Friday, August 10, 2007

Yo, ho, ho and a bottle of rum?

Today we are bobbing along on the beautiful briny sea and frankly it’s quite a relief. Not that we haven’t absolutely loved the last few fabulous days but I’m not sure if either of us could put one foot in front of one another again. It’s not just the amount of walking we’ve done but the heat we’ve been exploring Russia in. In my mind Russia is always smothered in blankets of the whitest snow and the inhabitants are swathed in furry coats and delicious hats, think Doctor Zhivago. But clearly, not in August!

After tucking into one of Oscar’s fine omelettes we head for the Cooking Demo in the Discovery Lounge. We’re not sure what to expect but we get to sit down so it already sounds good! As usual the shipmates are out in force, I can’t vouch for napkin folding demonstration or line dancing but every event I’ve seen has been very well attended.

Our demonstration is by Neill the head chef was also new to this ship from Australia and gave us a fascinating insight into the mechanics of catering for such a floating establishment. I'm always fascinated by kitchens anyway but this one particularly intrigued me. Health and safety unfortunately denied us the pleasure of seeing it all first hand, don't those guys in white coats always spoil our fun? But as he whipped up a frankly very fine looking pepper steak (H&S deemed we could look and smell but not eat, boo hiss!) and mushrooms he explained the daily routines onboard. He was assisted by Ben who he persisted in calling Martin. So much so that Ben seemed to get all huffy and leave. Martin in fact was a shy expert carver who could take an apple and a carrot and seemingly in moments produce a duck and deftly turn a potato into a rose. He made a slew of these and then disappeared coyly back to the kitchen. Neill detailed some of the improvements he's made to the Discovery, one being simplifying the menus. Wow, we were experiencing the after? Our demo continued with more delicious smelling food we couldn’t eat followed by audience questions. One I wished I asked was "what's with the carrots?", as they are an extremely regular adornment to our dishes. It turns that our regular supplies were curtailed by the terrible floods suffered by some farmers and some ingredients fell short. But luckily for us we received our full complement of carrots and hence they had to supplement our meagre rations of others. Though truth be told we weren't aware of the lack it was only the recurring carrot theme that was spotted. It seems that Neill had big plans for the lido dining area where we've grabbing breakfast, lunch and occasionally afternoon tea. It does seem to be prone to bottlenecks and he is hoping that in the next ship's refit this can be addressed. After our demo we were furnished with instructions on how to prepare for the perfect dinner party. One comment I spotted was the importance of creamy buttery mash potatoes, perhaps that explains the surprisingly good potatoes in the lido of a lunchtime.

After a day cruising around the Baltic Sea we were intrigued to discover what tonight dinner had in store. We had been told last night that this evening was going to have a piratical theme. We’d tried to elicit the details of what that would entail but they all remained schtum. We could only speculate that lashing of rum would be involved.

As we arrived in the dining room, there are Jolly Rogers and piratical paraphernalia all over the place, our waiter and busboy are resplendent in their cabin boy attire and fake tattoos looking to my mind like rock band roadies and our menu is large yellow and covered in cutlasses.

The starters are labelled as “Rich Pickings” and I chose “Diced parrot with Land Lubber’s Blood Sauce” which was actually Game Terrine with Cumberland Sauce.

“From the Slop Bucket” was “Cannon Ball Soup” otherwise know as Cream of Carrot, Honey and Walnut.

Ahh it looks like the ubiquitous carrots are back!

From “Square Meals” I selected “Grape Shot” which was subtitled Potato Gnocchi “Salvatore” Mushroon Sauce, Herbs and Parmesan Cheese.

And the dessert was Floating Desert Island” Poached Meringue in a Sea of Fresh Vanilla Custard. Actually really apart from the decorated empty bottles on our tables the place wasn’t awash with rum. We weren’t made to walk the plank or unfortunately whisked off to some pirate’s lair by Johnny Depp but it was certainly an entertaining evening.

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