Friday, August 26, 2016

Goldring Travel's 2016 Culinary & Cultural (Food & Wine) Cruise on the Seabourn Quest - Part VI (Oban, Greenock and Belfast - Seabourn Moments!)

The Oban Distillery stands over downtown Oban, Scotland
The Seabourn Quest arrived in the quiet town of Oban, Scotland to rainy skies, so after a few active days it was good to slow things down a bit.  After strolling through the seafront I headed up the hill, winding through pretty, well kept, streets to McCraig’s Tower, a former battery, which overlooks the town and harbor.

Oban, Scotland

Oban, Scotland
Afterwards I wandered down to the local museum, which was packed with all sorts of military memorabilia…a little gem of a place for those who have interest in such things.

It was then just a few steps back to the Oban Distillery, which has two types of tours…and the ability to skip them and simply head to the Tasting Room.  After our tour of Highland Park, the tasting room is all that we really needed.  With Oban really offering only one whiskey commercially (its 14 year old), being able to taste two others: Little Bay and Distiller’s Edition, was a treat, as they are not available in the United States.  (Personally, I am not a fan of Oban’s style and felt the other options were nothing special…so I wouldn’t worry that you cannot purchase them in the U.S.)

A small, but enjoyable, Oban whiskey tasting
 

It was then back to the ship for a bit of a lazy afternoon, but not before I undertook my usual hamburger test (skipping the hot dog this time).  I compared the standard Seabourn hamburger versus the Napa Hamburger designed by Thomas Keller.  The Seabourn burger is pure beef and is served with the usual compliments of lettuce, tomato and onion.  The Napa burger is a mixture of pork and beef along with a sharp cheddar cheese and a ‘special sauce”.  Honestly, for me (more of a purist) the Napa burger was all a bit busy and I did not like the contrast between the cheese and the sauce.  I understand there is probably a 50/50 consensus as to which is better.  

Seabourn's regular, all beef, hamburger
Seabourn's Thomas Keller inspired Napa Burger
(Note: I asked for the fixings on the top,
but they are normally placed under the bun)
Unfortunately, the next day, Greenock, Scotland (where you could take the train to Glasgow) was almost as equally rainy.  

Greenock, Scotland - Hints of a more grand past
After a wander about this historically pretty if you look closely, but now struggling, town, with my Pok√©mon Go pointing out seemingly endless churches, it was again back to the ship; albeit a bit disappointed that the past two days were less than stellar…but every port cannot be a winner for everyone.  (If the weather had been nice I would have taken the train into Glasgow and watched the first day of the World Pipe Championships.  Yes, hundreds of bagpipes.   You see there just may be a silver lining to those clouds!)

Seabourn Whiskey Tasting in the Colonnade
It was the only night I dined in the Colonnade as it was themed Scottish Night.  I had some local smoked salmon (from Stornoway), haggis, black pudding and a steak pie along with a wee dram of Scotch whiskey.  While I enjoyed the cuisine and the fun presentation, honestly I found it to be too informal for my liking, with it feeling more like a late lunch than a dinner. 

The next morning, as we arrived in Belfast, Northern Ireland for an overnight stay, the skies cleared and a Seabourn Moment was about to happen.  My girlfriend of almost three years was finally arriving onboard and Seabourn had arranged a car for me to pick her up at the Belfast International Airport (a rather small airport that I am shocked can handle larger jets).  I walked down the gangway looking for the car, but what I didn’t know was right behind me was the Hotel Manager and Guest Services Manager with a giant bouquet of flowers and a cooler, which I assumed held a bottle of champagne and two glasses.  It, however, held two bottles of champagne and caviar with all the accouterments.


A Seabourn Moment:
Champagne and Caviar for an airport pickup of my girlfriend.
There was a huge bouquet of flowers as well.
The driver had never seen anything like it.
(We shared a bit of caviar, but not the champagne...He was driving!)
As I waited for her late-arriving flight the driver agreed to give us a bit of a tour of Belfast, as it would be a shame to not have sufficient time to enjoy all that Seabourn had prepared for us.  So with my girlfriend collected, the champagne open, caviar spoons in action and our driver at the ready, we saw many of Belfast’s sites including the Peace Wall, Titanic Museum, movie production site for Game of Thrones and more.


The Titanic Museum, Belfast, Ireland

After arriving back at the Seabourn Quest it was then time for the Goldring Travel 2016 Culinary & Cultural (Food & Wine) Cruise Private Galley Tour with Chef Andreas.  We were greeted with a variety of whiskeys and a sous chef preparing whiskey infused beef tenderloin to pair with it, as Chef Andreas ironically explained the cold galley.


Yes...More Whiskey!
Seabourn Chef Andreas explains how the galley works,
while his sous chef makes beef tenderloin in a whiskey sauce
for us to sample
Moving through the galley we came to the all important pastry area where we were greeted with an whiskey ice cream and champagne cocktail.



And then we moved on to the all important cheese tasting paired with a variety of ports and a Sauternes. This would, however, be just a sampling of what was to come the next day!


Belfast was an overnight port, but a special birthday dinner for one of my clients was on the schedule for The Grill by Thomas Keller.  I will be writing a separate article on The Grill, but suffice it to say, The Grill is not for everyone and not every dish works for the culinary palate of every culture onboard.  My Australian dining partner was very unimpressed with the rib eye steak as it is cut so lean, but he devoured the rack of lamb!  Something to keep in mind.  By the way:  Order the chicken!


The Grill by Thomas Keller
Presenting the Lamb and the Chicken tableside by the Chefs
But in another Seabourn Moment, I had mentioned to Chef Tom earlier in the cruise when he was pouring caramel sauce over an ice cream sundae for someone that my girlfriend loves caramel.  He winked at me and said he had something in mind.  Well, boy did he have something in mind:  A beautiful dessert that was caramel over caramel, covering caramel, and covered in caramel that took two days to create.
Another Seabourn Moment:
A one of a kind Caramel, Caramel, Caramel Dessert

But that was only Part One.  Part Two was a special birthday cake that was not only incredibly beautiful (and tasty) with a spun glass dome, but had as a filling a dense, chewy…caramel.

A Seabourn Moment:
Now that is a culinary wonder of a Birthday Cake
That is truly a crowning achievement for a birthday cake
Absolutely incredible and, without exaggeration, presented at the culinary and artistic level of Michelin star restaurants...on the Seabourn Quest.

If you would like more information or would like to book your Seabourn cruise, please give us a call:

United States:         (877) 2GO-LUXURY
United Kingdom:   020 8133 3450
Australia:               (07) 3102 4685
Everywhere Else: +1 732 578 8585

Or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com.