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Bart Basi

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About Bart Basi

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    Cool Cruiser

About Me

  • Location
    Urbana, IL
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  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    Royal Caribbean
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  1. Hi, So navybankerteacher raised a good question when they asked (I'm going to paraphrase) - where do foodies go out to eat?. This is a question I some insight into, but I'd like to tell you a bit about me so you can understand how I have come to form my opinion. I live in a small university town, where the total metropolitan area is around 235,000 people (i'm extrapolating from 2010 census data). As a university town, in spite of our geographical location we have a very large population from the east and west coasts along with large numbers of people from Europe and Asia. In this town my wife owns a gourmet grocery store. By gourmet we carry whole fresh grade A Foie Gras, Duck Confit, Iberico de Bellota, we fly in Grade 1+ Sushi/Sashimi Grade Tuna from Japan, Loup de Mer from France, Dunbarton Blue, Black Truffle Gouda, 3-8 year old parmigiano reggiano, we make fresh pasta in house, we carry an exclusive curated selection of wine and spirits. Therefore, the gourmet's/foodies who live here tend to shop at my wife's store. We don't make much money running the business, but we really love sharing the finest food on earth with people. We also know most people in town do not shop with us. The idea of paying $125.00/lb for ham is insane to many people. We understand that, but - the idea of paying $6.00 for 6 slices of this amazing spanish ham, spending $4.00 on a quarter pound of Cabrales (An incredible Spanish blue) and $4.00 for a fresh french baguette give's you an amazing lunch for 2 for less than $15.00. And yet - only about 20% of the people who live here shop with my wife. Food is a significant value to her customers. And frankly, food just doesn't matter like this to most people. Here's an example, there's a fellow here in town that I know, worked hard and built up an amazing business. Sold it for a few hundred millon. He's absolutly shocked that my wife is still in business because he's just as happy with a hot dog and a piece of velvetta as he would be with an imported Italian salami and fine italian cheese. My point is that it's not about money. It's about values. So far I've illustrated that 20% or less of the population seems interested in gourmet food and that while expensive money isn't always a driver. So back to navybankerteacher's question. Where do these people go out to eat? They eat at food trucks, they eat at quick service dining restaurants, they eat at fast casual restaurants and yes - we also eat at Daniel, Per Se, and Osteria Francescana. It's not about the money. Yes, we need to budget for Per Se (we are not wealthy people) - and while some people wouldn't bat an eyelash about having a couple of car payments totaling $600.00 a month - those same people would never consider a $600.00 dinner. For us - we choose no car payment but we do choose crazy awesome dinners. We choose the memories of great food over things. We are weird people. Most people don't make this choice in this fashion. I will admit, when I booked our cruise I did make the mistake of assuming that by dining in the specialty restaurants all 4 days we would have a somewhat better experience than we did - therefore I started this thread and I asked where's a better meal. Again - food wasn't bad (the ragù alla bolognese at Jamie's Italian was the finest I've ever had, the mushroom soup at Chop's was great, the Main Dining Room's Duck Mousse was awesome, the FREE coffee on the promenade restaurant was perfectly acceptable). But yes, overall we were disappointed with the quality of the food. We were willing to pay Royal Caribbean more for food (we ate all of our on-board lunches and dinners at specialty restaurants, and all breakfasts in the main dining room. This being said - we have had some of our best food ever at food trucks (Shrimp Trucks Hawaii) - we love good food. We don't care if it's expensive or not, we're just looking for awesome. So gourmet's eat everywhere. We simply make an effort to eat well regardless of where we are eating. I did not mean to come off as dismissive of Royal Caribbean, I will say again we enjoyed some of the food and over they exceeded our every expectation. We will cruise again and soon, we loved it. Just please god don't tell me you are giving Buffalo Mozzarella and then put an ordinary piece of cow's milk domestic mozzarella on the table, don't tell me it's a prime steak and serve me choice. Thanks for the all the responses. Bart
  2. Hi, I submitted a review yesterday of the Mariner of the Seas, 14 Jan 2019 sailing. My review is not showing up, any advice on what I can do to correct this? Thanks, Bart
  3. Hank, thanks - this is advice I can make use of as it helps me direct my expectations and energy. If I'm not going to get close to a decent land-based restaurant (something that the New York Times or Michelin would give a star to for example) - then frankly I'll book another Royal Caribbean cruise with enough stops in ports to allow us to dine out and we'll pack some provisions for our cabin. We loved the cruise and it exceeded all of our expectations except for the cuisine. I would love to learn more about food on other cruise lines in order to understand why it is better or worse. calliopecruiser, I appreciate you clarifying for me - I confused crystal and regent. It's not so much that I need the food; it was a combination of our expectations were out of line and being in the find food business I found myself as the kids say throwing shade (I have the bruised shins to prove it, my wife is the most polite and considerate person on earth...me...well....not so much). LHT28 - The menu's look great, now I worry about ingredients and kitchen leadership. happy cruzer - Love your idea, if I could find something with a mid-market price where we were paying for dinner that would be great. That was the expectation I had with for Mariner of the Seas but Jamie's Italian and Chops really missed the mark for us. Grandma Dazzles, Roz, Coral, Kartgv & Texas Tillie - I appreciate your advice and the consensus seems to be we need to upgrade the company. I'll admit we are now concerned that other cruise lines staff won't be as friendly and nice as Royal Caribbean; we really loved every single employee we encountered (although the waffle guy wasn't happy with me, I think I made up for it with him and his boss). Is anyone aware of any food critics who have reviewed any cruise ships? I can't seem to find any....where are Ruth Reichl and Frank Bruni when I need them!
  4. We found that our favorite spot on the Mariner of the Seas was the bow, we spent a few hours just sitting there watching the ocean go by, we also loved outside on deck 3 - very quiet, we rarely saw anyone else there and they deck chairs setup. Our balcony was also wonderful. We would go back and book again on the Mariner of the Seas just for the peace and quiet of those spaces. We were shocked at how much we loved our balcony. We needed sun, and we needed peaceful - the Mariner of the Seas delivered on both counts. We were shocked by the crew - their honest friendliness and welcoming spirit was infectious. I found myself smiling, it was incredible. I want to attribute it to their leadership. Crystal looked nice, but I think knowing myself I'd have trouble enjoying it when I'd be paying for a lot stuff I'd never use (shore excursions, alcohol, etc...). I love Royal Caribbean's pay as you go - I can pay for the elements of a cruise that matter to me. This is why we did pay for specialty dining for every meal it was offered for (4 night cruise, 2 days in ports - so we had all dinners and lunches in either Chops or Jamie's (we didn't like Izumi and didn't trust we'd enjoy Chef's Table). I do want to make clear that overall Royal Caribbean exceeded our expectations and we are looking forward to another cruise due to the great experience we had; we just need better food. Thanks for all comments, love to hear more thoughts if you can share. Bart
  5. My wife and I just finished a cruise with Royal Caribbean on the Mariner of the Seas, 4 nights stopping at Nassau and CocoaCay. We loved it, we escaped freezing temperatures and snow and had a fantastic time. Such a great time, we want to do it again. Here's where I need help. For us, the food was poor. Two problems, the ingredient quality was poor and the preparation was poor. Here's where we ate and what we had: Breakfast - Main Dining Room every morning, eggs Benedict, waffles, pancakes, poached eggs, omelets, sausage, bacon, coffee, juice. I would compare the overall quality of the breakfast to what one get's a Denny's Restaurant. Certainly edible, a few tasty items but overall lacking in quality. Good value for the money perhaps in terms of calories; but not such a good value if one is looking for fresh eggs, heavy cream and quality sausage and bacon. Good: The regular coffee was perfectly nice. No complaints at all about the ordinary black coffee served. I quite liked the corned beef hash. ·Average: The croissants weren't bad, sort of average for a cafeteria, the eggs also were average, bacon was very, very fatty (yes, you can have too much fat) - not terrible but not a quality product. Bad: the Hollandaise was atrocious, it simply bore no resemblance to hollandaise and it had the most god-awful neon yellow color to it. It didn't in and of itself taste bad, it simply tasted noting like Sauce Hollandaise, (I'll bet my bottom dollar it was a GFS or Sysco, powdered or bagged, pre-mixed/pre-made item). Sausage and bacon were cheap, really cheap, it wasn't a flavor issue it was an issue with a high percentage of gristle/fat fragments from very inexpensive cuts of pork processed cheaply. Some pastries were unfortunately poorly done, a cinnamon roll is simply not a roll of puff baked to a hard crisp with a layer of cinnamon and sugar. Waffles - batter was great and had the potential to be an excellent waffle. But then the kid on the waffle iron was under baking them. They were fully cooked but had no color. (I took over the waffle station for 10 minutes and turned out two batches of crispy wonderful waffles). Again, the issue here is the chef - she needs to be walking around and making sure her people are executing the menu properly. Lunch - We had one of the best meals we've ever eaten on Junkanoo Beach and one of the worst on CocoaCay (and it was essentially the same menu item), on board we had lunch at Jamie's Italian twice (Chops was not open for lunch, and we did not eat at the Windjammer, Johnny Rockets or the other restaurants). · Jamie's Italian Good: Very attentive staff, happy to bring us food from the main dining room, serve us multiple entrees/appetizers, bought us a couple of drinks - amazing staff. The pasta was great, the ragù alla bolognese was perfect; I'd be happy to pay $50.00 for this entree anytime - and with a view of the ocean nearly priceless. The cheesecake was equally wonderful, rich, dense, thick and with enough depth of flavor to satisfy anyone, good to the point of being almost magical. Average: Antipasta board, wasn't bad- but it wasn't great. They served caperberries with it but then left off cerignola and castelvetrano and oil cured Sicilian olives, they served prosciutto which wasn't bad but it wasn't great; an ordinary Italian San Danielle ham. No options for anything interesting like a Tuscan ham. . Bad: They served a perfectly ordinary cows milk mozzarella and kept telling me it was buffalo. I hated the lying. I feel bad for most of their customers who bite into it and think that's what a real buffalo mozzarella is; I also had 4 waiters and the host tell me the cherry tomatoes were San Marzano tomatoes. The funniest part is, they actually brought out the cans to the table (which obviously had not San Marzano DOP label - I mean really? They thought we were illiterate? And of course the can was the tip of the iceberg in this case - while I did love their Italian cherry tomatoes I detested the lie). Actual poor quality was the squid and the problem here was the chef (NOT the cooks, this is the responsibility of the head chef, at the end of the day it's her responsibility to ensure her kitchen is running properly and under her watch the squid was fried at FAR too low of a temperature, so low and so long that it became crazy tough, chewy with no color - literally a white coating. It should have been fried at 475 degrees with at least two quarts of oil per serving and fried for not more than 1 minute 45 seconds - resulting in a very tender piece of squid encased in a golden brown crispy coating. Not the pale white coating covering a piece of squid nearly too tough to bite through). It was frozen, but that's not the problem - frozen squid can be fine; it was the preparation. · Junkanoo Beach Junkanoo Jerk - best jerk chicken and pork and plantains with rice & peas we've ever had - stunningly good. Absolutely worth a special trip. The all spice wood they were grilled over lent a depth and the sauce a complexity. Truly a great meal. We're now thinking about heading back to Nassau just to eat with this guy again. CocoaCay - Rib's underdone to the point of not being able to tear off the meat. Chicken breasts overdone to the point of dryness, leg quarters underdone to the point of tendons still intact. Sauce just a one-note slide with not staying power and you had to look for the smoke. Dinner - We at twice at Chops and twice at Jamie's Italian. Chops was simply terrible. Jamie's we liked. Good: Lamb Chops at either Jamie's OR Chops were fantastic, we had them both rare and medium rare (they came out medium rare and barely medium) but they were great. Not quite Keen's Saddle of Lamb great - but excellent chops, fantastic, we loved them and you should get them. Two very different preparations and very enjoyable. Loved getting sides/small plates of pasta (off-menu option) and getting apps/mains from the main dining room (off menu option). We were treated very well at both restaurants. Some of the very best service we've had. Not quite the French Laundry - but pretty amazingly good service (wish my people were that good frankly). Loved the service. We got them to bring out drinks, sit down with us - made for some great evenings. Chops - loved the mushroom soup (they just need to get those crunchy veggie matchsticks off the top - stupid) but loved the mushroom soup. Crabcake was nice (yeah, more lying on the menu - my crab was special, not jumbo lump (or it was jumbo lump that someone smashed into special - so it's back on the chef, either allowing poor preparation or buying a cheaper item than advertised on her menu). Yes - they were tasty - but there's an awful lot of lying going on here. Chop's sauce Béarnaise was GREAT - loved it. I make this a few times a year with my best champagne vinegar, shallots, fresh sweet butter (high fat, jersey) etc... mine is good and so help me God theirs was almost as good as the best I can do - I was in love with their sauce (my wife also liked their wine sauce and their peppercorn one). Average: Most Apps at Jamie's & Chops Bad: The six steaks we were served were not prime by any measurement. USDA graded Prime from Excel or Cargill is running around $10.31 this week for boned primal Ribeye. That's not a bad steak, but it's a far, far cry from what you'd ever get at Peter Lugar's (no, we were not expecting anything close to a Peter Lugar's experience - we wanted nice waiters and a decent steak (Peter's is mean, pretentious waiters and a great steak))). Anyway - meat quality (we tried the strip, ribeye, fillet - no claim of dry aged anything on our menu - but vast assurances that we were getting "prime". What we got was green meat, 21 days old (effectively unaged) - choice grade meat). Chops cheesecake - this is Jello No Bake Cheesecake at it worst. Yeah, it's like that. Itzumi's fish counter smelled fishy. We sell a great deal of fish, and in 10 years my counters have never smelled fishy. Again - the chef simply isn't on top of everything. Chef's Table - between the ingredient quality, lack of attention from the chef to the staff and the lying - we just couldn't bring ourselves to try it - we felt it would be too much of a disappointment. Now - we were stunned by the service of our waiters, captains and hosts at lunch and dinner. Breakfast? They literally just did not give a darn. We loved the cruise, we loved our cabin (balcony) we loved the fact that there were quite places outside on decks 3, 4 and 5 where we could sit with nothing but the sound of the ship and the water. This was one of the most peaceful and relaxing vacations we have ever had in our lives (and we've traveled a bit). We were constantly amazed by the staff (other than the main dining room) who seemed genuinely invested in us having a good time. We want to cruise again. We had pretty low expectations - we just wanted to get out of the cold for a few days. We are total converts - we LOVED being on the ship! We LOVED the cruise. So - if you happen to be the sort of person who like us really loves food, and get equally excited about the Brazillian Lama Party and Eleven Madison Park - then please let me know your thoughts. Thanks in advance, Bart p.s. I know that our experiences do not apply to most people, we are very serious about our food. We truly love great hotdogs (RIP Hot Dougs) to fine dining (Osteria Francescana) and everything in between. We abhor the mediocre. A perfectly poached egg is a thing of beauty but even Wylie Dufresne can't take mediocre ingredients and turn out great food, by the same token - the finest ingredients in the hands of a line cook without training and you'll see just how quickly food can be ruined.
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