Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Seabourn Sojourn Inaugural and Maiden Voyage - Part VII

Two nights ago started out with a wonderful experience and ended with a disappointing one on the Seabourn Sojourn.

First, the disappointment. The entertainment was, to be honest, bad. The Seabourn singers were amateurish and awkward. I don’t tend to do the shows and this only reinforced my disdain for them. Enough of that.  (Postscript June 12, 2010 - The second show was much improved.  While still not my personal cup of tea, what was both amazing and encouraging were the number of US and UK guests who made a conscious effort - with enthusiasm - to say how improved the second show was.  Possibly a case of opening night jitters??)

Now the wonderful experience: Dinner at the Seabourn Sojourn’s Restaurant 2 was great. For those of you who are not familiar with this unique alternative restaurant (which is provided at no extra cost – Silversea, are you listening?), the concept is to provide a number of small and contrasting “meals” each of which is quite complex. There are no choices and there is no salt or pepper provided. You also dine in the order the food is presented. You might consider this restrictive, but the reality is that it frees you from any thought. You just go with it. The restaurant is modern in black with white and touches of red and each plate is unique and designed to assist with the presentation of each course. In other words, it puts you off balance…in a good way.

Think of a luxury experience…not one of slapping half-cooked meat on a stone (ala Silversea’s Hot Rocks) or oversized portions of commonly cooked steaks or crab (ala Regent Seven Seas Prime 7). Yes, there is a place for everything, but calling something luxury or classy doesn’t make it so. This experience IS luxury and classy!

Our meal started with Crispy Foie Gras with a Port Wine Splash.

This was followed by a plate of three dishes: Lobster Roll with a yogurt and caviar sauce; Bacalito (codfish) Fritter with avocado and tomato sauce; and, Seared Panela Salmon with a white bean salsa and piquillo coulis. At this point the score was 4 great dishes.

Next up was an Oxtail and Manchengo cheese potsticker with a wonderful beef consume; an Asparagus Vanilla Cappuccino (a favorite of mine) and a Mushroom Toast (not my favorite). Now I am thinking what is with Restaurant 2…it seems more like Restaurant 3? And after seven small plates one begins to understand that small amounts of incredibly well prepared food are very satisfying…and enjoyable.

The main course, if you will, was Turbot marinated in sake with Swiss chard and a hazelnut vinaigrette and Braised Veal with mascarpone mash potatoes. Oh, Restaurant 2 now makes sense.

Only three rounds of desserts to go! Limon cello Tiramisu Foam with marinated oranges; then a trio of Dark Chocolate Panache (with a wonderful cookie base), Espresso Citrus Pane Cotta and a condensed milk ice cream. Last but not least: a Kahlua Frappe “shot”.

There was not a portion that was over 2 inches in size or much over an ounce of liquid. Elegant, complex flavors, beautiful presentation and incredibly satisfying.

Yesterday we were in Invergordon, Scotland. We went off on our own. My wife being from Scotland decided that now would be a great time for me to purchase a kilt. That (no photos to follow!) was followed by a short visit to The Dalmore distillery and a “wee dram” of a very nice whisky. After a visit to the local grocery store to stock up on British candies, we walked to the nearby down of Alness where we sought out a haggis supper – haggis deep fried with French fries.

And this is where travel is wonderful. As we are waiting for our “gourmet” lunch at the local chippy (Food Feast) I notice a number of Turkish items on the menu. So I ask if they are from Turkey and the next thing I know my wife (who lived in Turkey) is have a conversation in Turkish about Istanbul! Who would have thunk?! The funniest thing was that when one of the Turks spoke in English he had a pretty good Scottish accent!

And now for another Seabourn moment: The chef called me and said he ran out to buy haggis for me and my wife, so tomorrow for lunch: Haggis, Neeps and Tatties! (He refuses to eat it, but obviously will cook it.) Why lunch? Because friends of ours have ordered a special lamb curry dinner tomorrow evening that we will be joining them for.

Not only is this so totally Seabourn, it is pretty amazing that on a Maiden Voyage things are going so smoothly that special requests are not only not a problem, the chef is going out of his way to create them!

Life is good aboard the yacht known as the Seabourn Sojourn...other than the cold I picked up.