I always have an outstanding time with my bestie of nearly 20 years! We went to college together, are both dietitians, love food and wine and share so many of the same passions and fears! Over the years, it seems as if we have nearly melded into the same person! Catching up after the holidays came with the added bonus of getting to try some incredible flavors and enjoy the pleasures of simultaneous charm and buzzing flow of well-trained waiters and chefs at Emeril Lagasse’s new restaurant, Emeril’s Coastal Italian. To live near Emeril Lagasse’s second home comes with the privilege of bragging. To have him open a restaurant near you and bless the clientele with his presence gives you flat-out gloating rights. My friend gave him a coy smile and a wave as we watched him preparing dishes, glass of wine being sipped as he worked and he winked at her! There he is, in his immaculate kitchen, surrounded by exquisite costal decor and flawless service. I noticed every detail, such as the Italian canapé plates stacked high at the pristine bar, the massive octopus and lobster artwork that covered an entire wall and the hand-crafted waxed canvas and leather aprons donned by the wait staff. But, wait!! I haven’t even gotten to the food yet! Andrew’s flatbread was served almost immediately. Clearly, they recognize the need to provide food in order to prevent unruly behavior from a toddler. Yes, I took a big risk bringing along this little monster, but he did well and didn’t even send a single dish crashing to the floor nor did he topple over in his chair! Whew!! I nibbled a bit on the flatbread and of course, it was amazing. Incredibly fresh flavors and for the little meatball fan, conceivably due to an obsession with “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”, was a hit!! Selecting from the menu didn’t come as easily to Jennifer and me, as I wanted it all! The chef specials sounded incredible! I wanted at least 10 different small plates, including smoked fish dip served with baguette, the pineapple and pancetta upside down cornbread and the calamari with cubanelle pepper and lemon aioli. I wanted to try the avocado bruschetta with sea salt and radish, the grilled vegetable flatbread with three cheeses and the parmesan crusted snapper! If I were wealthy, I would have ordered every single thing on the menu! Lacking a trust fund or self-earned fortune, I settled on the Fettuccine Nero and was in no way disappointed. Described on the menu to contain calabrian chiles (a red chili with the slightest heat), almond and crabmeat, the description does not provide justice. I’m certain I could have eaten at least two more bowls. Two waiters with separate arrivals to the table disclosed an unsurpassed favor for this dish. I was well-advised to choose this menu item above all others. Due to the tenderness and subtle sweetness, the fettuccine was recognizably fresh. My best guess is that the black color was derived from squid ink, edible as strange as it seems, imparts the darkest of color in fresh pasta. The chilies impart the tiniest amount of spice, the arugula add a glow of fresh flavor and the buttery sauce have just the right amount of garlic. The crab meat is tender and sweet, just as it should be. According to my husband, raised on the coast, when you catch crab it must be either cooked immediately or frozen. This flaky, rich sea meat was not previously frozen, I’m certain; I don’t think this bon vivant and Food Network star would accept anything but live crabs into his fine kitchen. I only wish I could cook like this. Next time, Mike and I are going in for a chef’s tasting. They take your menu away. If Emeril is there, he serves in person, his choice of secret dishes from ingredients he keeps tucked away in a vault, ingredients that even the staff isn’t privy to have knowledge of….doesn’t that make your mouth water? My obsession with food has just become a bit more insatiable. If we make a tasting and Emeril is there, my goal is to get a photo with him and see if by chance, I can get him to make a comment on my blog!! After all, Emeril may not cook like we do, but surely puts his socks on just like us…or as Jennifer would say, “pees on the seat just like every other man”! Ha! Ha! Ha!