Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dining with Dolphins

We have been onboard our cruise ship, Celebrity Century, for 9 nights so far and it is amazing. My SH and I have been on 5 cruises now, working our way up from the boozy cruise of our honeymoon on the Fairstar in 1996 (they didn’t call it the “Fun Ship” for nothing!) to more recently the Princess Line on the Sun and Dawn Princesses. Sailing with Celebrity is a more mature experience. There are no activities that would interest our children, and in fact, we are amongst the youngest passengers on the ship. There are probably only about 30 or 40 passengers around our age group out of about 1890 passengers. Having said that, we are having a great time despite the age differences we are encountering. We have met some truly lovely people and are enjoying finding out about their home towns and the differences between our countries. Most of the passengers are from the US, but there are also passengers from the UK, Germany, Australia (although we are among the minority) and various parts of Europe and Asia.

Our cruise is sailing from Auckland to Fremantle for 18 nights, and is called the “Bottom Circumnavigation Cruise” as it is sailing from New Zealand around the bottom of Australia to Perth. So far we are still in New Zealand, with tomorrow being our last day here before sailing to Sydney, Australia. We have been to Tauranga, Akaroa, Christchurch, and Dunedin; finishing our tour of New Zealand with a day sailing through the Dusky, Doubtful and Milford Sounds in fjordland. All of these places have been just so pretty and we enjoyed visiting all of them. We were saddened to see the destruction in Christchurch that the earthquakes have caused. It is a bit like a ghost city as it is very quiet; the silence only broken by the sound of masonry crashing down from the terminally damaged buildings in the “Red Zone”.

Anyway, enough of all that; this is a food blog! I wish there was some way I could let you all experience the pleasure that the food on this ship is giving me. It is just the most amazing sensation, to be eating food of such a high standard every night. The main dining room is at the rear of the ship and reaches out over two levels. It is a stunning room, and our table is at the very rear of the restaurant overlooking the ocean and the wake of the ship. Each night we look out over the water and we can see dolphins jumping over the waves, chasing after the ship. We have also been privy to an albatross, with a wing span of more than 6 feet, dipping and soaring along the wind currents behind us. The sea has held our attention almost as much as the food has.

The Grand Restaurant serves a gourmet “a la carte” menu every meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner). The selection is sometimes too much, as I am struggling to choose which meal I want to have at any given moment. I have decided that I am going to choose the foods that I have never had before, if that is an option. With that thought in mind, I have already eaten Frogs’ Legs (buffalo style) and Foie Gras, both of which are completely new to me. I was particularly pleased with how delicious the frogs’ legs were as I had heard varying reviews of them. To me they tasted partly like chicken, but also a little like fish. The foie gras is not something that I will hurry to have again. SH chose this for his entrĂ©e, and while he did try it, he was very quick to let me finish the dish as the consistency is… well I would say it is “tricky” to stomach. It was very jelly like, where I had imagined it would be more like a pate.

Frogs' Legs

Enjoying dinner at the Murano restaurant. SH has foie gras and I have the escargot.

The frogs’ legs were part of our regular dining menu, but the foie gras was actually part of the meal we were served in the specialty restaurant onboard, Murano. This restaurant serves a menu that you might find in a 3 star Michelin restaurant in France. It had the most amazing choices on the menu, and the waiters and Maitre D’ Restaurant were all very helpful when it came to making our choices. Some of the dishes are prepared at your table side, so there is a great deal of showmanship in the evening as well. We were treated like royalty, and they really went out of their way to ensure that we were having a great time.

While dining at the Murano, we also both ate black truffle for the first time. SH had a Romaine salad with black truffle vinaigrette which he said was sublime. Perched on top of his salad was an egg “sunny side up” with a sliver of truffle sitting in the middle. Quite an interesting flavour, it certainly added something extra to his salad. However we both joked that the truffle probably cost more than we had paid for the meal itself! We left our wine choices to our Sommelier as they have paired particular wines to each meal. This meant that I was served a Pinot from Santa Barbara, California with my duck dish, which was actually really good. This is only the second time I have had red wine since the Tahbilk Taste of Shiraz dinner, and I definitely liked the Pinot better than the other reds as it wasn’t as heavy.

There are so many different food experiences available onboard the Century. So far I have been to a cooking demonstration where they showed off the types of dishes that are presented at the Murano. Then SH and I went to a presentation showing us how to cook the perfect steak; and another that was focused solely on chocolate. There are others later in the cruise to do with desserts, pastries and so on.

Perhaps the event that excited me most so far? Being one of 10 people attending a cooking class with the Executive Chef and some of his staff! This was a 4 hour event, that included about 2 ½ hours of cooking lesson time, followed by lunch with the Chef enjoying the food we had created. I also received an autographed copy of the Celebrity cook book, which has over 260 recipes in it! I got to wear the apron and the hat and took photos of the food and the preparation. It was so much fun! 

We worked with the Executive Chef, learning as we went. He talked us through each step, and then we went ahead and did them ourselves. The entree was a smoked salmon, avocado mousse and peeky toe crab dish. I can't remember the name of the dish, but it was really pretty in the book and mine finished up looking exactly like the picture! The main was a BBQ Chilean Snapper on mash, that was absolutely delicious, and the new skill I learned while making this dish was how to flip food in a pan without using tongs. I've never done that before, so I was pretty stoked when I didn't end up with fish or mash all over the hot plate.

My entree

Chef's entree

Chef's main

My main

Lunch with the Executive Chef

So as you can tell, this trip is going to cause a few kilos to take up residence on my hips – but it is so worth it!

1 comment:

SH said...

Amazing food on the ship :)