Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sea Faring Foodies: Part I, Dinner Delights

And, we’re back! The Fisherman and I took our long awaited vacation, a cruise to the Bahamas! Neither of us went on a cruise before, and neither of us went to the Bahamas before so it was a lot of new stuff for us. One thing we kept hearing from those who cruised before was that the food was amazing.

We found that to be partially true. Breakfast and lunch, at least on this ship, were basically served buffet style. Usually buffet style means lower quality, which comes to be expected. I usually don’t mind the quality of buffets. Maybe I was a bit turned off since I found out the hard way that I get sea sick, but I was really disappointed in the early meals. It actually reminded me of eating at the dining halls in college. But The Fisherman had no complaints, and it seems the other cruisers were quite content. The exception to this was the poolside and beach barbecues. Meat plus fire?? DELICIOUS!! Those weren’t pretty good.  I actually had a burger so delicious and juicy I had to change my shirt.

The dinners I found were beautifully created and tasted lovely, with the exception of one. Not bad odds. Each place had two menus. One side had a variety of choices for the day, and the other were the standard choices. If you didn’t like the daily choices, you had old standbys which you knew were safe bets.

There were two dining choices, a Russian themed placed called Tsar’s Palace, and a more modern one called Azura. Tsar’s was very beautiful and elegant, but we felt more comfortable at Azura. And it was closer to our favorite watering hole, Malting Beer and Whiskey Bar.

Speaking of which, the drinks. For New Yorkers, were definitely affordable. A cocktail was about $5-$6, and a bucket of 6 beers was about $30. Fun was had with those buckets. And, there were beer and whiskey tasting, four tasting for $15 per person. You learn what you might like, you learn about booze, and you get a buzz, what’s not to like?

For stops on our voyage, we also had a port of call in Port Canaveral, Florida, which was fun, but not interesting, culinary speaking. Then we stopped on the ship’s private island where we had fun in the sun and had a beach barbecue, and then finally stopped in Nassau, the Bahamas. We made it a point to avoid all the American chains and go on a quest for conch and johnny cakes. Maybe we were better off at McDonalds.

Then we were originally going to stick to the complimentary dinners, but even the additional charge dinners were quite reasonable for us. We chose an Italian place for $10 per person, and a churrascaria (or Brazilian barbecue) that luckily opened the evening before we disembarked, for $20 a person. In Queens, it’s double that a person. In Manhattan, it’s easily more.

So, I think the best way to handle all this food porn is to break it down into four parts: dinner, then drinks, and beach/Bahamian “local cuisine”and Italian/churrascaria. It’s a lot of food, so I hope you brought your appetite (and possibly antacid. Since I got on land heartburn has landed in my tummy, boo).

Onto the food! I hope you brought doggie bags, you will need them!
First are appetizers: 

Pear, blue cheese and arugula salad. This combo is classic, and it's because it works. The dressing was wonderful, the cheese had just the right bite, and the pears had a nice sweet crunch combo. 

Roasted corn chowder. Pretty good, thought the corn would taste sweeter. 

Smoked Salmon Tartare. My favorite of the bunch. I definitely ordered this twice, it was that good. The toast was almost an afterthought. 

Lime marinated shrimp with fingerling potatoes. I found it boring until I dabbed a bite in the dabs of sauce. That made it. 

Roasted fennel and butternut squash over arugula with an orange vinaigrette. I totally stole their dressing idea when I got home. The squash was lovely and worked nicely with the citrus, as squash does tend to play nicely with citrus. I never had cooked fennel before, I grew up eating it raw so this was interesting. A lovely salad if there ever was one. 

Now the mains...

Pork chop, mashed potatoes, greens. A bit dry, but that's to be expected, especially on a ship. 

Gnocchi with pumpkin sauce and mushrooms. I loved the sauce, but I also LOVE pumpkin, both sweet and savory (I even named my cat Punkin), the gnocchi weren't gummy or doughy, and were actually seared a bit, adding a bit of crunch and flavor. The mushrooms added a nice umami boost, but I found the pieces were a bit too large. Maybe I should have employed my fork...

Sole (I believe, I'm so terrible at remembering cooked fish!), seasoned creole style with jambalaya and andouille . I tried okra for the first time, nice taste, odd texture. I really tried to order more fish dishes and learn more about cooked fish, and I wasn't disappointed, until my stomach started hurting. Better luck next time, I hope. 

The Fisherman's trusty ribeye. I think he ordered this twice or so. This was cooked nicely, but the cut was a bit thin. Luckily if we got hungry later we found something at the buffet. 

Lamb shank with beans. We both really liked this. It looked beautiful and it was delicious as well. Simple, slightly gamey lamb, tender meat, in a tomatoey sauce with creamy and rich beans. I might have to try my hand at this come the cooler months. If only I could gnaw at a bone at my desk. 

Salmon in a cream sauce. My god that sauce was incredible. I think I licked the finish off that plate. It was subtle, but it really wrapped the fish in a creamy, velvety deliciousness. 

I forget what kind of fish this is (see??) I think The Fisherman ordered this one. 

Another favorite of mine, and it made me a bit homesick: coconut shrimp and chicken with curry. 

Finally, the desserts:

First up, apple pie. Very odd apple pie in fact. It tasted more of cinnamon than apple, and the fact that the filling was so perky made me question physics. How can pie make you sad?

Coconut souffle with mango sauce. We never had souffle before, so this was interesting. The texture was very spongy, but the sauce overwhelmed the coconut a bit. The sauce was very sweet and tart. Sometimes, less is better. 

English trifle. I thought I'd go out on a limb and try it. Not all that exciting. It's prettier than it's tastes, a bimbo dessert. 

Tiramisu, which was very nicely created, I must say. An extra bit of booze helps calm the tummy on the not so high seas. Creamy, coffeelicious, reminds me of high school in Lincoln Center, hanging out in Balduccis, you know, like high schoolers do...

Key lime pie. The filling was really nice, I don't know what was up with the syrup, and I didn't care for the meringue. I get offended by key lime pie having meringue, but I'm also a nut job. Meringue on a lemon meringue pie? Yes. Meringue on a key lime pie? Does the name have meringue in it??? sigh

Chocolate raspberry truffle cake. The Fisherman thinks its too rich, but  think he's silly. Not my favorite, but it was very, very good. 

Lemon ginger custard. Now this is my favorite, and I'll explain why: it dazzled and surprised me. I first ordered it because I was intrigued. I thought it tied in nicely with my curry chicken and rice. Then I worried the ginger would overwhelm and burn, and it didn't at all. It worked very, very well and it helped me believe that lemon desserts can impress. Chocolate still rules though :)

Finally, no sugar added carrot cake. It was moist, the cream cheese added a nice tang, the creamy vanilla sauce was nice. Not the best carrot cake I had, definitely mass produced. Not bad, not great. 

Next, to wash down those 21 courses, something to drink! Until then, mangia!


  1. First of all, these pictures are awesome. My favorite is the lamb shank. The tiramisu certainly has a nice presentation, too.

    I was really looking forward to this post and I'm glad you had a good time! Can't wait for the next installment.

  2. Yeah I have to agree on the lamb shank. Looks, personality, if I didn't go on the cruise with The Fisherman...I'm just It was nice to have food that tasted good and looked good too. Something we don't get often so it's a nice treat.

    I think the next one will be fun, the drinky drinky edition. Alcohol helped the seasickness, but then again alcohol does have that tendency to make one feel better about a lot of things. And I didn't feel quite as silly about ordering silly drinks. The Fisherman did do the whiskey tasting, and ordered a shot of Blue Label Johnny Walker (I'd say that was 3-4 shots in maybe 30 minutes). He was so lushy it was glorious! He doesn't have my Slavic fortitude to handle strong drink ;) I felt like how I should have felt in college, if I were around enough like-minded individuals. Better late than never, and better with less witnesses :)