Saturday, March 15, 2008

Lamb Chops with Brocolli Cheese Soup

Spice Rubbed Pan Fried Lamb Chops
These were rubbed with a spice mixture we bought in Guadaloupe, then pan fried in butter and oil for 2 minutes on all 5 sides (for medium rare).

Broccoli Cheese Soup
This is a soup we make often that is always satisfying.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Seabourn Legend

We've just spent the last couple of weeks aboard The Seabourn Legend. There has been much ink, electronic and otherwise, spilled about Seabourn and its amenities (my favorites are CruiseCritic and it's board), so we'll only lightly discuss the overall cruising experience, before diving down into the food aspects of it.

Seabourn has gained a well deserved reputation as one of the premier small ship luxury cruise liners. Service across the entire boat is taken seriously, and it shows. With a crew of 165 serving 208 guests, it's pretty rare that someone wasn't at hand to help us with anything that came up. Alexis noted two hallmarks of their service are that the answer is always 'yes' and then if they aren't the one that can answer your question or help you, they will seek out the person that will.

Seabourn's main clientèle are retirees, causing us to be the youngest passengers by at least a couple decades, with most of the passengers at least double our age. While this did not bother Alexis and me, it obviously does color the choices the cruiseline will make with regards to cuisine, excursions and service. In fact, the few times that the service became cloying stemmed directly from that. For instance, during buffets they will alway carry your dish to your table after you are done picking food. For us, that was a bit embarrassing, particularly when Alexis just had to go back to get a small dish of ketchup. Alexis also was slightly annoyed at the waiters' insistence on escorting her to our table on their arm.

The other weaknesses of the ship derived directly from its strengths. For instance, because of it's intimate size, the ship did get really rocky, enough to affect my usual iron stomach. The casino was also too small for any serious gambling, and there was no bingo (presumably because you wouldn't be able to get enough people together). The excursions available ended up being on the tame side, and the more active one we signed up for ended up being canceled. The entertainment likewise was not to our taste. (Though to be fair, I've never liked any cruise's live entertainment.)

In general, all these things can be mitigated with a little effort. The ship boasted a large enough DVD collection to keep us busy on ship, and on port we are happy with just aimless exploration anyway.

Finally, we get to the food. This being a cruise, over-eating and gluttony are still the norm. However, the food is definitely superior, and probably the best that can be extracted from a ship's galleys. The cuisine and menu are designed by Chef Charlie Palmer, and on our boat executed by Chef de Cuisine Adam Lockwood. I hear complaints from some of the regulars that there is not enough selection, but we didn't experience that. I expect that if you go to any restaurant for a few weeks straight, any menu would get tired.

The ship is split into three dining areas. First, the Restaurant and it's galley took over the entire second floor. It was the main dining room, and open during all meals. It was also the more formal dining room, with dress code varying from business casual to black tie optional. We found that even during breakfast and lunch, you ended up getting the largest selection here, probably due to it's proximity to the galley. Second was the Veranda, (or as it is called at night, 2). This area offered outdoor seating with a more casual feel during the day, and then theme nights, or tasting menus, during the night. Finally, there was a small grill set up beside the bar during lunch where you could always grab a quick burger, and would usually have some themed lunch or dinner.

Of course, you could also always get served in your room. And like everything on Seabourn, this was also done in style. The coffee table in your suite would be converted in a dining table, with full linen and silverware provided. We hear that you could get course by course dinner service, but we reserved room service for breakfast and midnight snacks.

Oh, and one other thing, we could get caviar service anywhere we happened to be on the boat, and oh did we take advantage of that.

Because of the massive amount of courses and pictures that we took we decided to take the tack of splitting the cruise up into smaller posts, based around where it was served and what course it was. Hopefully this will give you more of a flavor of what it was like for the entire cruise, rather than meal by meal.

The Restaurant
The Veranda Cafe
Tea Time at the Midnight Sun Lounge

Room Service


Wontons, Lettuce Cups and a Nectarine Tart

We made some delicious wontons and learned an important lesson. You can not make wontons in advance. Alexis made them the night before and set them on the plate in the fridge. When we went to boil them the next day they were all stuck together as the moisture in the filling had made the skins sticky. In the end they turned out fine, but my advice would be not to make them more than a couple of hours ahead of time.

Turkey Lettuce Cups
The above meat mixture is ladled into leaves of iceberg lettuce, then wrapped up and eaten like a little burrito. Alexis had a very "duh" moment when she realized it is way easier to remove in tact leaves of lettuce if you cut the head in half first. This meal reheats well.

Nectarine Tart
Simple tarts are Alexis' go-to dessert. They take very little time to make, are relatively good for you (as far as desserts go) and are delicious when garnished with a simple spoonful of freshly whipped cream.

-4 nectarines, pitted and sliced
-juice of 1/2 lemon
-2 tb sugar

-1 stick butter
-1 cup + 2 tb flour

Mix together the nectarine slices, lemon juice and sugar and set aside while you make the crust.
To make the crust, cut the cold butter into chunks, then incorporate the butter into the flour with your fingers until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Then try to form into a ball. If you are unable to form into a ball, add 1 tb of cold water at a time until you can. Then form into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for 10 minutes. Press into a pie pan and pre-bake on 350 for about 10 minutes. Then pour in the nectarine mixture and bake for about 45 minutes, until the fruit is soft.

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Tasty, If Expensive, Dim Yum at Yank Sing

We don't go to Yank Sing often because it is always crowded and very pricey. However, it does satisfy the dim sum craving when you are in the financial district and don't feel like walking to Chinatown. Also, the quality is high, but it should be, because so is the price. This meal came to about $30 per person.

Scallop Dumplings
Fresh and flavorful.

Foil Wrapped Chicken
This dish is very rustic, but always succulent and tasty.

Soup Dumplings
These are the specialty of Yank Sing. The soft skins are filled with hot soup and it's best to either suck out the soup, or eat it in one bite.

Snap Peas
Served cold, these were a nice contrast to the calorie-bombs that are dumplings.

Siu Mai
These are our favorite. Pork dumplings topped with roe.

Har Gow
Tender shrimp dumplings without much filler.

Pot Stickers
Meaty, crispy, chewy goodness.

Food: 1
Decor: 1
Service: 0

Yank Sing
49 Stevenson St.
San Francisco, CA

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Mustard Balsamic Salmon with Sesame Noodles

A healthy and flavorful weeknight meal.

Mustard Balsamic Salmon
-1 lb salmon filet
-1 tb whole grain mustard
-3 tb balsamic vinegar

Mix the mustard and the vinegar and pour over the salmon. Bake on 350 for about 15 minutes, until the fish flakes easily with a fork but is still moist.

Sesame Noodles
-3 packages shirataki noodles
-1/2 cucumber, seeded and thinly sliced
-1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
-1 tb sesame seeds
-2 tb peanut butter
-2 tb soy sauce
-2 tb hot water
-1 ts Siracha
-1 ts garlic powder
-3 cups spinach
-1 tb rice vinegar
-1 packet Splenda

Boil the noodles for about 2 minutes. Drain and set aside. Mix the peanut butter, soy and hot water until smooth. Add the siracha, garlic powder, rice vinegar, Splenda and sesame seeds and stir to combine. Combine the noodles, cucumber, red onion and sauce and stir to coat. Place noodles on a bed of spinach.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Seabourn Legend: The Restaurant: Breakfast

The restaurant was a more formal venue for breakfast, but the options were endless.

Blueberry Muffin
Edible, but not great.

Fresh Mango

Pickled Herring
It was on the menu, so we thought we'd give it a try. We didn't really like it though because it was oddly sweet.

Lamb Chops, Sausage and Bacon
This was Giao's meat plate. The little lamb chops were tender and delicious. Everything else was good but standard.


Fresh Nectarine
It’s really nice to have any kind of fresh fruit ready when you want it.

Eggs Benedict and Bacon
A tasty, if salty, version. The bacon was nice and crispy.

Minute Steak and Bacon
A tender little steak that was actually perfect for breakfast.

Poached Egg
The eggs are very fresh and flavorful. From the orange yolk you can tell they are not factory chickens.

Food: 2
Decor: 1
Service: 2

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The Seabourn Legend: Room Service

Room service aboard the Seabourn Legend was pretty excellent. There was a room service menu, but we also found out that you could order pretty much whatever you wanted. Breakfast could be ordered by hanging a breakfast order on your door, and when they arrived, they turned our coffee table into a dining table, then set it with linens and silverware. Any other time, room service was speedy, and presented on a tray that had linens and silverware. We were also really ridiculous with the breakfast ordering. The order form that you hung on the door had many, many items on it, but we would just write in what we wanted if it was not on the list and it would always arrive with the rest of the items.

The display of breakfast in the room.
Fresh Mango, Cheese Omelette and Bacon and Eggs Benedict.

Lamb Chops, Poached Eggs and Bacon
After we discovered these tender little lamb chops, we ordered them every day for breakfast.

Penne Bolognese
They do pasta really well on Seabourn. The pasta was a nice, chewy al dente and the sauce was rich and meaty.

Bacon Cheese Burger with Fries
It's rare to have an equally good burger as the fries, or vice versa. But both parts of this meal were delicious. We hear that the burgers are ground fresh from the same meat they use for the steaks and are cooked to order. The fries were out of this world. They were super crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. They were most likely double fried and almost seemed ever-so-lightly battered. Man, they were good.

We got a baguette from Patisserie Nemorin in Deshaises, Guadaloupe, in the French West Indies. We brought it back to the boat and ordered a selection of meats and cheeses to go with it while we watched movies in our room. The following 3 pictures are what we got:

Foie Gras Pate with Grapefuit
Silky and tasty.

Standard but good.

Brie, Camembert, Emmanthaler, Epoisses and Roquefort

More breakfast foods:

Scrambled Eggs and Bacon

Bagel with Lox and Cream Cheese
For some reason they were really stingy with the cream cheese, of all things. On this plate is the extra cream cheese that we ordered.

Fresh Kiwi

Fresh Mango

Cottage Cheese
Alexis had some weird craving for this.

Ham and Cheese Omelette and Bacon

Ah, caviar. We ate so much caviar we thought we were gonna get gout. We ordered a pre-dinner snack of caviar from room service and had it delivered to our stools at the bar practically every day. The caviar was served with sour cream, egg yolk, egg white, minced onions and crostini. Below is a close-up. Apparently the boat went through about 25 pounds of caviar (for 200 passengers) in 11 days.

Pizza Margherita
This was about the only thing that the Seabourn Legend did not do well. It was not that it tasted bad, it was just that it was more of an open faced quesodilla.

Food: 2
Service: 2
Decor: NA

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The Seabourn Legend: Tea Time

Tea Time on the Seabourn legend occurred every day at 4pm and was served in the Midnight Sun Lounge, usually to classical guitar or piano. The view from this lounge was 300 degrees and it was situated at the very front of the boat on the highest deck. The club chairs were cushy and comfy. The only problem was that it was always freezing in there, compared to the balmy Caribbean sea air on deck.

We are old people at heart, so we loved tea time. You could order quite a variety of teas from a tea menu and finger sandwiches and sweets were served. We rarely went for the sweets, but the sandwiches were really, surprisingly good. Kudos to the garde manger.

Shrimp Salad Sandwich, Roast Beef Club, Squash Sandwich and Homemade Chocolate Truffles

Roast Beef Sandwich, Egg Salad Sandwich, Turkey Sandwich and Club Sandwich

Club Sandwich, Yellow Squash Sandwich and Lemon Cake
The squash was very flavorful, not something we would have expected. The lemon cake was not very good, actually, but we are not sweets people.

Prosciutto Club Sandwich, Smoked Salmon Sandwich and Cucumber Sandwich
The cucumber sandwich, which is the most classic of tea sandwiches, was actually the least satisfying.

Smoked Salmon on a Croissant and Strawberry Tart
Alexis just ate the strawberries off the top of the tart, because the crust and custard were not that good.

Egg Salad Sandwich, Salami Club, Currant Scone with Clotted Cream
This was a revelation moment for Giao, when he realized that scones are sweet, not savory. he was confused because Alexis always makes cheddar chive scones, which are savory. We have agreed to call Alexis' scones "biscuits" from here on out.

Food: 1
Service: 1
Decor: 2

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The Seabourn Legend: The Veranda Cafe: Lunch

We only ate lunch at the Veranda Cafe on a couple of occasions, as it was more of a buffet style and the Restaurant often had more options that appealed to us. However, when we did eat there, it was pretty good.

Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce
The shrimp were perfectly cooked.

Salmon with Spinach and Wild Rice en Croute with White Wine Sauce
The salmon was a bit overcooked, and the crust was a bit soggy, but the sauce was great and when you removed the crust this was a pretty tasty dish.

The air-dried beef was interesting and tasty, as was the prosciutto. The duck rillette was not very flavorful.

Seafood Stew
Very tasty and chock full of lobster, shrimp and scallops.

Beef Lasagna
Really good. Beefy, cheesy, flavorful. Yum.

Artichoke Salad
Not great, but not bad.

Cold Cuts
Salty and delicious, as cured meat should be

Shrimp Salad

Austrian Meatloaf
This was interesting. It tasted like ham, but had the consistency of those Vietnamese meat cake things that are wrapped in leaves.

Pea Soup
Fresh and good, but it would have been better with ham.

Salad and Smoked Tuna and Eel
The only problem, food-wise, with this cruise so far is the lack of veggies. Alexis was craving some roughage and loaded up her plate with a bit salad. The smoked tuna was very interesting…very salty and very tender.

Fish and Chips with Mushy Peas
The fish was good, even if the breading was a bit stick. The mushy peas were surprisingly good. They were salty and delicious. A baby would have loved them.

Pasta with Artichokes
This was actually a bit of a miss. The pasta was overcooked and the artichokes undercooked. There was nothing special about the sauce.

Food: 1
Decor: 2
Service: 1

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