December 31, 2009

dinner at the chefs table

After spending a ton of money in town, what could be better than a great meal on the ship. One of the activities that Jane had researched before the cruise is called the Chef’s table. This is a really exclusive experience that they only do once a cruise for a very limited number of people. In our case there were ten of us lucky passengers that called toget our name on the list as soon as we got on the ship. Of the ten all of us were experienced multi-cruise passengers. A couple of Florida cruises 3 times a year. Another couple from Ohio had cruised many times with their family. They were a bit older than us as their kids were out of college by now. The two other couples were both gay men. Ha, no stereotypes here that a foodie event should have four gay men in attendance! One couple was from LA and the other from New York.

We all met at the International cafe for a short pre-dinner briefing. We met the Executive Chef who was our tour guide for the galley and the rest of the evening. The chef directs a staff of around 250 spread throughout seven galleys on the ship. We began our tour of the galley that served our dining room by putting on our white FDA inspector lab coats. As the tour was happening during dinner service we had to wash our hands wear the lab coats.

The chef was really friendly and very willing to answer any of our questions. We told him how much we liked the parmesan crust under the fettucine alfredo and he launched into a very detailed explanation of how they made the crusts each day. I got the whole thing on video with our little video toy.

At the end of the galley tour we gathered in an out of the way corner and had hors-de-ouveres and champagne. We started out with a sashimi tuna with wasabi sauce, served on a little scoop made of a fennel root. This was followed by: a delicious pate, vegetarian quiche, Escargot, and caviar served on a little potato pancake. Yes I ate everything including the caviar which was really very good served on the potato pancake with a little sour cream. As he introduced each appetizer we got a summary of how it was prepared. It was really interesting. None of the appetizers or anything in our meal is available anywhere else on the ship. It is a meal that is totally unique to the Chefs Table dinner.

After the appetizers we made our way through the dining room to a special table. As we walked through the dining room everyone applauded the chef and many applauded us as well having no idea that we were just on a special tour!

While we were in the kitchen we were promised a lobster risotto and some “special surprises” We began with another little appetizer and some Pouilly Fume. The latest appetizer was beef carpacio on foccacia. The carpacio was layered with alternating layers of parmesan cheese and arugula. It was good but too much considering everything else we knew was coming. Next was the Lobster Risotto. This was probably the best Risotto I’ve ever had in a restaurant. (except maybe that one exceptional night at LaRanna where I had the Asiago cheese risotto with cauliflower)

By now of course our pallets were in real need of cleansing. So the maitre de brought out a round of lemon sorbet. Of course sorbet alone would not work as well as sorbet with Grey Goose vodka poured over the top.

With clean pallets we finally moved to the main course. Potatos gratin with lobster, veal, and tornados of beef. Plus some veggies thrown in for good measure. I can only describe this course as a cruise size portion. Each person had their own platter full of meat, potatos and veggies. Everything was just great. At this point we switched to a Wolf-Blass Shiraz to accompany the main course.

After the main course was done we moved on to the cheese course. Roquefort balls and a bridge of parmesan cheese. This was not my favorite course as the roquefort was really strong, and the parmesan bridge was ‘more ‘structural than edilble’ in the words of one of our dinner companions.

The next course was the true dessert course, presented by the ships pastry chef. He had constructed a really nice Amaretto desert plate for us which was really a sculpture on a plate. Desert was served with a delicious desert wine.

Next we had our espresso or capucino served with some home made chocolates.

The grand finale was nice glass of limoncello.

After the meal was over the maitre de and photographer showed up. Each couple got their picture taken with the chef and staff, and each ‘lady’ recieved a cookbook. Notably the gay couples did not receive any cookbooks! This was rectified after one of the guys took the maitre de aside and explained that it probably wasn’t fair for them to be excluded from the cookbook. Since they paid the same as us and probably cooked just as much as the rest of us. One of the guys was a professor at Loyala Marymount in LA and he and I talked a little college shop during the dinner.

When one of the other guys found out I was leading a J-term trip to Silicon Valley during January he volunteered to connect me with a friend of his that works at Pixar! Wow that would be an awesome dinner result if we are able to get a tour at Pixar.