Sunday, June 29, 2008

The food on my Alaskan cruise

At the end of May, my boyfriend and I went on an amazing 7-day cruise through Alaska's inside passage aboard Princess Cruises' Diamond Princess. The scenery was breathtaking and I dream of returning there some day. I didn't go with high expectations for the food on the cruise ship. I guess whenever food is all-you-can-eat I don't assume the quality is going to be there along with the quantity. We were very pleasantly surprised!

For breakfast and lunch, we ate at the buffet restaurant. While there is a restaurant which serves a 4-course lunch with table service, we only had time for that once. There are just so many things to do both on and off the ship that you don't really have time to sit down for 2 hours in the middle of the day. The quality of the food at the buffet was pretty good, not amazing. For breakfast, I often enjoyed eggs, french toast, and whatever the special sausage was for the day, sometimes English, sometimes Chorizo. I love corned beef hash so I often had that as well... all of this along with broiled mushrooms, smoked salmon, plus all the predictable things you might find at a breakfast buffet. Some days, I really enjoyed the spread of granola, meusli, dried and fresh fruits, and nuts all set up in a little buffet to make your own creation. Delicious! The coffee was inconsistent. Some days, usually at dinner, it was great. Other days at the buffet, it was pretty weak. We were able to eat outside at the back of the ship for breakfast. It was just so nice to wake up in a new, beautiful place each day and sip our coffee by the pool overlooking the mountains and forests we were to explore (picture above).

Dinner was fabulous! We chose to do "anytime" dining which means you don't have to sit with other people and you can dine whenever you want. We were surprised to find that you really do have to get "dressed" for dinner. This means no t-shirts, sweatshirts, sneakers, flip-flops, etc. And, there were two formal nights where I wore a dress and James wore a suit. At first this was annoying, but then we got used to it and really started to enjoy it. Most of the four restaurants we had to choose from were pretty elegant and we often got a table by the window because we ate pretty late when the restaurant was not so busy. The service was great! The waiters are very attentive and the food comes very quickly. It was just wonderful to get all dressed up and enjoy a leisurely, decadent meal with a view of the passing Alaskan scenery.

For dinner, you can order anything on the 4-course menu. We almost always had 3 courses, so we chose from soup or salad or appetizer but did not get all of those.

Appetizers..some of the standouts:
Goat cheese souffle: flavorful, creamy, and delicious.
Escargot served piping hot with butter, garlic, and herbs: my favorite first course on the trip.
Crab salad served with assorted caviar (picture below):

For the main course, there were opportunities every night to try new things such as venison, veal ,or rabbit. I didn't try some of those (I don't eat veal for humane reasons and I had a pet rabbit growing up so both of those are out) but I loved loved loved the frog legs! They were perfectly and delicately sauteed and just fantastic. One night, I had a main course of lobster tail and jumbo prawn. So yummy. Another night, I had the king crab legs (picture below). They were served steamed with butter and in the shell but pre-cracked so all you had to do was pull those lovely legs out and enjoy. They were great, and I'd never tried them before, so that was a real treat. They did remind me of the guys on the Deadliest Catch who risk their lives to get them... but that's another story.

On one of the earlier nights, I ordered a seafood casserole which was cooked in a tender pastry crust. The flavors were Italian: garlic with tomatoes and herbs, kind of like a ciopppino (picture below).

In addition to what was special on the menu each evening, they also had things you could order any night including Alaskan salmon and New York steak. The steak was so good there would be seriously no need to go to the steak house they have on the ship which charges an extra fee.

Let's see, desserts!! There were many good ones. The best was the chocolate-hazelnut souffle. They had a few souffles over the course of the week. They serve them hot with a warm vanilla-bean sauce. The cheese cake was also very good. One of my favorite desserts was an ice cream dish served in the spirit of an Italian dessert that I love: spumoni. It had an extra "baked Alaskan" twist to it because it was frosted with meringue and flambeed just a little on the top. It was magically delicious (pictured below).

The cakes and pastries were not that great. But, I understand it's hard to get that right. That didn't stop me from partaking in the chocolate cake buffet one afternoon (cake pictures below.)

Overall, I am surprised to say I am a little hooked on cruising and am thinking about when my next one will be... : )

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Iced Green Tea with Lime

I'm back! So sorry to have neglected this blog for so long. I've been busy with travelling to Alaska, and then my boyfriend's mom came to stay with us for another week. So, I've been pretty busy. There are lots of things to post about, like food on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, Jiraffe restaurant in Santa Monica, and more forays into cooking with vegetables. But for now, just to break the seal, I am posting about something easy.. Iced Green Tea with Lime.

This is a delicious healthy drink I've been enjoying on those warm days. It tastes like those half iced tea/half lemoneade drinks.

The recipe is simple. I use Yamamotoyama Japanese powdered iced green tea. They come in single serving packets. Just mix one packet with cold water, then add ice, lime juice to taste, and Stevia to taste. Stevia is the all natural, no calorie sweetener that actually has a number of health benefits associated with it. For some reason, it has not been approved it as a sweetener in the U.S. It is called a "dietary supplement". So, you wont see it at Starbucks next to the cancer-causing Equals and Sweet and Low's. Strange, because it's been used in Japan since 1941 in many food products, including Coca cola. Anyway, enjoy the tea! Be back soon!