier is nothing short of inspired.
We were a large group and it was a joyous event, but they tout themselves as the most romantic restaurant in Carmel...and they really are. It is an jewel of a spot for a romantic date. I cannot wait to share this with a love...if you are ever in Carmel with a love, you must go. It will probably catapult your relationship to new heights -- no matter how long you've been together!
And, if you aren't in a relationship, go anyway. You will be impressed and will have fun. The staff literally delights in serving each and every guest, creating an unforgettable celebration for every taste bud and soul that graces their gorgeous European country house in the middle of California!
And, if you love Van Gogh, then you are even luckier as they have a room set aside in honor of a table they have from Van Gogh's home. More magic.