Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cruising for food

Any time you bring up a cruise people immediately start talking about the food : how much food there is, how many meals there are, midnight buffets, the quality of the food, ice sculptures, sugar sculptures, chocolate fountains, bread shaped like sealife, food, food, food. Let me say this about that : the food on the cruise was freaking awesome! Did you know that the average weight gain on a week-long cruise is 7 pounds? There is a reason for that; some type of food available from the time you get up until the time you go to bed. There is a buffet open for breakfast and lunch along with four restaurants open for meals. On Deck 9 - the pool deck - there is a coffee shop, a grille, a pizza place and a sandwich shop open all day long. Plus a soda station and soft serve ice cream station that is always stocked and ready. The day before we left Douglas sent me the following text, "Did i mention that you can order mac and cheese to the room 24 hours a day?" and indeed you can. It comes in a yummy tortilla bowl. I don't know if room service was included because we were in a suite, but whatever the reason we never got charged for food even though there were prices listed on the menu. I ordered a hotdog at 1am after getting back from dancing just because i could. I love breakfast, but at home breakfast is normally an oat square and a diet coke in the car at 6:30am as i drive to work. It was nice to eat a tasty hot meal next to the ocean every morning. I woke up before Douglas and set out alone to Topsider's Buffet on Deck 9. There is an inside buffet at one of the restaurants and sit-down-and-order breakfast at another, but i always opted to eat on deck watching the rolling blue. mmmmm... Mickey Waffles Lunch was also offered in restaurants and as a buffet, along with all of the options by the pool. It was nice to see that though there was plenty of junky, fried food around there were always healthy choices available. I was a bit surprised to find that when it is easy and in front of me i normally went for the more nutritious options; i ate a lot of fruits and vegetables during the week. If we were on the ship Douglas and i opted for the outside buffet at lunchtime (can that view ever get old?) or we'd grab something from the sandwich shop to eat in our cabin as we changed clothes (i changed up to 4 times a day cause there were so many different things to do). Instead of having a dining room with 2 or 3 seatings, Disney has 2 seatings in 3 different restaurants. We had the late seating and that is really the way to go to get the most activities packed into the day. Your assigned table, along with your dining room staff, rotates through the three restaurants - Parrot Cay (Carribean), Animator's Palate (American fusion) and Lumiere's (French) - with a different menu every night. Everything from the menu itself to the food selections to the drink selections to the staff's costumes is themed and coordinated. There were four courses with multiple selections in each course as well as vegetarian selections, "Lighter Fare" (who eats broiled chicken on cruise?), and a separate children's menu. The food was phenomenal and exciting. I tried to eat different things than i would get at home. I had lamb and veal and venision and a bunch of vegetables that i'd never make. Did you know that fried rutabaga tastes like a slightly sweet potato? One night i ordered the eggplant moussaka - it was better than my first boyfriend's Greek ya-ya made. Another night i was intrigued by the vegetarian option - bleu cheese and asparagus risotto - but had my heart set on the lamb chops, so they brought me both. Our server's name was Nikola, he is from Serbia and he will not take "no" for an answer. If you take too long choosing between desserts, Nik brings you everything. We were assigned to table 61 which was a 6-top. One couple never came to dinner (or they missed the boat) so it was just 4 of us. Cindy and her daughter Kara are from Florida and cruise with Disney twice a year (can you even imagine that?). They have been coming on these cruises for 11 years and this one was in celebration of Kara's 18th birthday. Here is our server, Nik, and our head waiter, Yves, singing and clapping as they bring out Kara's birthday cake. My favorite of the 3 dinner restaurants was Lumiere's, not because of the awesome French food (i ate escargot which was one of my cruise goals), but because of the decor. If you are a French restaurant on a Disney property, what should your theme be? Beauty and the Beast, of course. Look at the detail in this enchanted rose light fixture : if you click on it you can see the delicate glass rose petals that have already fallen, waiting for the Beast to discover love. We had the best table ever, right under the back-wall mural. Plus there is something to be said for being served incredible French food by tuxedoed staff. This is our assistant server Lee Anna - she is from Trinidad, wears the best perfume and is so delighted to see you that she throws her arms around you in a giant hug at every opportunity. There is also a by-reservation, adults-only Italian restaurant on Deck 10 (the top deck) all the way at the back of the ship. Palo's only serves brunch, high tea and dinner on certain days of the week and there is always a waiting list. Somehow, Douglas managed to get us booked into all three. On the first night of the cruise we had dinner at Palo's. Imagine eating at the nicest restaurant you have ever been in, with a waterfront view at sunset. It was extraordinary. And the food, oh, the food. Of all the amazing dishes i sampled all week, this was the best. That would be the appetizer sun-dried tomato polenta with wild mushroom sauce and pesto garnished with crackle parmesan on the left and on the right is the best beef tenderloin i have ever tasted with gorgonzola cheese sauce over spinach with asparagus and a tower of poffed au grautin potatoes garnished with a glazed carrot and roasted romas with garlic. It was so good i ate the garnish. And how cute is this wee dinner roll? Do people actually eat like this in real life? On our first sea day went to high tea. I want to live in a place where tea is a real meal every day. There were scones with clotted cream and jams, of course, as well as a variety of little, tiny sandwiches. The bacon and egg salad was to die for and the grilled veggie was super yummy once the red death was removed. Though everything was in miniature there was plenty to eat. Have you ever seen such an adorable mini eclair? There were about 20 teas to choose from, all prepared from loose leaf in your own tea pot. Our wonderful server from India (whose name i've forgotten cause i was so verklempt from our art adventures) ended up making me 2 different pots so that i could try something different with the savory food and the sweet. It is no secret that brunch is my favorite meal and Palo's did not disappoint me on our second sea day. There was table after table after table set up with salads, fruit and vegetables, breads, seafood and desserts buffet-style. Douglas is busy fetching caviar while on this side of the ice sculpture is what our server, Oana from Croatia, called "Happy Spoons" - spoons filled with salmon mousse and garnished with a caper. Then you ordered eggs (i had eggs Florentine and Douglas had a frittata), pasta, pizza and entrees (i had veal Saltimbanco) from the kitchen. It was a long, leisurely, relaxing meal. Here i am near the end of the road with a Mimosa, hot tea and the best, best, best cherry parfait (they wrapped 2 for me to take back to the cabin). [i'm not sure why i look so snooty in this picture besides the fact that i was trying to hide the fact that the saltwater had wrecked my manicure and i hadn't gotten around to fixing it. You might want to take a gander at that ring i'm sporting, though - it is a blue opal we bough the day before in Mexico] One thing Disney does not do that most other cruise lines do is a nightly midnight buffet. It makes sense that they wouldn't bother with an entire other meal when half of the passengers are already asleep. They did set up a table of food outside the club every night around midnight so there was sustenance for those still awake and partying. There was a late-night buffet on 2 nights, however. We'll talk about the pirate buffet later, but here are some pictures from the dessert buffet The sugar sculptures were cool and there were dozens of whole pies and cakes as well as pastries and 2 chocolate fountains. The only down side to late seating was that this magnificent dessert buffet started at 11:00, which was less than an hour after i finished dinner so i didn't have anything, not even one of those cream puffs shaped like a swan. I was impressed that Disney tried to be attentive to people's needs. Even at the dessert buffet there was an entire table of No Sugar Added desserts. Of course the funniest thing ever was that the sign marking the table of no sugar was MADE of sugar! Bwahahahahahahaha! [psssst : so ask me how much weight i gained on the cruise. It's okay. Go ahead. We're friends. Ask me... ZERO POUNDS, baby!]

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