KitchenSavvy has been quiet for the past few weeks as my Bride of 34 years and I were away on a holiday - three weeks of roaming around France and Italy, followed by an 18 day cruise, aboard the Emerald Princess, from Venice along the northern Mediterranean and across the Atlantic Ocean to Fort Lauderdale.
Of course a trip like that was filled with all sorts of food adventures, and some pretty amazing, as well as a few not so amazing, restaurants. You can find some of the more interesting places listed in this posting on Pat's blog. One of the most fun food experiences of the trip, though, was out in the middle of the Atlantic.
Princess Cruises has started to offer a Chef's table on the some of their sailings. The only way to reserve a place is once you are actually on board ship, so we got to the ship as early as possible and went immediately to the Purser's Desk, only to learn that the Chef's Table was already booked for that cruise. As luck would have it, though, there was enough demand to encourage them to add another time.
On the appointed evening, we joined 5 other couples to enjoy this experience. We met the Maître d'Hôtel Nicola Furlan in the public area on the Plaza Deck, where we got a short presentation on the food service operations on board the ship. After that we were taken on a tour of the ships galley serving two of the main dining rooms. There we met Executive Chef Joel Directo as well as some of the other staff.
The menu for the night was appropriately titled a "Triumph of Gluttony." We started in the galley with Heidsieck Monopole Blue Label champagne and appetizers of:
- Blue Crab Salad with Avocado and Grapefruit, served in martini glasses
- Steak Tartar served in Sesame Cones
- Fontina and White Truffle Mini-Quiches
- Buckwheat Blini with Caviar and Creme Fraiche
We then moved to a specially prepared table in another dining room for the rest of the meal:
- Porcini Mushroom Risotto with Stuffed Swordfish Cornucopia
- Drunken Sorbet of Strawberry and Cracked Pepper with Gray Goose Vodka
- "Double Impact" Surf and Turf which included Lobster Tail, Scallop Brochettes skewered on Lemon Grass, Beef Fillet, Lamb Chop accompanied by Chateau Potatoes, Turned Vegetables, Warm Artichoke Salad as well as Mustard Hollandaise, Rosemary Jus, and Lemon Butter
- Baked Camembert with Pine Nuts, Bitter Marmalade and Walnut Bread
- Iced Amaretto Parfait with Marsala Sabayon
Wines were paired with the food, the most notable of which was an Errazuriz Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc dessert wine from Chile served with the Baked Camembert.
There is a saying that you taste first with your eyes. It was certainly true at the Chef's Table. Presentations were beautiful and creative. For example, the bowl in which the parfait was served, shown in the picture, is actually made from melted sugar.
The food was excellent. Flavors were full and rich, and well balanced. The only missed note, in my opinion, was the Steak Tartar. To me, the real pleasure of steak tartar or carpaccio is the subtle yet complex flavor of the raw meat, complemented by ingredients that provide the canvas. Because of fears nowadays about eating uncooked meat, the steak was marinated in a strong citric base making it more of a beef ceviche than a tartar. Other than that, the meal was excellent ... even if somewhat daunting in the amount.
All told, it was an astounding experience. My only hope is that Princess continues to maintain the Chef's Table at this high quality.