Thursday, August 27, 2009

The best thing I ever ate..Italian

I don’t know how many of you have seen the new show on food network called “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” but I am seriously obsessed! For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about I will give you a brief rundown straight from the mouth of food network..

“Ever wonder what the biggest food stars and chefs eat in their free time – when they're paying? Find out on The Best Thing I Ever Ate! It's the ultimate guide to the country's most amazing meals, eats, and treats as told by the pros who spend their lives obsessing over food. From a barbecue sandwich worth driving over 1500 miles to canolli so good that it completely healed a bad breakup. Don't miss this series featuring some of your favorite Food Network stars, offering a taste of the things you must try before you die.”

If you haven’t seen it you are seriously deprived! However there is one major problem with this show! You see, it is part of the food network nighttime basically that time of night when your dinner has worn off and you are starting to get hungry again and yet it is too late to eat anything because you are going to bed soon (or better yet watching tv in bed) this amazing program comes on that features the true food gems in this country! Can I say torture or what?? I sit there salivating as I watch my fav food network stars rave about their favorite dishes which come fully equipped with detailed explanations and clear viewing to drive anyone crazy! My willpower (not to dig into everything in the fridge after watching this show) has held out so far but I don’t know how long it will last..oh well!

Anyways, each week the show has a new theme such as chocolate, sandwiches, seafood, etc. So as a tribute to one of my new favorite tv obsessions I am going to provide all of my lucky readers with my own version featuring guessed it..Italian food (although I have to admit what I about to reveal was probably the best meal I have ever ate..period)!

So without further ado here it goes…

I am an avid fan of Bravo’s Top Chef and this last season was one of my all time favorites! I was born into a top chef lovin family and My mom and sis are obsessed love this show too. Which is great because although we are many miles apart we are able to analyze the shows over the phone (and oh do we analyze)! My mom was totally captivated by this last season and has them all taped on her dvr so that she can watch them anytime (but really were not obsessed)! Although, I have determined that it is one show that you can watch over and over again since there is so much yummy food happenings that it is hard to catch it all in one watch. One of the contestants was by far our favorite and stole our hearts and stomachs early on with some fantastic food and stand out phrases! Unfortunately he did not make it to the final three (he was voted off at final four) but boy did he make this season memorable :)

If you still don’t know who I am talking about its Fabio!! One of the things that captivated me most about Fabio, besides his amazing looking food, was his outlandish personality. Since he was born and raised in Florence some of the things he said or was said to him would be confused in translation. Here are some of his most memorable quotes:

“I am front of the house. We can serve monkey-ass and empty clam shell and we will win.” (said during the restaurant wars episode)

"This is Top Chef, not Top Pussy!"

"Hospital?  I'll chop it off and sear it on the flatop so it doesn't bleed anymore, and tomorrow I'll deal with 9 finger." (said when asked if he wanted to go to the hospital after he broke his finger during the Last supper challenge)

" It's not a freakin' cheese steak. It's a fillet mignon sandwich."

"I'm 30 years old and I have to sleep in the bunky bed."

"I got so many kick in my ass so many time, that sometime when I'm in the bathroom, I still pull shoe out of my ass."

“This is Top Chef, not Top Scallop”

If you have watched last season you are probably laughing as you recall Fabio in his heavy Italian accent spouting out this hilarious and off the wall statements (and if you didn’t watch it you missed out)!

Not only did Fabio provide a lot of comic relief to the season, he also produced some amazing looking food that help him go far in the competition. As I had mentioned before, my mom and sis were equally impressed with him and since his restaurant was less than two hours away from their house my mom promised my sis they would go there for her birthday. Fortunately for me my family is quick to dream and talk but slow to take action. Therefore, although my sis’s b-day was in April, the anticipated trip didn’t actually take place till I was out there this last month..they were so sweet to wait for me :)

mom's pics 1622

Fabio’s restaurant, Cafe Firenze Italian Restaurant and Martini Bar, is located in Moore Park, CA (about a half hour outside Santa Barbara). So after finally deciding and sticking to a date to go, My parents, sister, next door neighbor and I set out to experience food like we never dreamed possible. On a side note, the neighborhood where I grew up is very close and we actually invited them all to come but we were the only ones that could make it..their loss.

In the typical Thomas (my family) fashion we had looked up the restaurant on-line and printed off the menus to take in the car so that we could be fully preparing our taste buds for what lied ahead. We also thought it would be a good way to decide what we were going to have so that we wouldn’t be indecisive when we got there (that part didn’t really work though). I also have to add the my neighbor, Lisa, is the queen of Italian cooking and has first hand knowledge of true Italian food and heritage :) She also loves food and is one of the best people to eat out with..she truly makes it a whole new experience! We arrived at the restaurant around 2pm as to enjoy a late lunch, which was really nice since it was a Wednesday and therefore we basically had the restaurant to ourselves. Oh and it was beautiful!

mom's pics 1618

Our waitress was top notch..seriously! One of the first questions we asked was if Fabio was there. Unfortunately, he was taping a segment for a show and was not there..bummer! We were a little disappointed but not for long..the food sure stole our hearts, made our taste buds leap with joy and our stomachs smile. Even though we had been looking at the printed out menu for the last hour and a half, we still spent 15 minutes or more trying to decide what to indulge in..there were so many good choices. The waitress was really helpful and brought out a sample of the lobster bisque, which was oh so amazing and would even make a non-seafood lover swoon!

One of the reasons that I love eating with Lisa (my neighbor) is that she is not afraid to say what she wants and order us around a little :) This was her when we first were trying to decide..

“Okay I’ll get the seared tuna salad and Ash you’ll get the butternut squash ravioli, and Holly you’ll get the risotto, and Kirk you’ll get the pizza and Suzanne you’ll get the beef capriccio and then we can all share!”

I didn’t turn our exactly that way but we did figure out something that worked! My sister is gluten intolerant and therefore was fairly limited. One of the main dishes that she can have and we all wanted to try was the Wild Mushroom and Homemade Sausage Risotto. However, for some reason only known to her and God she didn’t want to try the homemade sausage (hello it makes the dish) and opted for chicken instead (did I mention she was dropped on her head as a baby?)! So since Lisa and I really wanted to try the Risotto as Fabio had intended it to be we decided to order it along with our other entrees (like an appetizer). It was seriously love at first bite! I had never had risotto before and holy batman..I almost upped and booked a ticket to Florence right then and there! I have to give it to my sis though, it was also very good with the chicken as well…but the sausage..oh my (and normally I am not a huge fan of sausage)! The dish was velvety with an earthiness and depth I can’t even begin to describe! I will say that the taste didn’t leave my mouth memory for weeks after (that’s when you know it was top notch)!

I also decided to try the butternut squash ravioli and a side salad that had the most amazing oven roasted tomatoes on it. Another home run! The ravioli was very rich and had a lovely sweet flavor (I late found out that was due to adding amaretto cookies to it).and oh that cream sage die for! After one bite it was good, after two bites watch out, and after three bites..well don’t even try to take it away from me! We all shared and everyone loved it! Next Lisa got the seared tuna salad with the same yummy oven roasted tomatoes..okay seriously where is my ticket to Florence?! My mom got the beef capriccio that Fabio made during one of the challenges on top chef. If you recall they all really like it and now we know why..amazing!! It came with olives that through the use of molecular gastronomy had been made into liquid and then shaped like olives cool! Last but certainly not least my dad got the lasagna bolognese..and oh what a lasagna it was! Normally I am not a huge fan of lasagna so I have to say I wasn’t over the moon to try it but obliviously that didn’t stop me, if it was as good as everything else I knew I was in for a treat. Let me tell you did not disappoint!! The first bite totally swept me off my feet and instantly transported me to what I have always dreamed Italy would be like. The homemade noodles were fresh and perfectly cooked paired with a sauce that was robust yet slightly sweet and basically made my mouth do cartwheels. You may think I'm exaggerating …really it is that good!

We ended the meal with a wonderful flowerless chocolate cake and an amazing gelato..which my sis so loved since neither contained gluten :)

This meal was one for the books! Oh and one of the best parts was that as we were finishing..stuffed to the brim..the waitress came over and announced that Fabio was back from the taping and we could meet him. So excited! He came over to the table and we proceeded to have about a 15 minute convo with him..and since my mom literally stocked him via bravo she had all kinds of questions for him. Oh and he didn’t disappoint either…he was totally as charming and witty in person as he was on tv.

So there you have it folks, if you are looking for a authentic Italian meal that will literally rock you world you totally have to check out Cafe Firenze in Moore Park, CA. Believe me you will never look at Italian food the same way again..I just can’t wait to go to Italy someday..and the food obsession lives on!

Here are some more pics of the wonderful event..

mom's pics 1620

mom's pics 1621

mom's pics 1624

Have a wonderful food-filled dreaming night!


  1. Just wanted to chime in...the meal was seriously the best I ever ate. I am already planning a return trip for my belated birthday in Oct. (yea, we do everything belated) I already know what I am ordering what dad is ordering and what I am getting "to go"! Ash, you did a great job sharing one of my all time favorite food memories.

  2. Ok, I forgot to mention on my comment above that I am Ashley's mom :)

  3. wait a second... i'm a food network fanatic... how come i've never heard of this!! ahhhhhhhh! okay clearly im not a fanatic enough. will watch out for it!

  4. i love foodie shows! i'll have to check this out!

  5. I love the food network!! :)

  6. mmmm i think ima hankering for some italian tonight! haha. glad you found this wonderful gem of a restaurant :)

  7. I adore the food network!! I spend far too much time attempting to cook like them...and maybe talking to myself in the kitchen like I have my own show. Wait, did I say that?! ;)

  8. I loved LOVED Fabio! I can't believe you ate there! I have to tell my husband! He's going to be so jealous! Oh the "Top Scallop" comment had me laughing for days!

  9. Too bad i shut off our tv over a year ago. The kids were watching too much junk. Makes it easier to do things as a family :)- just made me extremely hungry and in the mood for italian. i'm not exactly the BEST cook, and i don't want to be in the kitchen for hours, so i'll order a pizza. It's still considered Italian right? lol
    P.S. I GAVE YOU AN AWARD beautiful lady.

  10. Oh, this made me soooooo hungry---lucky you to go to this restaurant!

  11. I love Top Chef and I LOVE Italian food even more!!!

  12. mmm italian!! im so hungry right now :) good thing its dinner time! hope you had a great weekend!!

  13. I am very very hungry just about now, I looooove Italian food. Yum! Cute pics and glad you had fun!