Tuesday, April 14, 2009

dateline: somewhere at sea

Well, I couldn't wait until tomorrow to write about the Chef's Table. It was absolutely magnificent. Please excuse any typos or spelling errors. I am a bit tipsy after the incredible amount of alcohol served during this meal. I don't drink a lot and I am really feeling it! Either that or the ship has hit some unexpected turbulence that only I can feel. Well, Mother felt it - she has passed out in the room!!! (I'll have to remember to check her breathing before I turn in for the night. KIDDING!!!)

Mother and I spent the day lounging in the Sanctuary with a view of the long Grand Cayman coastline stretched out before us. Beautiful, but very settled - nothing wild there at all. The beach is lined with hotels and other buildings. In the afternoon came an announcement from the Captain indicating that one of the forward thrusters (whatever that is) had suffered "catastrophic damage" that could not be fixed until our return to Ft. Lauderdale. He said this would slow us down and would delay our arrival into the remaining ports of call.

At 7 p.m., we presented ourselves at the International Cafe where we met the Maitre'd. He was, of course, Italian. He greeted us warmly and took us around the corner to a lobby where a coatrack stood. holding chef's jackets. We each put on a chef's jacket and then were paraded throught the main dining room into the galley. Just inside the galley, we were shown the handwashing station. We were told that all staff bringing dirty dishes into the kitchen first dropped the dirty dishes off at the first cleaning station, then stopped to wash their hands before moving into the belly of the kitchen to pick up the next courses. Each of us was instructed on the proper way to wash out hands, which we then did, each in turn.

To the back of the galley we paraded until we reached a back station where the Head Chef waited for us with champagne. We were presented with four hor'dourves. As each was presented, the Chef told us about how each was prepared and what staff were involved in the procurement of the ingredients and the preparation of each.

First came Tuna Tartar with Wasabi and Pickled Ginger. (Daddy, I can already hear you groaning.) It was fantastic. Then came Bliss New Potatoes with Sour Cream and Caviar. Ahhhhhh. Then the Fontina Cheese Quiche with White Truffle & Sun Blushed Cherry Tomato. (I can't speak highly enough about this dish. That cherry tomato was roasted until the skin peeled off and was so full of flavor that I wanted to cry.) Then, finally came the Foie Gras Terrine on Toasted Brioche with Apple Chutney. All of this with plenty of champagne. Folks, we haven't even sat down at the dinner table and I am already so happy and so glad to be having this experience!!!!!

Then we paraded back through the dining room, back to the coat rack where we removed our Chef's jackets. Then we were led around the corner to an elaborately laid table. There was a floral arrangement running down the center of the table, which was set for eight people. Then on either end of the table there were huge goblets filled with bread sticks that must have been eighteen inches long. They were sticking straight up out of the goblets. (I had a perverse urge to take one out, dip it in the butter dish and take a big bite off the end of it. Out of respect for Mother, I didn't do it.)

A word or two about our dining companions: There were two women and one man there from Great Britain. (I didn't realize at first that two of the three were a couple - until I was asked to take a photo of them and was shooing the blonde out of the photo so I could take the picture of the man and the brunette. The man then whispered to me, pointing to the blonde, "She's my wife." I almost died!!!) Besides these three, there was another couple in their 50's who were on their honeymoon! They were delightful people from New York, but now living in Florida. Then there were two bleached blonde girlfriends, both in their late 50's, early 60's, both giggling about their many prior husbands and boyfriends. Many looks were shared around the table whenever either of them was talking. Yikes!

On to the dinner! We started with Risotto laced with Parmesan Cheese and Julienne of Treviso Red Radicchio and Langoustine Ragout. (When I went to remove the shell from the langoustine, it slipped out of my hand and landed in the space between my chest and the table edge. "Good catch!", one of the blondes crowed! Good lord. I put it back on the plate and enjoyed it very much, thank you! The risotto was good, but I will admit that I have had better. This was served with a wonderful white wine.

The palate cleanser was incredible -- "Amalfi" Lemon Sorbet with Mango Slaw. It had Limoncello vodka poured over it. Holy cow, that was so good!

The main course was Roast Veal Shank & Veal Tenderloin, carved Table side, with Cepes and Jus. The shank fell off the bone and melted in my mouth. This was accompanied by market vegetables (asparagus, mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, onions, etc.) and Chateau Potatoes. This was served with a red wine that was, I think, some of the best I have ever tasted. It was a blended wine - mostly Cabernet, mixed with Merlot.

The cheese course was a Baked Camembert with Pine Nuts with a Port Wine Reduction, served with fig bread and date bread. What can I say - divine!!!

The dessert was an incredible construction that the pastry chef brought out himself. I'm not sure I can describe it properly. It was described as a Passion Fruit Dome Cake with a Whiskey Soaked Raspberry Soft Center served with a Mango Glaze. But to see this beautiful work of art sitting in front of me made my mouth drop open. Each of us had one. On the dessert plate sat a spun sugar "plate". The spun sugar was clear with raspberry swirled throughout. The edges of the spun sugar were lifted up into elaborate folds. Sitting in the center of the spun sugar plate was the dome cake, with a dollop of whipped cream on top. Sticking up out of the cake were two tall pipettes of raspberry spun sugar. Wrapped around the pipettes was a wafer cookie shaped like a pig's tail. Beautiful! This was served with a sweet dessert wine.

The whole experience was amazing. I am so glad that we did it!!!

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