Best Part of the Week!

24 Apr

So you know it’s got to be related to food! Ha!  In all seriousness, though, Oh. My. God. how we ate our faces off and LOVED every second of it.  Oh, and just so everyone’s clear- calories don’t count when you’re celebrating a 30th birthday! 🙂

For those of you who’ve been on cruises before, you know how it is.  For those of you who haven’t, let me enlighten you.  You have delicious, gourmet food available to you- and enticing you!- every waking minute of your vacation.  Hell, it’s available even when you’re not awake just in case you wake up and need a fix!  Here’s the lowdown.  On our ship, the Solstice, there’s a main dining room, the Grand Epernay, where you go every night for your 4-course (yes, you read that correctly) dinner.  It’s also open for breakfast and lunch, if you choose.  What really sets the menus apart here from other ships is what they offer- there’s always a vegetarian option, a lowfat and low salt option, and a sugarfree dessert option!  (Granted, I didn’t partake in these offerings as often as I usually would, but still!)  And what a gorgeous place to boot!  It’s all white and sleek and modern with chrome and crystal accents and harks back to the glam 1940s…

The Grand Epernay. In the center, you can see the two-story wine tower (the largest wine collection on any ship) surrounded by Swarovski crystals.

Another view...

At least we weren't the only ones loving the food! Packed house for dinner 🙂

And for the next morning's special 'Farewell Brunch...'

If you’re in the mood for something different, that’s cool, too- there are more than 10 restaurants (from 5 star hoity toity with a cover charge to flipflops and free) and 14 bars on board!  The most common and quickest option is the Oceanview Cafe on the top deck.  The best way to describe it is as a much larger, gourmet Golden Corral- a giant room filled with countless cafeteria-style counters serving anything you could want…around the clock.  In the mornings: omelet stations, waffle stations, English breakfast, American breakfast, Japanese breakfast, fresh fruits, pastries, cereals…Later in the day: carving stations, pizza, fresh salads, fajita stations, stirfry stations, sushi stations, curry stations, dessert bars…Good Lord.

Oceanview Cafe

And again...

One of my personal favorites was Bistro on Five, a chic little creperie open 24-hours-a-day.  And I’m not gonna lie- I had a savory and a sweet crepe for lunch every single day we were ‘at sea.’ Don’t judge.

Mmmm...

Inside the Bistro...

Y'all know how many crepes I've eaten around this world and their savory ones were some of the BEST.

Now, those of you who really know Mom know that she’s a gelato freak, so you can only imagine the big smile on her face most afternoons when she got to stop by the Cafe al Baccio for a scoop of this fresh, frozen goodness :).

Cafe Al Baccio- Gelato in style 🙂

I know what you’re thinking: ‘So did these folks ever eat OFF the ship?!’  Well yes, yes we did! 🙂  Remember how I told you that we found one of my all-time favs, Poutine, in St. Maarten?  In case anyone’s not familiar with this dish that can only be described as ‘Heaven in your mouth,’ it’s a cold-weather staple up north consisting of fresh cut french fries topped with mozzerella cheese curds and covered in brown gravy.

Yes, I know it looks like a heart attack on a plate, but if you only eat it once a decade, it's OK, right? 🙂

Mom, with me, basking in her first poutine experience...And just for the record, John and Dad aren't in the picture, but you better believe they were smilin'!

In St. Thomas, we stopped into a fabulous open-air restaurant called The Green House- whose catchy slogan, for the record, was ‘If it smells like fish, eat it.’- for an authentic Carribean meal…complete with two of St. Thomas’ specialties, which just happened to already be two of our favorites: conch fritters and calamari!

Inside The (Colorful) Green House 🙂

Conch fritters and calamari...

Finally, in San Juan, we were on the hunt for three food items known to be Puerto Rican specialties: cod fritters (which you’re recall I posted about earlier in the week), plantains (much like bananas, but can be sweet or not) and empanadas (fried pastry dough filled with either fruit or meat mixture.)  Mission accomplished!

Plantain Nachos topped with brisket

Chorizo and Beef Empanadas

OK, so back to the boat and its plethora of dining options…Overall, we were so pleased with our dinners each evening.  Awesome waitstaff, beautifully-presented and delicious meals…Here are some ‘Grand Epernay Highlights,’ in random order 🙂

First course, first night...

~Happy~

Escargot...My Dad loves them...And they actually weren't too shabby!

Always a fav...Beef Carpaccio

Amaretto Marzipan Cake...I don't even like marzipan and this was delish! How do they do that?

A perfect cut of veal...(Sorry to all of my vegetarian/vegan peeps- if it makes you feel any better, we really eat very little meat in 'real life!')

One of my favorite entrees of the week...Turkey Parmegiana over whole wheat penne

Veal Cordon Bleu

Molten Chocolate Souffle with Vanilla Custard (*salivating*)

Chicken Wellington

Sugarfree Strawberry Shortcake

'Grandma's Pork Chop' with sweet potato tart, another fav 🙂

Curried Chicken Salad on a slice of Sesame'd Pineapple

Napoleon Tart

'Surf and Turf' with filet mignon and lobster tail...

Well, folks, I hope you’ve enjoyed this culinary tour of our weeklong birthday celebration!  The only downside?  Only 2 more days until we’re back in Ft. Lauderdale!  Tune in tomorrow for our final days at sea, a crazy animal-related story that’s happened since we got home, and a sneak peak of our next adventures, already in the not-so-distant future!

I leave you with the words of Southern goddess, Paula Deen, and a picture John’s favorite dessert of the entire vacation…

'From our (ship's) kitchen to yours...Best Dishes!'

*Some things never change.  John orders cheesecake just about any time we get dessert in real life- he just loves it.  All flavors, all crusts, all kinds…Each night after our dinner, we were presented with 8 different desserts to choose from.  As you might suspect, there was always a chocolate ‘option,’ a pie ‘option,’ a fruit ‘option…’  Well, John chose the cheesecake ‘option’ (NY style, passionfruit guava, strawberry, chocolate layered…)every single night but one, which he opted for tiramisu…only to wish he’d gone for the cheesecake.  God I love a man who knows what he likes 🙂

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