Category Archives: Cruise Dining

Dining on the Lindblad Endeavour–Cruise Review


food_paella-1
               Classic Spanish paella with shellfish but no shrimp

Sustainability guides the dining choices—yum yum!

Lindblad Expeditions takes its dedication to conservation seriously, extending it even to the Endeavour’s dining room. Although seafood is a staple on the ship’s menus, you’ll never find a shrimp cocktail, fried shrimp or shrimp of any sort on the ship. Lindblad banned shrimp from its kitchens more than a decade ago, in the summer of 2001 as part of its sustainable dining program to help preserve fish stocks world-wide.

Lindblad says it could not find any shrimp suppliers who could prove that their shrimp harvesting methods did not damage the marine environment. One of the serious problem shrimp trawlers create is the “bycatch” of unwanted fish species that end up being killed and disposed of. In addition, in some areas the trawlers may sweep the same section of sea bottom several times a year, which leaves no time for re-growth or recovery of the marine habitat.

Shrimp farming also has serious negative impact because shrimp growers have made their pond water poisonous due to the large amounts of artificial feed, pesticides, chemical additives and antibiotics used for the highest possible production rate. Typically, the ponds are located in coastal areas to provide easy access to new fresh water sources to refill them. Unfortunately, instead of reducing pressure on overharvesting, shrimp aquaculture’s toxic effluent is blamed for reducing local shrimp and fish populations in some regions

When it comes to the fish served on board the Endeavour and other Lindblad ships, they are species considered not to be over-fished or caught by environmentally destructive practices. Lindblad Expeditions is not being extremist in its sustainability approach. According to Ocean Wise, a Canadian non-profit education and conservation association, an estimated 90-percent of all large, predatory fish have disappeared from the world’s oceans and it states that one recent scientific study predicts a world-wide fisheries collapse by the year 2048. Obviously, this is a topic that impacts all of us and one we all should be concerned about.

Placing the serious aspects of the Lindblad Endeavour’s menu aside, as you’ll see from the accompanying photos and the week’s menus on accompanying pages, no one starves and there is a serious emphasis flavorful food, although the preparations are not always ones we have every day or perhaps ever have had before. But trying new foods always has been an essential part of travel. The menu emphasizes Ecuadorian cuisine, as you would expect.

Here are some sample signs that are posted to explain unfamiliar dishes:

food-montepillo-sign-1_thumb8 food-potato-patty-1_thumb215

Here’s how seriously Lindblad Expeditions takes its commitment to cater to the diverse tastes of its passengers. The photo at the top of this post shows paella served once a week at lunch that definitely would not suit vegetarians. So, a vegetarian paella is served at the same time.

This kind of catering is routine on large cruise ships. But the Endeavour carries fewer than100 passengers. Here is a photo of the vegetarian paella served at the same lunch.

food-veg-paella-1_thumb2
Vegetarian paella, a rice dish from Valencia, Spain

See for yourself what the dining on the Lindblad National Geographic Endeavor is like. You won’t be disappointed, I promise you. If I didn’t like it, I would tell you. But I do wish there was just one time during the week for plain old hamburgers with buns and all the trimmings. But that may be just me.

Lindblad Endeavour Galapagos Cruise Links

The Galapagos Experience                              Endeavour Dining
Galapagos Adventure Upcoming                                  Sustainable Dining Policy
How Darwin Saved The Galapagos                               Saturday Dining Menus
Galapagos Photo Tips                                                        Sunday Dining Menus
What To Pack For Cruise                                                  Monday Dining Menus
Getting to Guayaquil                                                          Tuesday Dining Menus
Las Bachas Shore Landing                                               Wednesday Dining Menus
North Seymour Shore Landing                                      Thursday Dining Menus
Fernandina & Isabela Islands                                        Friday Finale Menus
Urbina Bay Shore Landing                                               Endeavour Recipes
Life Aboard The Endeavour
More About Life On Board
Puerto Egas Shore Landing
Endeavour’s Floating SPA
Meeting One of World’s Rarest Animals
Puerto Ayoro Walking Tour
Santa Cruz Highlands Tour
Hunting Tortoises in the Santa Cruz Highlands
San Cristobal, Endeavour’s final stop

Maasdam’s Hands-On Cooking Class

Part 2—Chef Joseph makes his class more fun than recess

Last night the ship rocked and rolled like a 60’s band without any music, unless you count the water in the pipes sloshing back and forth. But despite the waves, I’m on my way up to deck 7 for a hands-on cooking class with Chef Joseph Caputo.

I enjoyed the free cooking demonstration with the chicken soup so much I think this $29 hands-on cooking class will be a lot of fun. There are 13 of us gathered in the Culinary Arts Center as Chef Joseph explains what we’ll be making.

Linda O"Keefe              Linda O"Keefe
Chef Joseph                                 Explaining the crepe pan

He says, “This is my Grandmother Angela’s manicotti recipe. I’ve been making it since I was 7. It is a tradition for my Italian family to have manicotti for celebrations such as Christmas, Thanksgiving and birthdays. My grandmother would get up before dawn and start making the tomato sauce, the crepes and the filling. Since the crepes aren’t very big, it was easy to eat 5 or 6.”

Linda O"Keefe        Linda O"Keefe
Blanched, peeled plum tomatoes                                              Fresh eggs

Chef Joseph quickly organizes us into 4 groups. Assignments are handed out. My group begins seeding tomatoes as others start cracking eggs and whisking in flour and milk. Another group is busy mixing the cheese filling.

Chef Joseph watches us closely and offers advice to make sure everything goes well. Before long, it’s time to start cooking the crepes. This is the part I’m nervous about. Chef recommends using an electric skillet set at 250 degrees for the crepes. He says that’s the best way to maintain an even temperature.

Linda O"Keefe              Linda O"Keefe
Bad crepe, good crepe                Pouring the crepe mix

My turn comes. I slowly pour in about 2 tablespoons of the mixture and flatten it out with the back of a spoon. In a little over a minute, the  thin crepe is ready to be turned and is done. Now I wonder about all the fun things I can make with this recipe.

Unfortunately, on the Maasdam the Culinary Arts Center stage is in the same room  (and behind the screen) of the ship’s movie theater. Things start to get a little crazy when we realize our time is almost up and we’re not done. People are coming in to watch the movie and the screen isn’t down and the the curtain hasn’t been drawn to hide the kitchen from the audience. Our group isn’t ready for their prime time.

Linda O"Keefe               Linda O"Keefe
Stirring the sauce                           Almost ready

The sauce is done but we’re still cooking crepes. When the crepes are done and laid out on the work stations, it’s time to stuff them. I put the filling at one end and from there I begin rolling, ending with the seam side down. Another team member spoons sauce into  a pan  and I place the filled crepes into the sauce. Someone else sprinkles cheese on the top. My crepes are ready for the oven at 350 for about 30 minutes.

Linda O"Keefe      Linda O"Keefe
Mixing the cheese filling                     I did these all by myself

Linda O"Keefe      Linda O"Keefe
Filling and rolling takes a while              Time to start on the salad

Now we tackle the salad dressing. The greens are combined with roasted walnuts, blue cheese, dried cranberries and a light citrus vinaigrette dressing. Chef Joseph warns, “The salad should be dressed not drowned!”

This is his own special dressing that he is sharing with us. Since he’s now bottling it for sale, I won’t give away any secrets. But it is delicious.

Linda O"Keefe                    Linda O"Keefe
 Chef Das takes a break                      Chop, chop, chop!

Maasdam’s Pinnacle Grill Chef Das stops by to join the fun. He gives pointers to several  about how to cut properly and not add extra protein to the salad.

I take pictures, roll crepes, laugh, drink wine and try to take notes. I find out I need a silicon spatula and a ceramic knife to make life in the kitchen easier. This session also helped me realize I will be back in my home kitchen in a few days. I hope my end result there will be as magnificent as this cooking session.

Linda O"Keefe              Linda O"Keefe
Chef Das and Chef Joseph       Chef Joseph serves up the goods       

  by Linda O’Keefe         

(I also look forward to the magnificent results, Tim O’Keefe)    

Dining on the Maasdam

Herb-crusted prime rib with horseradish
                     Herb-crusted prime rib with horseradish

In-room service often reflects a ship’s commitment to overall dining quality

Good dining and good service: Some ships I have cruised on had one but not the other. Several, including now the Maasdam, have had both.

Having never sailed on NCL, I am not sure why they paint “Freestyle Dining” on the sterns of their ships, which implies the rest of the cruising world is somehow enslaved or held captive to their main dining room.

On the Maasdam and all HAL ships, the dining program is called As You Wish. Even though I think of the film The Princess Bride (and what Westley always said to his great love, Buttercup, every time I hear the term),  As You Wish does perfectly describes the dining choices we have on the Maasdam.

In the Rotterdam Main Dining Room, before departure you choose either the traditional pre-set seating and dining times or the more freestyle approach of Open Seating (our choice) for dining anywhere between 5:15 and 9pm. For those with Open Seating, the Rotterdam opens a half-hour before the first main seating and extends 45 minutes beyond the second main seating.

Strawberry cheesecake
                                        Strawberry cheesecake
 
Or, for a more casual, Caribbean-type atmosphere, the Lido Dining Room buffet features about 80-percent of the same items as the Rotterdam for every dinner. Sometimes the specials on a particular night are better in the Rotterdam; on others, they’re in the Lido. The Lido Restaurant also is where the buffet breakfast and buffet lunch are served.

HAL’s website has detailed information about the Maasdam’s other dining areas. As a note, it is worth pointing out that the only rolls not cooked on the ship are rolls needed for the huge quantities of hamburgers and hot dogs served at the Terrace Grill from 11:30am until 6. The demand is just too great for the ship’s cooks. The Terrace Grill also features freshly baked home-made pizzas and—about 80-percent of the time—a Taco Bar throughout the afternoon.

Room Service
As anyone who cruises on the Maasdam or any HAL ship should learn on their first cruise, the As You Wish promise extends to room service, available 24 hours a day. The 24-hour room service menu provided in the staterooms is limited to 10 items and some suggested remedies for “high seas.”

However, a breakfast as full as you possibly could want will be delivered from 6am-10am every morning. The tags with your selections are hung outside on your stateroom door handle in the night, which is the way most ships operate.

From noon until 10pm, the room service menu offerings increase but you need to know this important fact: Anything served in the main dining room is available for room service when the main dining room is open, either for lunch or dinner.

Which means anything on the Rotterdam’s featured dinner menu will be brought to your room without extra charge. The key to ordering this way: You need to check the posted Rotterdam menu in advance and know precisely what items you want when you call in your order. No one has time to read the menu off to you over the phone, then give you added time to think about it and ask questions.

So, be prepared. The in-room dining phone is a busy one.

In order to blog as much as we have, most of our Maasdam dinners have arrived by room service. Delivery always is promised within 45-60 minutes but it usually arrives within 20 unless the ship has an unusually busy in-room dining night.

Seeing is Believing
Wish I could insert a drum roll here. To prove again that each picture is worth a thousand words, the following is a sample of the Maasdam’s in-room dining. If a ship doesn’t provide this kind of service, then it doesn’t live up to the grand heritage and traditions of cruise dining. It’s just another buffet joint, in good disguise.

Something that may or may not be important to you when choosing a cruise. To us, because we are on the go all day in port and usually don’t feel like dressing up, it’s a significant consideration.

ice tea man    sashimi of salmon w wasabi mayonnaise
No, we didn’t eat as much as it appears                   Sashimi of salmon

chilled blackberry soup   asian style rotisserie of duck w sweet & sour sauce on stir-fried vegetables w soy-splashed fried egg noodles  
              Chilled blackberry soup                                   Rotisserie of duck breast

dark and stormy tuna   Quail stuffed with dressing
            Dark and stormy Ahi tuna                             Quail stuffed with apricot dressing  

Clam and shrimp appetizer   Surf and turf
             Clam and shrimp appetizer                                 Classic surf and turf

Caesar salad   Chicken breast
                         Caesar salad                                Grilled chicken breast, sliced mango, peppers

OK, this is enough! I have many more pictures but you get the idea. Putting them together has me starving.  Time to call in-room dining, one final time. We arrive home tomorrow.

How to Carve Decorative Fruits and Vegetables

Not as hard as you think, thanks to this Maasdam demonstration

Ever wonder how to make one of those beautiful fruit carvings to accentuate your dining room table? Or tried doing them? My own attempts always end in total disaster so today I’m attending a seminar at the Maasdam’s Culinary Arts Center to see if there’s any hope for me.

Cat Noble, the Maasdam’s Party Planner, introduces Apprentice Chef Romel David who will demonstrate how to make carvings from various fruits and vegetables.

   Maasdam Cruise   Maasdam Cruise

He begins with a watermelon, intending to create a rose petal with leaves on one side. Using an extremely sharp bread knife, he first slices off the bottom of the melon to make a base with a gentle tilt. Next, with the same bread knife, he carefully cuts away several thin strips of green rind to expose the white covering beneath. This gives Romel a white background from which to fashion his rose.

Cat explains one side of the melon is for display while the other side is what you will  eventually serve from.

Maasdam Cruise   CutandCarveLindaOKeefe_389

As Romel picks up a small paring knife, he explains that it doesn’t matter how expensive your knife is—he buys his at a dollar store–but how sharp it is. He says he sharpens his own knives. The one he uses today has been ground down to half the size of a normal paring knife blade.

In the middle of his white melon “canvas,” Romel makes a small circle to form the center of the rose.  Around the center, he designs four petals to surround it. To me, this looks like a stencil on the white rind; interesting. I can do that!

After his basic design is outlined, Romel begins cutting deeper, carefully shaping and forming each petal. Then he fashions four larger petals that surround the four small ones.  Next, he finishes by crafting six leaves. As he works, each row increases in size and is placed to alternate with the previous row to create the depth and dimension of a real rose petal.

Once he finishes the floral design, Romel carves zigzagging cuts on the remaining white background area to give it a textured detail and create a frame around the melon canvas.

Cat says, “The best way to keep the melon fresh is to drape it with wet paper towels and store it in the refrigerator. When you take it out to display, put plastic wrap over the carved area.” So that explains why some of the carvings displayed in the Maasdam’s dining areas are covered in plastic.

  Maasdam Cruise         Maasdam Cruise

Chef Romel explains he became interested in how making fruit and vegetable carvings by  watching others. Then he began sneaking food into his room to practice.  He says his favorite thing to carve is ice and that last year he made a large dragon for a captain’s  farewell party.

The next item Romel chooses to carve is a tomato. I feel more confident about this than  attempting a watermelon. With his same dollar store knife, he starts peeling the skin off  the top of the tomato and continues he reaches the bottom. The peeling is a long continuous strip about ¾ inch wide.

Next, he takes the long strip and simply keeps curling it until it becomes a flower blossom.  He says to use the rest of the tomato in a salad, garnishing it with the edible flower.

For his final demonstration, Romel chooses a lemon. This is another one I feel confident at attempting, especially when lemons sell seasonally at six for $1.

Romel  cuts the lemon in half, then cuts a base out of one of the halves. With his magic knife, he peels a thin, ¼-inch continuous strip of lemon rind from the half but does not cut it from the lemon. Next, he takes the free end of the strip of rind and circles it around the end attached to the lemon to create a loop knot.  Place a piece of parsley inside the loop and you have the perfect garnish to add to any seafood plate.

 Maasdam Cruise      Maasdam Cruise

This seminar is a lot of fun with good ideas about how to give home dining and entertaining the same extra flair you find on the Maasdam. I only worry about grinding the super sharp knives and my clumsy fingers.

  By Linda O’Keefe

Holland America Le Cirque Menu

And we may be the first to publish it!

Holland America Lines has one-upped its rivals by bringing the Le Cirque dining experience to The Pinnacle, its fine dining room. As mentioned in an earlier blog, Le Cirque debuted aboard the Maasdam several weeks ago.  It still is not yet available on board all Holland America ships but is expected to be by the end of December.

The search for the menu is one of the hotter topics in cruising, and here the genuine  menu is in its entirety, perhaps for the first time.  At least we know it’s not published on HAL’s site or anywhere else we’ve looked.

The Le Cirque evening usually occurs once or twice on each cruise. It is an extra fee of $39 per person, and formal attire (coat and tie) is required. 

Wine is additional. Single glasses are available for $8 while full bottles begin at $39.

The Le Cirque Menu

As you will see, the menu is limited. There is much to be said for doing a few things perfectly vs. many of them mundanely.

                                   the foods

                                  wines

Maasdam Kitchen Tour

Waiting for the kitchen tour to start, I think about all that goes into preparing food for 1280 passengers and 600 crew members. It has to be a continuous operation, especially with 24 hour room service available.

The kitchen is located on deck 7, with access from the Rotterdam Dining Room. I step from an elegantly decorated dining room set with crisply starched napkins, crystal and flowers into the bright but plain stainless steel kitchen.

The galley of the Maasdam is basically shaped like an upside-down U, entering on the right side the kitchen stations or cubicles are all located along the right side with center of the U being the elevators, escalators and offices. This design continues as I make my way through the galley.

Maasdam Cruise                  KitchentourLindaOKeefe_8186 
Pastry Chef rolling dough                                                    Coffee station

In the first small rectangular cubicle I see is a pastry chef in the right corner rolling out long rectangles of dough; I wonder what delight he is preparing. The next cubicle is equally small with the coffee urns along with espresso and cappuccino makers lining one side of the U and all the coffee condiments on the opposite side. Their smell is wonderful as the coffee aromas blend with that of the soups cooking in two huge kettles in a smaller area behind the coffee station.

       Maasdam Cruise                              Maasdam Cruise
                  Stirring the soup                                                                    Makings of a sauce

Located behind the soup station is the galley for the Pinnacle Grill, the fine dining restaurant in the Maasdam. Although the Pinnacle Grill kitchen is situated in the main galley it is a totally separate operation.

Directly to the left is the escalator for carrying meals to the upper level of the dining room and the Executive Chef’s office. The grill area on the right in addition to the prep area for In-Room Dining cooks to prepare meals for delivery.

The hot kitchen is busiest area of all. This is where the stewards pick up hot appetizers, soup and entrée. Each Chef de Partie has his own work station to prepare his specialty, which he makes in small batches to insure perfection in taste and texture.

In what they call the cold kitchen, big stainless steel refrigerators are packed with cold appetizers and salads, making it easy for a dining room steward to open them and pick up the correct dish.

I notice two elevators off to the left, which I’m told go down to the A and B decks where the storerooms, the Butcher shop and Vegetable Preparation Room are all located.

            Maasdam Cruise                     Maasdam Cruise
           Streamlining salads                                            Vegetable station

One of the most interesting things I learn is about the crew galley, located on the B deck near the Mess rooms where the Filipino and Indonesian crew members take their meals. They have their own chefs–2 Indonesians and 1 Filipino—to prepare the kinds of foods they prefer.

          Maasdam Cruise         Maasdam Cruise      Maasdam Cruise
                      One of the Chefs during a photo shoot            Snacks for the hungry

We often read statements aboard ship about how HAL is committed to preserving, protecting and maintaining the environment its ships use. Here on the Maasdam they seem to do a good job when it comes to recycling. For instance, a somat pulper located in the dishwashing area turns food waste into mulch which goes to the recycling waste room. There the mulch is dehydrated so it can be incinerated or discharged at sea according to strict rules.

                  Maasdam Cruise  
                  Dishwasher cleaning up                      

Plastics and other non-burnable wastes are compacted, kept in cold storage, then finally hauled away when we are in port. Glass is crushed, tins and aluminum are compressed into bricks for recycling.

Organization is the key ingredient in the ship’s recipe for having dining operations run smoothly. I guess that’s why the tour is so fast. My group of 20 goes through in just 8 minutes. The kitchen is smaller than I thought it would be but everything has its designated area and the flow of preparation assures our dinners arrives in a timely manner and that a surprising amount of close attention was paid to even the smallest details.

Average weekly consumption list for approx. 1,900 persons
Meat and meat products: 8,500 lbs
Poultry 4,000 lbs
Fish 2,000 lbs
Seafood 2,500 lbs
Butter and Margarine 1,100 lbs
Fresh Vegetables 12,000 lbs
Potatoes 4,500 lbs
Watermelon 1,800 lbs
Eggs 18,000 pcs
Dairy 4,000 qts
Sugar 700 lbs
Ind. Sugar Packages 20,000 pcs
Rice for Crew 2,100 lbs
Caviar 20 lbs
Flour 2,900 lbs
Ice Cream 200 gln

  By Linda O’Keefe

   
   

What Is Your Favorite Waffle Topping?

Peanut butter and banana is another possibility

Since the Eggs Benedict Dilemma post is such a hit, here are some more breakfast ideas from the Maasdam breakfast buffet we’re taking home. This time it’s from the Waffle Bar.

waffle with blueberries
Waffle with blueberries

Personally, I’ll take a waffle over a pancake or French toast anytime. Not only do waffles sit a lot lighter in the belly, you can actually taste the waffle toppings because they’re not overpowered by the batter, as in a pancake or thick French toast.

Making waffles at home is easy these days. Seems like every time I look in a newspaper, waffle irons are on sale and their prices keep decreasing, some as low as $15 or $20. So there’s no barrier to making your own.

But you need a deep waffle iron to match what the Maasdam produces. Notice how thick these things are! It may require a commercial waffle maker, which we’ll research when we have unlimited free wireless all the time back home.

waffle with cherries
Waffle with cherries

What makes a good waffle? We can tell you what the waffles are made from but not the exact proportion of everything, at least not yet. The fixings: Flour, milk, egg yolk, melted butter (not margarine!) and a pinch of sugar. We believe a key ingredient to the waffles airiness is not only the thickness of the waffle maker but not filling it to the top. Leave a little space for the waffles to rise.

We’re working on getting the exact measurements. Feeding 1,250 mouths keeps a chef busy. Send me a message in a couple of days and I’ll let you know what we find (offer expires Dec. 17, 2010, the end of our cruise).

Waffle with peaches
Waffle with  peaches

The toppings I’ve already suggested peanut butter and sliced banana. It could even be good old peanut butter and jelly. How about cooked apples and cinnamon? Chocolate and whipped cream? Sliced pineapple? Bananas and chocolate sauce? Pears with chocolate sauce? Strawberries and whipped cream?

(In having Linda check this before posting, I learn chocolate sauce and whipped cream are available at the Waffle Bar. But you have to ask for them. If the presence of chocolate sauce was public knowledge, people might form lines to put in on their French toast, bowl of fresh fruit and who knows what else.)

Have a favorite topping of your own you’re willing to pass on? Send it to me and if I receive  enough of them, I’ll share them in a later post.

waffle with strawberries
Waffle with strawberries

The Eggs Benedict Dilemma

 

How many different kinds of Eggs Benedict can you name?

Eggs Benedict normally are reserved for or served only on special occasions. Not on the Maasdam. They are an everyday offering at the buffet breakfast in The Lido Restaurant.

This morning a woman standing next to me said aloud the same thing I wondered the first time I discovered the Lido’s Eggs Benedict station.

“I thought there was only one kind of Eggs Benedict, “ she says seeing the seven different types on display. “I never knew there were so many choices!” Neither had I.

Below are photos with descriptions of the seven Eggs Benedict styles available every day. Of course, you’re free to come up with your own combination of ingredients. And add sliced mushrooms and other available accoutrements not mentioned in the daily Magnificent Seven.

After this Maasdam cruise, Eggs Benedict will have an astonishing new range of possibilities. Such as using a minute steak or a sausage patty or a thick slice of ham? I
can’t wait to experiment.

Eggs Benedict: The Magnificent Seven
Including the happy chef who makes it happen.

Unless mentioned otherwise, all poached eggs are served on traditional English muffin and
topped with hollandaise sauce.

eggs bene florentine    eggs bene italian
With spinach, no meat                                                              Canadian bacon, tomato sauce, cheese

eggs bene massina   eggs bene scottish
Artichoke bottom, nacho cheese sauce, mushrooms      With sliced smoked salmon

eggs bene st george   eggs bene stanley
With fresh salmon flakes                                                         With crabmeat
eggs bene orig  
  eggs bene chef
The original with Canadian bacon                                        The man who makes US smile!

preview of le cirque dining on holland ameerica

Le Cirque Comes To HAL

New Le Cirque Dining Debuts on Maasdam
Hello from the high seas somewhere between the Bahamas and Tortola! Tim and I had a beautiful day yesterday on a self-guided tour of Half Moon Cay, Holland America’s private island in the Bahamas. Half Moon Cay has one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.
     The crescent shaped white sand beach was like a Cheshire Cat smile against the brilliant blue green of the Caribbean Sea. HAL has done a great job with the beach facilities from private cabanas to tropical mist huts and foot showers along with the usual lounge chairs and hammocks.
     Kids can enjoy a playground area with the usual slides and swings but also mini wooden pirate ships outfitted even with a ship’s wheel.  I overheard one little girl telling her grandfather (or father?) “We can’t leave until we go on everything here”.
     After our rough start, things seem to be settling down.  Except for the seas.  We all look like drunken sailors as we attempt to maneuver the long hallways.\
     I took a cooking exhibition this morning with Chef Das who previewed the new Evening at Le Cirque by preparing a lobster salad and a crème brulee from the menu of the famous New York restaurant. The Evening at Le Cirque is a brand new addition to the fine dining in the Pinnacle Grill, not debuting on any HAL ship until Nov. 21–and lucky for us–the Maasdam is the first to introduce the experience.
     With a 3 star Michelin rating, experts rank Le Cirque as one of the world’s best restaurants in the world, so this should be fun! Plans call for HAL to have this available on all its ships by the end of December.  Evening at Le Cirque is supposed to be featured at least once on every cruise. In addition to serving food from Le Cirque’s menu, the Pinnacle will be redecorated with artwork from the New York restaurant. 
     As Chef Das prepares the lobster salad and crème brulee, he seems to glide as he puts everything together.  Wonder if I could move so effortlessly? Maybe if I, too, had everything already cooked, sitting there waiting for me to whisk the final sauce and put together a magnificent presentation.
     The best part of the demonstration was when Chef Das whipped out a propane torch to brown the top of the brulee.  Then we were served tiny ramekins of the crème brulee, thank you very much that, and it was amazing.  Each spoonful was a delicate but firm vanilla cream that fused with the crunchy caramelized topping to create that famous brulee burst of flavor.
     Assistants handed out cards with the recipe for each item. Unfortunately, the lobster salad would be expensive to make at home due to all the special vinegars and oils used that I don’t have on hand in my pantry.  One especially useful tidbit I learned was not to use cold pressed extra virgin olive oil in
cooking but only for salads because it burns too easily and tastes rancid. 
     A great day and look forward to tomorrow in Tortola.
     by Linda O’Keefe