Category Archives: Cruise Dining

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