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!



Freedom in the Med…Amazing Amalfi

Wow…Our last port.  Tomorrow we have a sea day and then back to Barcelona to fly home.  This was the port I had done the least amount of research on.  I mean, Pompeii was obviously on the list but really what else is there?  Turns out…Plenty!

Now, ask anyone about the Amalfi Coast and instantly they will gush over the beauty, the seascapes, the amazing views.  Almost all the same things people say about Santorini.  And if you remember last year when I visited Santorini, I likened it to a Supermodel…Beautiful, but not a lot of substance.

I had once again booked with Italy Tour Sharing and since we had had two previous good tours, I anticipated nothing less for this one.  And after a TINY bit of confusion at the start, it was just as good.

The website advertises starting at Pompeii then hitting Sorrento and Positano.  Our driver asked if we minded doing it in reverse, Positano, Sorrento then Pompeii last.  That would mean that the long part of the drive was in the beginning to Positano and we would work our way back to Pompeii which is closest to the port.  We agreed which had its ups and downs…I’ll get to them.


Driving along the Amalfi coast is nothing short of incredible.  Although if you ask my mom, she might say it was more terrifying than amazing!  She doesn’t like roads on the edge of a cliff for some reason…weird, right?

And while we all agreed that we would happily live here, none of us actually wanted to drive around.

We stopped a couple of times for pictures but eventually made it to Positano.  And if the roads were bad along the way, they were nothing compared to what was actually in Positano.  Fortunately, after a bit they no longer allow cars in town so all the roads are pedestrian.  And beautiful!

The town is, for fairly obvious reasons, dedicated to the sea.  I mean, its clearly easier to get here by boat than by car so everything revolves around the ocean.


The artwork on the streets pay tribute to the sea as well.


And I’m sure you are aware of how much I love the ocean!  Its as if this town was made for me!! Oh! Wait!


They are already holding a spot for me!!!


So after making it down to the docks, we now had to get back up to the van to move on to Sorrento.  No easy task, that.


The car park is up by that orange building…the one WAY UP THERE!!  I mean, its paved and more a series of cutback ramps rather than stairs, but still!  At any rate, we made it, piled back into the van and headed to Sorrento.

We really did not do much in Sorrento, a little shopping and lunch.  Now if you know us at all, you know how we feel about food.  And our driver had mentioned that Sorrento was famous for two things: gnocchi and limoncello.   Well, it was a bit hot for me to indulge in the famously rich pasta puffs, but hey!  Limoncello is served icy cold, right?  Well, I still don’t know for sure because I didn’t order any, but I didn’t order any gnocchi either so I was a miss on all Sorrentean specialties.

I did buy a beautiful bottle of limoncello to bring back with me, and I can confirm that it is fantastic chilled.  It is also fantastic made into a limoncello granita and served after a Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes…but that might have to be another post!

We also realized that Sorrento has a soccer team!  With jersey’s and everything!!!  And since it was our goal to purchase a jersey in every port, we were thrilled!  We still got a Napoli jersey too, but the small teams are so cool to represent, we had to buy one of those too.

That church is called Chiesa di San Francesco.  And check out the streets…see any resemblance??

Overall, we enjoyed Sorrento very much.  Up next, Pompeii.  I have probably 200 pictures of Pompeii alone, you know I have a thing for ruins.  I will try to pick a just a few to give you the impression.  Here is where doing Pompeii late in the day, on the way back to port becomes an issue.  You see, while we did avoid the traffic coming back from Positano, we could not avoid the afternoon sun.

And it was HOT!  So hot I kept checking the volcano just to make sure we were not about to meet our own ashy end.   And while those trees are beautiful and green and shady, they are behind the fences and inaccessible to us poor, blistering tourists.

But there is no doubt the sheer awesomeness of this town, and to think it was gone in a day.  The treasures that remain, from artwork to fast food stands to complete corpses, are genius and beautiful and a tragedy.



And soon enough it was time to meet mom (who decided a/c and a cool beverage beat wandering around active volcano sites in July) and the driver back at the entrance.  Yep, time for me to read a map!  Can anyone guess what happened next?  Yep.  We got lost. And while I usually love getting lost in a new town, Pompeii isn’t really new.  We did finally find our way out, by way of a water vendor, and we were all relived to finally see the spot we were to meet the van and mom.


Ah Bliss!  Or air conditioning and refrigeration if you’re being technical but they’re basically the same thing, right?  We made it back to the ship in plenty of time, even after stopping to get our Napoli jerseys and headed on board.

Up next, our final sea day.  And Chef’s Table!!!  You know how much I love Chef’s Table!!  And this one has a new menu and wines and presentation, and location.  Stay Tuned!




Enchantment of the Seas…The Yummy Part!

So one of the things that we tried on our last Freedom of the Seas cruise and fell in love with was the Chef’s Table experience.  Basically a 5-6 course tasting menu with wine pairings for a small group dining experience.  On the Freedom, the Chef’s Table was a table set aside in the WindJammer with a long table set up for about 20 people.  We started off with champagne and then moved to dinner.  It was amazing, even in the cafe instead of a proper private dining area.  It was just mom and I that time but since it was an all adult cruise this time, we convinced Michael & Peter to join us.

On the Enchantment, there is a separate room just for Chef’s Table, and it is limited to 12 guests per night.  We met in the R Bar for our champagne (since you are at the bar, you can get a different drink if you want, but who doesn’t like Champers??). One everyone has arrived, we moved as a group to the Chef’s Table room and were seated and given the evening’s menu.


The Sommelier introduced himself and gave us a brief overview of how the evening was going to go.  Then the food started coming out.  The Amuse-bouche went perfectly with the champagne (which they were happy to refill if you accidentally drank all yours before you were seated!).  I did not get a picture of that, but it was served on one of those ceramic spoons and it was yummy.

Next was the Hearts of Palm Salad.  This had lots of avocado in it, which can be filling.  The sweeter white wine did well to cut through the fattiness of the avocado though.


Its actually hard to see the hearts of palm in the salad, but they are there, I promise!  I really liked the champagne dressing too.

Next was the Sweet Pea Soup with a poached quail egg and bacon.


This was really good.  Plus, not everybody liked poached eggs so I ended up with three in my soup!!  This was a really fresh tasting soup and went very well with the unoaked chardonnay.

Then…Lobster!!  Butter poached lobster in case you needed more yummy words!  Topped with caviar!!


It looks a bit like a smiley face but that’s okay because I had a big smiley face as well with this dish!  The sauce was fantastic and it went beautifully with the delicate Chablis from Burgundy that was poured with this.

We were now getting into the “meat” of the menu (sorry!) and the pasta course was a Braised Short Rib ravioli.  Also at this point, the wines turned red, which makes me almost as happy as pasta and braised meats!!


This dish was super yummy and I might have actually licked the bowl.  This is really the point in the meal where you start getting a little full and start to think about pacing yourself.  Word of advice…DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT on this dish!!!  I would have happily eaten everyone’s plate.  It was that good!!  The lighter red wine was a perfect accompaniment and did not overwhelm the palate like a bigger red would have.  Which brings us to…

Beef Tenderloin with Morel mushrooms!!!


Perfectly cooked, and perfectly paired with Caymus Cabernet.  This was the pinnacle dish and it lived up to its billing.  The potatoes were light and fluffy and flavored with smoked garlic.  The beef was flavorful and the mushroom sauce was rich and meaty.  At this point I was happy that I had worn elastic waist pants!  We still had dessert to eat!

I am not a huge fan of sweets and can usually skip dessert with no problem in favor of the more savory dishes.  Our dessert was called Chocolate Sabotage and I did not get a picture of it for some reason!  I am sure it was fantastic.

So our Chef’s Table experience ended and we all left happy and fat!!  It was our favorite meal on board and worth every penny in my opinion.

As this was a short cruise and the casino was not particularly friendly to me, I did not earn any more free cruises, but I still have my 11 night Mediterranean cruise coming up!!  A bucket list cruise that I cannot wait to tell you about!