I like food. I like to cook and I like to eat! So, gluttony aside, what were people putting away at twice the normal amounts as they sat down to eat. How was the actual food? In a couple of words, it was very good. (If I had come from any other place other than the fresh food capital of Northern CA, the food would probably be considered excellent!) I did hear people talking about some dishes being the best they had ever had, so clearly, other people thought the food was excellent.
Here is a sample dinner menu from the main dining room:
- Caramelized Orange and Grapefruit Cocktail (Gourmet Vegetarian)- Citrus fruit segments dusted with brown sugar and placed under the broiler, mixed with diced melon and a tequila drizzle.
- Lobster Parisienne- Chilled Maine half-lobster accompanied by vegetable yogurt salad and garlic aïoli dressing.
- Carpaccio of Beef Tenderloin- Razor-thin slices drizzled with fruity olive oil, topped with shaved Reggiano-Parmigiano cheese and accompanied with a robust whole grain mustard sauce.
- Double-Baked Cheese Soufflé (Gourmet Vegetarian)- With arugula and roasted bell peppers.
Soups and Salad
- Roasted Shallot and Butternut Squash Soup (Gourmet Vegetarian)- Topped with red beet crisps.
- Chicken and Wild Rice Soup- Wild rice with chunks of chicken in a flavorful chicken broth.
- Chilled Coconut Nutmeg Soup (Gourmet Vegetarian)- A blend of coconut, yogurt, milk and vanilla finished with a dash of nutmeg.
- Apple, Pear and Cucumber Salad (Gourmet Vegetarian)- Marinated in fruit juices and arranged on frisée, with dried cherries and a Blue cheese crouton.
- Choice of Dressing: Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar, House Italian, Thousand Island, Blue Cheese, Asian Sesame Ginger or fat-free Italian.
- Ribbon Zucchini Risotto (Gourmet Vegetarian)- Sautéed zucchini ribbons blended with creamy Parmesan risotto, finished with a roasted red pepper rouille.
- Blackened Chicken Caesar- Crisp romaine tossed with creamy garlic dressing, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and crunchy seasoned croutons, topped with slices of blackened grilled chicken breast.
- Sea Bass Sauté- Tender fish fillet topped with red onion, lemon, and capers, served with a crispy polenta cake, green beans and julienne of red bell pepper.
- Filet of Beef Wellington- Mouthwatering tenderloin of beef topped with a duxelles of duck liver and mushrooms, wrapped in a puff pastry, served on a mirror of Madeira sauce with duchess potatoes and a medley of green asparagus and Chinese pea pods.
- Roasted Rack of Veal- Roasted until tender and encased in a crispy basil coating, accompanied by a rich forest mushroom sauce, Parisian vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes.
- Quail with Apricot Bread Stuffing- Tender quail stuffed with Grand Marnier-scented apricot breading, served on a Port wine reduction with Savoy cabbage, roasted potatoes and cherry tomatoes.
- Oven-Baked Eggplant Parmigiana (Gourmet Vegetarian)- Slices of eggplant breaded with a Parmesan crust, layered with Provolone cheese and baked in the oven, served with spaghetti tossed in marinara sauce.
As you can see, there was quite a variety of dishes, with several different meat/poultry/fish offerings and always a vegetarian option or two. (I was also pleased to see that the Holland America Line only served sustainable seafood.) They always offered sides of vegetables and potatoes as well and a desert menu that had some main offerings but always a few daily choices as well. I tended to get the cheese plate for dessert, mainly because other than ice cream, most of the desserts were not GF, but really because it was light and always seemed to perfectly top off the meal.
What also was very nice was how Holland America accommodated mine and everybody else's eating limitations. Because I eat gluten free, I was able to get the next day's menu, the night before. I would then put my name, stateroom, and GF on the menu, choose what I wanted, and the next day, when I would show up for a meal, I'd tell them my stateroom. Somehow they'd find my menu and my restrictions and they would then prepare my meal GF. These accommodations were also available for many different types of dietary restrictions, so not only were they cooking for 3000, but many of those 3000 people required dietary adjustments. Sounds like a logistic nightmare to me, but it all worked out, every time! I found that pretty amazing.
Obviously, from a cooking standpoint, there were limitations in that you were on a cruise ship, 3000 people had to be fed, and fresh food was not always available mainly due to health reasons. For example, the clams and mussels had to be cooked and then frozen before they came on board, so any dish that had clams or mussels were just unfrozen, reheated clams and mussels. The dish was still very good, but this food snob could usually tell the difference (although I have to admit, the difference was not so much that it interfered with my eating enjoyment as I slurped up my Moules Mariniere!)
As an aside, it was interesting to me to see how a cruise ship dealt with germs. If you think about it, cruise ships typically transport closed populations of thousands of persons, often from diverse parts of the world. People bring their own germs with them and so all us passengers are at risk for becoming ill while on board, most commonly from person-to-person spread of viral gastrointestinal illnesses. I know the Center for Disease Control keeps a sharp look out at all cruise lines. All cruise ships participating in the Vessel Sanitation Program are required to report the total number of gastrointestinal illness cases to the CDC after every cruise. So, as a cruise ship, how do you prevent such outbreaks?
I'm not sure about the behind scenes actions, but what the ship did that I could see to minimize the risk of spreading our germs was that they stationed people around the ship, primarily in front of the restaurants. These people carried hand sanitizers and you could get a squeeze prior to you going into the restaurant. Also, in the bathrooms, they had placed a paper towel dispenser right by the door with instructions to please use a paper towel to open the door. When you returned from a visit to a Port of Call, you would also be offered a squeeze of the hand sanitizer. Finally, although the Lido restaurant was a buffet, they did not allow the buffet part for the first 48 hours. All food was physically served to you so you didn't get your germy hands into the food! I guess, after 48 hours, we all shared the same ship germs, so by then it didn't matter. It seemed to work as I never ran across anyone who mentioned anything about being sick.
Back to the food eaten. For an average week on board, there would be 11,830 lbs of meat consumed; 3814 lbs of poultry; 1875 lbs of fish; 2575 lbs of seafood; 1675 lbs of butter and margarine; 137,500 lbs of fresh vegetables; 7750 lbs of potatoes; 2300 lbs of watermelon; 5500 qts of dairy; 300 glns of ice cream; 23,040 eggs; 950 lbs of sugar; 24K individual sugar packages pcs; 3500 lbs rice (for the crew); 3150 lbs of flour; 362 cases of assorted sodas; 332 cases of assorted beers; 450 bottles of champagnes and sparkling wines; 1636 btls of wine; and 280 cases of water. That is A LOT of food!
My absolute favorite dinner was in one of the specialty restaurants, The Tamarind where I went one evening with Harriet, the leader of our Phenomenal Life Group. The Tamarind food was based on Southeast Asia, China and Japan's culinary traditions. It was on the very top floor, so you had a great view, and it was very nice that we arrived at sunset!
Just so you can drool, here is a sample menu from The Tamarind:
- Yin-Yang Scallop consommé- Tender sea scallops and julienne cut squash, in a ginger-infused shellfish broth sprinkled with minced scallions.
- Jewels of the Sea- Delicate shrimp-filled won tons with sliced baby bok choy in a fragrant lemon grass and sesame broth.
- Chicken Pho with Wild Lime and Rice Stick Noodles- Shredded chicken and rice noodles in a coconut milk broth flavored with lime leaf, cilantro, galangal, mint, bean sprouts and Serrano chilies.
- Trail of Spices Satay Sampler- Malaysian-spiced lamb, Chinese-pork, Thai-spiced beef, Indonesian-spiced chicken, and Vietnamese-spiced shrimp served with Asian pickled vegetables and two traditional dipping sauces.
- Shrimp Tempura Indochine- Sweet, fresh shrimp dipped in a light batter and fried, and served with a tart-and-sweet green papaya salad and garlic chili sauce.
- Shanghai Ribs- Five-spice rubbed baby-back pork ribs, served over a Chinese pickled cabbage salad with tamarind chutney.
- Street Side Pot Stickers- Succulent lobster, pork, and chicken dumplings, shallow-fried till crispy on the bottom and served with a vinegar-soy ponzu dipping sauce.
- Spring Roll Delights- A trio of spring rolls: crispy duck, vegetable, and a rice paper wrapped lobster roll, served with plum and sweet chili sauce.
- Thai Beef Salad- Rare-seared beef, tossed with scallions, tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers, presented on salad greens and sprinkled with fresh mint, chilies, and a lime-leaf dressing.
- Green Papaya Salad- Finely shredded raw vegetables and spinach, tomato, water chestnuts and papaya tossed with lime juice and palm sugar.
Sushi & Sashimi Menu
- Sashimi- Sliced, raw fish served with pickled ginger and wasabi; Tuna, Salmon, Halibut, Mackerel.
- Nigiri Sushi- Thinly sliced raw fish seasoned with wasabi, wrapped around seasoned rice; Tuna, Salmon, Halibut, Mackerel.
- Hosomaki- Nori wrappers rolled with seasoned rice and one filling; Cucumber, Avocado, Pickled Daikon, Tamagoyaki.
- Futomaki- Nori wrappers rolled with seasoned rice and assorted fillings.
- Rainbow Roll- Reversed California roll topped with an assortment of fish.
- California Roll- Crab, avocado and cucumber.
- Salmon Tsutsumi Roll- Salmon, avocado, cream cheese.
- Tuna Tsutsumi Roll- Vegetable roll topped with tuna slices.
- Yozo Roll- Halibut, masago, asparagus, Japanese mayonnaise.
- Yoshi Roll- Tempura swai, avocado, scallion, Japanese mayonnaise.
- Wraps- Indonesian vegetable, seafood, lettuce, chicken.
The Tamarind entrées were all based around the five Chinese elements which signified the different types of energy in their states of constant interaction. The Tamarind chefs employed water, wood, fire, earth, and metal (cooking tools) as they combined the essential elements of several Asian cuisines in order to ignite new culinary possibilities.
- Hoisin-Lime Glazed Swai- Pan-seared until golden and crowned with tender wok-cooked Asian greens.
- Asia-Pacific Hot Pot- Presented in a flavorful lemongrass stock with fresh scallions, shallots, garlic, lemongrass and cilantro, featuring shrimp, scallops, manila clams, basa, crab legs and squid.
- Pompano Baked in Rice Paper- Steamed pompano, marinated in citrus-infused sake and golden-baked, served atop a bed of steamed Asian greens.
- Cedar Planked Halibut with Shrimp Scampi- Roasted garlic and cilantro butter.
- Wasabi and Soy Crusted Beef Tenderloin- Served on an oak plank with tempura of onion rings and vegetables.
- Scallops and Prawns with Garlic, Ginger, and Chili- Steamed to perfection and drizzled with a light soy sauce, coriander and red chilies, served with yogurt sauce.
- Cantonese Duck with Hainan Rice- Roasted, served on a bed of chicken broth infused rice, and garnished with flakes of fresh chili and cilantro.
- Szechuan Shrimp with Thai Basil- Sautéed with chili pepper glaze, Asian spices, straw mushrooms, sweet bell peppers, and scallions.
- Penang Red Curry Coconut Chicken- Mildly spiced chicken with snow peas, eggplant, zucchini, pimientos, opal basil, lemon grass, and lime juice. Presented in a bath of red curry and coconut milk.
- Vietnamese-Style Lamb with Mint- Thinly sliced marinated lamb, sautéed with bell peppers, shiitake mushrooms, spinach leaves, minced garlic, and scallions.
- Five-Spice Seitan and Tempeh- Seared with thinly sliced red bell pepper, enoki mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli, scallions, garlic, ginger, and soy sauce.
- Sesame Udon Noodles- Japanese wheat noodles stir-fried with tofu and vegetables. Sprinkled with toasted peanuts and sesame seeds.
- Sweet and Sour Vegetable Tempura- Asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms, green beans, and carrots dipped in a light batter and fried.
On The Side
- Steamed seasonal garden vegetables with red miso garlic sauce.
- Steamed jasmine rice or brown rice.
- Stir-fried cucumber, snow peas, mushrooms, scallions, and chili with sesame seeds.
- Bok choy with oyster sauce.
- Sake-braised oyster and shiitake mushrooms.
- Tamarind Chocolate- A bittersweet chocolate shell filled with a rich tamarind-flavored chocolate and ginger mousse.
- Mango Cloud- A light egg white soufflé served with a mango sorbet.
- Tempura Ice Cream- Coconut and Javanese coffee with infused lemongrass sauce anglaise.
- Chocolate Almond Fortune Cookie- An almond baked tuile with a surprise filling of chocolate ganache.
- Ginger Banana Bread Pudding- With tempura bananas and caramel sauce.
- Trio of Sorbets- Passion fruit basil, lychee green tea, and wasabi.
“Pan Asian Boutique” of Coffees and Teas- (which were actually different than the 'normal' teas you were offered around the ship, and were excellent.)
Are you drooling yet? I actually regret that I didn't go back for another meal. As you can see, I enjoyed every minute of my Tamarind Chocolate Dessert!
Just an FYI if you are wondering? With all the eating I did, turns out that I only put on .6 of a pound by the time I got back (and I think that came from the travel day!). I definitely think not gaining weight despite what I ate was because I never took the elevator and walked those stairs many times a day. Definitely, you needed something to offset the good food!