No, your eyes do not deceive you. I am actually (finally) writing this post. Now I know it has been a long time since my last post, and for this I apologize. I am going to try to get into a rhythm where I am posting at least twice a week. I think that’s a fair balance for me, and keeps expectations in check. Where I last left you I was speaking of my Las Vegas experiences and this will be the finale in that concerto.
So why the big deal about this write-up? Well, honestly, I think it deserved the week-long build up that sort of happened. But beyond that, tonight’s topic is the restaurant that my wife and I went to for our anniversary dinner, and home to the best meal I have ever eaten in my life. Carnevino. To most, that name means nothing. To come, it means “Meat Wine.” Others still might recognize it as Mario Batali’s restaurant.
My first impression of the place was mixed. The setting itself is pretty romantic: slightly dimmed lights, nice tables, space between said tables, nice architecture. The mixed part comes from the choice of music, which did not set the mood at all. But I’m not here to talk about the setting. I’m here to talk about the food.
Shortly after we were seated, one of the servers came by with these two little cheese balls, for lack of a better term. It was meant as a small appetizer I suppose, and it was awesome. It was almost like a tiny (think doughnut hole) fried cheese dough ball thing. Horrible description I know, but I don’t even know what kind of cheese it was made from. That’s not important. What was important was how great it was. You see, after they fried it, they rolled it in some sea salt to give it a punch. Now, my dining companion was not so fond of the salty exterior, but I thought it was perfect. The dough was soft and chewy, slightly cheesy and salty. I really believe that the salt was paired perfectly with the cheese here and both parts were playing in harmony…and that’s at least my second music metaphor already. I did not plan it like that. Moving on…We devoured those and were ready to order. Now, above where I named Carnevino the first time, I linked it to the website. I highly recommend that you check it out and look at the menu because I really don’t want to get into it.
There are options a-plenty for appetizers, pastas, entrees, desserts, sauces, sides…everything. And everything looked so fancy. We agreed that the best bet would be the 3-month aged bone-in rib eye for two. Before you start drooling, just know that they had some of their super hard-to-get meat on hand; what they call “Reserva,” which has been aged for 8 months and no other steakhouse I have ever heard of ages for that long. Along with our slab of brontosaurus (more on that in a little bit), we chose three sides and all were exquisite.
And before you even ask, yes: each side is getting its’ own paragraph. First, we chose the Marscapone and Guanciale Mashed Potatoes. Oh. My. Gosh. These were divine. And the best part is something they left off of the menu. When the server put the dish down with the potatoes, she said this: “Chef recommends that we break up the poached egg for you.” Yep, there was a poached egg hiding in the potatoes. My wife, not being a fan of runny yolk, was a little turned off by the sight of the oozing yellow yolk and the subsequent stirring of it in the potatoes. I told her to trust me and it would be awesome. The dish was basically licked clean by the end of the evening. Yeah, they were good. Oh, I need to educate on what gunaciale is, because nobody is gonna know what that is. It’s a very special type of Italian bacon, unsmoked jowl or cheek meat. Don’t you dare scoff at that! It had ENORMOUS flavor. In my opinion, way better then regular bacon. Hands down, not even close. It was complex, slightly crunchy, salty and added a lot of body to an already rich potato dish.
As phenomenal as the potatoes were, we also ordered an equally amazing vegetable dish, the Italian Broccoli with House Smoked Pork. Another home-run here. The broccoli didn’t taste too much differently then regular broccoli, but it was expertly cooked. Grilled to perfection, seasoned with olive oil and the pork. Think “regular bacon” here, and it too added a ton to the dish. The broccoli was crunchy and the oil had created a little sauce on the vegetable, occasionally dripping down my chin a little bit. Man, my mouth was watering when it was in front of me, and it is watering now just thinking about it. Not to mention that it paired very nicely with our beef we got.
Third side dish was basically for me since my wife doesn’t like the vegetable involved, Charred Green Beans with Golden Raisins and Lemon. Finally, a side dish without bacon! Blasphemy, I know, but it was easily the best green bean dish I have ever had. They were evenly charred all the way around and that created this really rich, deep smokey flavor. They were still crisp though, so the texture was really great too. The raisins actually added a lot of depth too, when eaten directly with some of the beans. They were this soft, sweet contrast to the slightly salty, smokey bean. The lemon was subtle, but it was definitely there, making sure everything was in place and rested well on the palate.
Now for the main event. I honestly feel like I could write for years on this one steak. Carnevino has their own “type” of beef that they get. You may have heard of the Select, Choice and Prime cuts of beef. That’s nothing compared to Carnevino’s BBL beef. In many cases (according to their menu), it is better than Prime USDA beef. I’m good with that! So this steak we got. They have a whole “show” they put on for it. They come tableside with a little cart and pull the meat of out a little convection heater box thing and display the meat to the diners in its’ whole form. It’s huge. Like, really huge. So then they transfer the meat from plate to cutting board and they get to work. First carefully removing the bone from the meat and setting the former upon its own plate. Then they get to work taking off the small amount of fat from the outside and artfully carve the meat for you whilst plating it at the same time. So when all was said and done each diner has a plate with a mound of sliced steak right in the middle, instead of having a traditional steak on the plate. When both plates are full of beef, the carver sprinkles a little touch of sea salt right on top of everything and places the plates in front of the eager diners. “Chef recommends that we drizzle this olive oil on your steak.” In my opinion, the chef knows best, right? Drizzle away! Then, the plate with the bones is displayed to me and I am told that there is still some good meat on the bone and they leave the plate next to me. Because the meat is such a high quality here, they do very little to it in the flavor department. They salt and pepper it, and then rub it with some rosemary for some additional flavor. My first bite blew me away. My second bite blew me away. My third bite…you get the idea. Every bite of this steak got better the more I ate it. That’s both an amazing feat, and also very dangerous because at the same time, I wanted to savor every bite while getting to the next as soon as possible. The texture was so incredibly smooth. A knife was almost not even needed. The flavor was rich and deep, with a very profound “beefy” flavor. The salt was a very artful move as it only helped to accentuate the meat’s awesomeness. And the olive oil really brought a new element to the plate and wasn’t just a novelty. They are not joking around when it comes to steak. I swear. I would fly out to Vegas just for that steak. The crust was spectacular. Not too hard, but not entirely soft. Rich and complex from the aging process.
It stands to note here that the actual amount of steak on the plate is quite grand. There’s a lot of food on the table right now. Not even thinking about that huge brontosaurus bone staring at me, I devour a significant amount of my steak and the sides. All while enjoying a perfectly paired glass of red wine, I might add. At one point I finally reached my breaking point. I slid my main plate up a little bit and I closed in on the bone meat. I mean, how much better can it be, right? So I cut a small sliver from the side of the bone and promptly devoured it. Oh my gosh. Could it even be possible that this is better then the main steak? Yes! The bone provides so much additional flavor and that meat right along the bone was so intense and beyond amazing. So I started focusing at this point on just the bone meat. Trying to get all of the meaty goodness from the bone. After I ran out of easily-accessible meat, I turned the bone on its’ side and cut a piece of meat from in-between the two bones. Mouth. Gasm. Total mouthgasm (yes, you may use this word in the future). I literally turned to my wife and said “I was not prepared at all for how amazing this is!” Seriously. It was almost all crusty deliciousness. Slightly crunchy, and the most intense flavor I have probably ever had. It was like the best part of the steak and bone meat combined, and then amplified by at least 10. I was tempted to start going table to table and ask for that meat. Oh yeah, it was killer. Amazing. Divine. I don’t even know if there are proper words to describe it’s amazingness. So those will have to suffice.
At that point, I was in heaven and I knew that I could die a happy man. Luckily, I am still alive and I can tell the tale. I intentionally withheld from putting pictures up there as to not distract you from the words. The shots of the actual food itself was done with my cell, so the quality will be lacking. However, the shot of the table spread is nice and high quality, and you should be able to click on it and get a bigger view of it. Check out the huge bone on the left of the screen!
So there you go. A long-delayed post about the most amazing meal I have ever eaten. I hope this was drool-inducing for you, because it certainly was for me! Oh! After just proof-reading, I remembered something I wanted to add! Because of the quality of the meat, it wasn’t like a traditional rib eye that you might buy from the grocer. Well, obviously. But more specifically, when you buy a rib eye from the grocery, it usually has huge fat groups within the steak and you generally have to cut around them. Not so with this meat. 99% of the fat was intramuscular and was a pleasure to eat, so nearly all of the steak was edible, and enjoyable.Stay positive, love your life, and play with your food 🙂