Freedom in the Med…The Chef’s Table

Our last full day on the boat. Never a day I look forward to.  This is the day you have to pack and put debark luggage tags on your bags, set them out in the hall, and hope you remembered to save at least one outfit to wear in the morning (don’t laugh…I’ve worn jammies on the ride home for just this reason!!).

However, there is one thing on our schedule tonight to look forward to, Chef’s Table.  This is a seven course (don’t worry, they’re small) tasting menu paired with 6 wines and a dessert cocktail.  If you know me at all you know this is right up my alley!  In fact, I reserve this dinner every cruise even though the menu hasn’t changes since my first one back in 2012.  But for this one, not just the menu had changed.

My first Chef’s Table experience was also on the Freedom way back in 2012.  Mom and I decided to try it.  It was held at a long table up in the WindJammer, the buffet restaurant.  They have since moved it to the Main Dining Room…in a pretty cool spot!


Yep, that round table right in the middle, with the spiral staircases on either side.  (Pro Tip: Those staircases are tricky after 6 wines and a dessert cocktail…be safe!)  The setting is gorgeous and you feel like a superstar eating up there.

Another change is the menu.  It had long been rumored that the menu was going to change and when I sailed last summer on the Rhapsody, the Maître D’ confirmed that there would be a change, but not when so I did not know going in if we would be having the old menu (which I love) or the new menu (which at this point, I hadn’t even seen).  As it turned out, we had the new menu:


And some fancy new place settings:


That’s two napkins folded to look like a tuxedo!  Snazzy, right??

The first thing I noticed about the menu was the choice of entrée.   On the old menu, there was only one choice…short rib.  If you did not eat meat, the chef would make something for you on the fly (I am sure it was good but just to be clear, I eat meat, and I love short rib) but this was the first time I had seen an actual choice between beef, fish and vegetarian.   After the soup course (I think, maybe salad) the waiter came around and asked for your choice.

But first up?  Scallop Carpaccio:


Basically just thinly sliced scallops with the dressing, a yuzu vinaigrette.

After that, the soup course.  This is first served with the bowl empty so that you can see the ingredients and then the server pours the soup into each bowl at the table.

Part of the fun of the Chef’s Table is the unique and interactive presentation.  At the start of each course the chef says a few words about what goes into making each dish and why it is served the way it is.  Then the Sommelier talks about what goes into the wine pairings for each course.  The wine is the one thing that always changes, while the chef must stick to the approved menu, the Sommelier has some freedom to choose the wines based on what he has on hand at the time.  The wines for this Chef’s Table overall  I would describe as adequate.  No show stoppers, but nothing too terrible either.

Moving on to the salad course:


Now everyone loves lobster, and I am no different, but this was probably my least favorite course.  While the lobster itself was fine, the pineapple/vanilla dressing was a bit sweet for me.  YMMV

Now onto the entrèes.   Twelve people can sit at that table for dinner, and at our meal there were eleven Filets and one Tagliatelle.  No one ordered the fish…ergo I have no pictures of the fish (you better believe I would have taken a picture of someone else’s food if there had been that option!).  But I do have pictures of the filet:


and the Truffle Tagliatelle:


As both dishes were ordered by people in my party, I was able to try both…and both were amazing!

If you have not yet had enough food, never fear!  The absolute richest dish is yet to come.  That’s right!  Dessert!


Valrhona Chocolate mousse with dulce de leche gelato and salted caramel cookie crumbles.  Believe me when I tell you that it actually pained me to leave this, but since I still had to fit in an airplane seat I had to content myself with just tasting each component.

In addition, coffee is offered, the Executive Chef, Maître D’, Sommelier and servers all come out to thank you and say goodbye and then we all precariously walked down the spiral staircase and out of the dining room.

I really enjoyed the new menu.  And I REALLY love the new location.  I will continue to reserve Chef’s Table on my Royal Caribbean cruises…even if they don’t change the menu for another six years!



Even Here I Have to Cook for You…the Finale!

So I have returned from my week-long jaunt around the Western Caribbean on the enormous Allure of the Seas and I have plenty to share on that one, but let me finish up here first since I am sure you have nibbled your fingernails down to nubs waiting for the final chapter to this.

If you’ve missed the previous chapters you can read them Here, Here, and Here.

The next morning, everyone got up and out the door fairly early to begin their trek to Versailles without me.  On the way out the door, my aunt jokingly asked if I would have dinner ready for them when they got back.  “Really…Even here I have to cook for you?”  At home it is my house that hosts holiday dinners, family gatherings, etc. so I am always the designated ‘chef du jour’ and to be honest, I love it.  I love to cook and try new things.  I view cooking for my family as an excuse to use them as guinea pigs so I get to try all sorts of interesting thing.  I guess its been okay so far…they keep coming back!

However, the luggage company had said anytime between 10 and 2  and as an American that is used to US cable companies, I expected that to actually mean around 3:30.  I envisioned calling for Chinese take out since we had nothing in the apartment except palmiers and coffee.  Imagine my surprise when my luggage was delivered at 10:30!  Well hell…now I have no excuse for not cooking dinner!

So off I went to find something to cook.  Talk about an abundance of riches!  Market shopping in Paris has got to be one of the most unbelievable experiences I have ever had.  First though, let me tell you that before I decided to go out to the 11th to visit Richard Lenoir, I made a quick trip to a local grocery store.  The difference between US and French grocery stores was amazing.  Yes, they have frozen, canned and convenience foods just like we do.  The difference is nearly all of the ingredients were things that actually occurred in nature and that I could pronounce.  Also, the utter absence of “sugar-free,” fat-free,” and other “healthy” (read chemically enhanced) foods was amazing!

But I wanted to see the open air market, so off I went.  Richard Lenoir begins at the Place de la Bastille and runs roughly northward.  On any given Sunday the market is bustling with folks.  I was a bit surprised at this.  I live in the South and one of the reasons I shop on Sunday mornings is because everyone else heads to church.  I figured the same would be true in the city of Notre Dame, but nope.  The market was hopping with heathens just like me!

I had no real menu in mind, I figured I would walk around and see what looked good…EVERYTHING looked good!

Succulent roast chicken that looked like the skin would be to die for.  This was particularly tempting because roast chicken is my Achilles Heel…I cannot get it right.  I can whip up a delicate fish with saffron scented butter sauce or a earthy porcini dusted beef filet, but I cannot for the life of me roast a whole chicken without turning it into chicken jerky or cutting into it and finding chicken sushi.  I have followed Julia’s recipe to the letter…its just not in the cards for me.  But moving on, I did not get the chicken this time.

Scallops…Oh how I love scallops!  Rich and buttery, they come in their very own serving dish as if the sea gods knew how great they would be to eat!  However, in France they are sold in the shell, with the coral attached (which I love!) and I was not sure how well that would go over with the rest of the folks eating dinner.

As adventurous as I am as both a cook and an eater, I knew sea urchin was out.  I also did not want the apartment to smell of seafood for the rest of the trip so sadly, lobster and crab were out as well.

I decided to start with a traditional charcuterie plate figuring everyone would have something to nibble on at least, and if I messed up dinner at least we wouldn’t starve!  Plus…look at those olives and the bread!  How could I resist!

Salad fixings were next.  The lettuces alone had me swooning and the peppers? Wow.  The thing that struck me as so different from US grocers was the way all of the food smelled…it was just so much more.

Unfortunately, by this point my hands were full of food and I could not take any more pictures.  For dinner that night we did indeed have a charcuterie plate, as well as a mixed green salad, gorgeous filet of beef with a red wine and mushroom sauce, roasted potatoes, and sauteed haricot verts.  It was a fantastic meal and I loved every minute of shopping for it as well as cooking and eating with family.

Now…if only I could get to Versailles!!!

Even Here I Have to Cook for You… Interrupted

Well, I had hoped to get to the last part of this before I left for my next travel adventure, but life (and really mostly kids!) got in the way.  I will be on a cruise ship with no real internet access for the next week so the conclusion to my shopping/cooking alone in Paris while everyone else enjoys Versailles will have to wait until my return.

I am sure I will have many more stories from this trip as well.  9 people from 75 years old to 11 months old sailing the Caribbean on the largest cruise ship in the world!  Lets just hope we all make it back with our (my) sanity intact!

In the meantime, please enjoy some pictures from the  Richard Lenoir Market in Paris.  Its a foodies Paradise!




It is truly a feast for the senses!

Bon Voyage!



Even Here I have to cook for you? (Part Deux)

With no real fanfare, I arrived in Paris…a day late. I had gotten in touch with my family and let them know about my travel troubles.  I usually take the train into Paris from the airport, but this time, I decided to get a cab and just get straight there.  Right, so a quick stop at baggage claim and I’m on my way…

Ok, I know the suspense is killing you.  My bags did not make it to Paris.  Not that I am surprised at all.  The airline switched my flights so many times trying to figure out how to get me there, I am only surprised that I did eventually get my luggage.

I sat in the airport dealing with the oh so helpful customer service folks.  I was on the verge of an epic meltdown.  The only thought that kept me going was the hope that maybe I would get some sort of clothing allowance and be able to go shopping for clothes!  Now I know that a couple hundred dollars doesn’t get you much when shopping in Paris, but even sweats are cooler when you can say you bought them in Paris!  Wait…do they even sell sweat pants in Paris?

Well, we may never know the answer to that question.  The airline gave me a toothbrush, a razor and a t-shirt and told me that if they couldn’t find my luggage within three days then I would get an allowance to purchase new clothes.  What they thought I was going to do for three days with only the clothes I was wearing, a toothbrush, razor and t-shirt I have no idea…maybe shave my head and wander the airport with a daisy and a blessing?

After a thoroughly terrifying taxi ride through Paris, I finally arrived at the apartment we had rented in the Marais for our time in Paris.  We prefer to stay in apartments instead of hotels so that we can all stay together and we love staying in the Marais.  Also, we tell ourselves that we like having a kitchen so we don’t have to eat out every meal, however in our previous trips we had never used the kitchen for more than coffee no matter what our intentions!

Once I had received the appropriate sympathy, we decided to just wander around the Marais, find a cafe for some wine and nosh and just relax.  I was hardly dressed for anything else!  We headed out towards Centre Georges Pompidou as we knew that there would be plenty of pedestrian traffic and places to eat and people watch.  Personally, I do not like the exterior of Centre Pompidou.  I find it a terrible contrast to the masterful architecture that makes Paris so beautiful.  But that is just my opinion, I am sure there are some people that love it, and the exhibits that are presented inside the Centre are usually first class and usually worth a look.

What I do love about the area is the street performers, market stalls and in the Spring a sort of festival set up in the open space with musicians, artists, games, etc.  I also love the Stravinsky Fountain.  I think its moving sculptures are a bit of whimsy in the area.

We grabbed a bite to eat at a cafe on a side street, learned more than we ever needed to know about Rugby and continued on our jaunt.

We also decided that we would take a day trip to Versailles the following day.  Although I have been to Paris several times, I had never taken a day trip outside the city.  There is so much to do and see within Paris, I just hadn’t made it out there yet.  However, it was not to be on this trip either.

When we got back to the apartment, there was a message on the machine that the airline would be delivering my luggage the next day sometime between 10am and 2pm.  While this was good news for my companions, I will admit I was disappointed.  Beside this ruining my fantasy of a Parisian shopping spree, this also put the kabash on my going with the clan to Versailles.  We decided that everyone else should go ahead and go, there was no reason all of us should sit around waiting for my luggage.

Still to come…Of course I will have dinner ready when you get back…what else would I do?

Even here I have to cook for you? (Part 1)

The lonely International Terminal at Boston’s Logan Airport

I was supposed to be the first one there.  I speak “the French” as my Aunt calls it, so I was supposed to meet the property manager and get us all checked in to the apartment we were staying in for our week in Paris.  The cast of characters for this trip includes me, my mother, my brother, his partner, my aunt and my cousin.  All flying in from different places to meet in Paris for a week.

My flight was supposed to be the first one in.  It did not work out that way.  The property manager left when I did not show up on time.  He left the keys and a note on the table inside.  My Aunt and cousin arrived first, didn’t see me, didn’t see the note so decided to go get some wine.  Let me assure you, I don’t fault this decision in the slightest!

By the time everyone but me had arrived, it was clear I was not just out getting croissants (or more likely, wine).  I was, at that moment, in Boston, trying to get on a flight that would take me to France.  I was not supposed to be in Boston, that was not on my itinerary at all.  I was supposed to fly from Charlotte to Philadelphia to Paris, but my flight to Philly got cancelled and the comedy of errors and mis-communications that finally dropped me in Boston was worthy of US Airways history.  I did get to watch from the runway of the plane in Boston, my connecting flight to Paris taking off from another runway…that was fun.

Inside Boston’s airport I needed a drink like no one’s business.  The cheery gate agent (raise your hand if you have ever seen a cheery gate agent) informed me that not only could she not book me through to Paris, but that all the bars in the airport were closed since it was after 11pm.  Well, at least they will put me up in a decent hotel, right? The airline, with all the sympathy of the Gestapo, sent me on my merry way to a hotel (where the bar was also closed) and told me to try again in the morning to find a way to Paris.

This is what the bar looked like when I landed.

The next day I found myself a standby passenger on the only flight from Boston to Paris.  I sat on the floor by the gate and cried so much that I am sure people thought I was desolate over leaving.  In fact I was terrified that I would be staying!  I offered to max my credit card out to purchase a business class seat…anything that would ensure I got on that flight.  In the end, I did get on the flight and I did get to Paris.  My luggage, however did not…

Up next…how to score a free t-shirt at Charles de Gaulle!