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Sandra1616

Seafood samples

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Hi Experienced Cruisers,

I have not tried very much seafood.  Is there a best or better way to sample lobsters, crabs an crawfish?  I would like to taste them with and without seasoning to see if I prefer them over salmon and tuna.  I saw on a food show a seafood tower. Are they available on any cruises? I don't want to appear as glutton or greedy either, but I do love food.  Sandra

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I think you'd have to be sailing SUPER fancy to get a seafood tower!

 

Crab, shrimp, scallops - even lobster tails - just about remain within the mainstream cruiseline MDR budgets, though not every meal for lobster or premium crabs. You might need to pay extra for even Snow Crab legs, let alone Alaskan King Crab for example, and lobster will almost certainly be inferior warm-water tails and even then likely just on a special night unless you pay extra e.g for a 'surf & turf' meal in a steakhouse onboard. Crawfish are kinda niche - unless there's a Louisiana style resto onboard, or a theme night, they're much rarer than shrimp or lobster in my experience (since they're strictly a US thing, they are never really cheap). Island Princess actually has a cajun steakhouse called Bayou Cafe - and the Crab Shack concept (part of the buffet becomes a for-fee seafood boil eatery) I believe does include a crawfish boil option on all Princess ships which offer it. That wouldn't be a bad way to try a few different seafood items, except they all come boiled in an 'OK but not stellar' broth.

 

While cruises can be a good place to try new eats, given continued reduction in budgets and premium nature of seafood they're less good every year. If you're really serious, just go buy some on land - a decent fishmonger will sort you out, and if you're not confident cooking them splurging on a seafood tower in a resto isn't totally unaffordable especially if you just want a taste, as you can split one with several people. Given you're in Waterloo, where I'm really only familiar with Oktoberfest beer venues, I can't suggest any local-local restos - but Toronto is of course really close for you!

 

Head to St Lawrence Market and you'll find many food vendors all under one roof (mostly raw stuff to bring home, but also cooked things), including some serious seafood spots (there's a caviar guy on the bottom level). The real win at St L is to shop late on Saturday afternoon, as clearance rates on things like fish kick in due to them being closed Sundays...  so pop into Seafront and grill them with questions about the best way to prepare stuff if you're willing to prep it yourself in your local accommodation (or have a good coller to safely keep it cold on the way back to Waterloo). Or just go to a decent seafood resto with a raw bar at happy hour (e.g. Rodneys, The Chase).

 

What's best? That's going to be down to you, but I do feel you're on the right track by trying to get things as natural as possible - in fact, raw is the purest way to go for experiencing the taste & texture without any sauces or spices to mask anything. I love me some sashimi - but different things are best done different ways for different palates. Personally, I do not enjoy Aburi sushi - when regular sashimi is blowtorched - despite being quite happy with a barely-cooked-through fillet of salmon that's similarly raw in the middle but cooked on the outside. I'm happy to do my own carpaccios, tartares, and ceviches at home - but if you're eating a new animal for the first time, probably best to let the pros handle prep of raw/nearly raw dishes until you're familiar with taste, texture, smell and appropriate chemical 'cooking' methods!

 

Toronto is also a surprisingly good place to eat Sushi, especially for an inland city - not long after I moved there a law was proposed that would require sashimi fish to be frozen, as they are in many jurisdictions, and the chefs revolted en masse, even marching on city hall! A compromise was reached whereby truly raw fish could be served, never having been frozen, as long as the menu had a warning. With modern freezing techniques, flash-freezing a firm, meaty fish makes virtually no difference - but for more delicate products, especially things like crab which are not just frozen when caught but cooked on the ship, then frozen, the crap you get out of a freezer bears almost no relation to the original when it's finally reheated for you. With the massive Greek influence, Toronto is also one of the best places to eat octopus - which really does need a lot of cooking, and ideally at least two different ways (boiled then grilled generally) to get the texture just perfect. And you can compare Greek to Portuguese style just by hopping on the subway & streetcar from the Danforth to Little Portugal 😉

 

I hope you do manage to find a new favourite, and maybe a new fave way of preparing something you're already familiar with.

 

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Thanks for your reply.  I just finished cruise critics 8 Best Seafood Cruise Restaurants.  There are some cruise lines that offer seafood in their meal plans and others that have for fee restaurants with seafood.  Since chefs like to serve fresh food from local markets seafood seems likely.  I wasnt thinking seasoning would mask the flavour of the seafood, but I did want to try a small amount cooked and nude, to know what it tastes by itself.  Mostly I wanted to taste seafood with seasoning.  Seasoning of seafood often showcases a chef's talent.  Viking, Regent and Paul Gauguin have free seafood at their no fee restaurants.  You sound like quite a foodie and a good cook.  Where did you develop your tastes and culinary skills? 

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10 hours ago, martincath said:

I think you'd have to be sailing SUPER fancy to get a seafood tower!

 

 

Actually Carnival (probably the opposite of super fancy 😉 ) offers a tower in the MDR for $60 that serves two people.  This is only on ships with a Seafood Shack.  It includes:

  • 6 Oysters
  • A Half-pound of steamed shrimp
  • 1 split lobster
  • 2 lobster claws
  • 1 cluster of snow crab legs

As a point of reference, the for fee lobster (tail only I think) in the MDR under the steakhouse options is $20 and the actual steakhouse is $38 pp and I think is also tail only.

 

3 hours ago, Sandra1616 said:

Thanks for your reply.  I just finished cruise critics 8 Best Seafood Cruise Restaurants.  There are some cruise lines that offer seafood in their meal plans and others that have for fee restaurants with seafood.  Since chefs like to serve fresh food from local markets seafood seems likely.  I wasnt thinking seasoning would mask the flavour of the seafood, but I did want to try a small amount cooked and nude, to know what it tastes by itself.  Mostly I wanted to taste seafood with seasoning.  Seasoning of seafood often showcases a chef's talent.  Viking, Regent and Paul Gauguin have free seafood at their no fee restaurants.  You sound like quite a foodie and a good cook.  Where did you develop your tastes and culinary skills? 

 

Lines like you mention might have freshly sourced items, but most of the larger/mainstream lines are more likely bulk purchased frozen seafood.  Either way trying the seafood on a ship isn't a bad way to get an initial taste, but it will likely be much better on a shore excursion from a local stop - like conch in the Bahamas, lobster on a New England/Canada itinerary, or crab on an Alaska cruise.

 

Enjoy your tasting adventure!

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2 hours ago, pacruise804 said:

Actually Carnival (probably the opposite of super fancy 😉 ) offers a tower in the MDR for $60 that serves two people.  This is only on ships with a Seafood Shack.  It includes: <snip>

 

Thanks for chiming in with first-hand info - never sailed Carnival, but unless that lobster is huge I'd say that you get better value seafood towers here in Vancouver, where something on the order of CAD$99 (~US$74 at the mo) would give you a wider selection with some actually-fresh stuff.

 

Lines like you mention might have freshly sourced items, but most of the larger/mainstream lines are more likely bulk purchased frozen seafood.  ...

 

Agree completely with the 'bought in bulk at start of the cruise' - I understand it's going to be better from both a food safety perspective as well as saving $ for the line (limited suppliers for most cruiselines, esp. those sailing in US waters at all with inspections that have to meet local standards).

Glad to hear there's at least some relatively affordable Seafood towers on mainstream lines per quote, and I also agree you're best to stick to land-based restos for getting fresh seafood OP. In Alaska for example, Princess are good on paper at customizing their trip menus - King Crab legs may even appear, and plenty of salmon. But even though it might be caught in AK waters, this is still large-scale frozen product, and when it comes to the crab, steamed and frozen and merely reheated for you just like it is everywhere across the world most of the year (fresh crab seasons don't overlap with AK cruise season, so the best and the worst local seafood joints are just doing the same - reheating!)

 

7 hours ago, Sandra1616 said:

Thanks for your reply.  I just finished cruise critics 8 Best Seafood Cruise Restaurants.  There are some cruise lines that offer seafood in their meal plans and others that have for fee restaurants with seafood.  Since chefs like to serve fresh food from local markets seafood seems likely.  I wasnt thinking seasoning would mask the flavour of the seafood, but I did want to try a small amount cooked and nude, to know what it tastes by itself.  Mostly I wanted to taste seafood with seasoning.  Seasoning of seafood often showcases a chef's talent.  Viking, Regent and Paul Gauguin have free seafood at their no fee restaurants.  You sound like quite a foodie and a good cook.  Where did you develop your tastes and culinary skills? 

If I'd read that article myself I'd have seen Carnivals Seafood Shack mentioned that Pacruise posted about! I'm in total agreement that the really simplistic 'choose good ingredients then do as little as possible' school of thought is far from the best way to go about things - it's a great starting point, and knowing how a thing tastes without any added flavours gives you valuable knowledge. But while sauces & seasonings certainly can mask an inferior product, the real art of cooking is knowing which seasonings and methods of cooking improve the product IMO. The problem with the 'just slice and/or heat it up' school of thought is it utterly discounts entire genres of food - try making a good curry, hotpot, almost any Cajun or Creole dishes, without getting stuck into multiple seasonings. Even many 'raw' dishes like Ethiopian Kitfo involve marinading and multiple spices - heck, even a classic beef tartare is as likely to come with S&P, horseradish, capers etc. already mixed in than in a DIY format.

 

As to how I got into food and learned to cook it myself - well, the shortest I can summarize it is that my 'teen rebellion' was basically learning to cook 'fancy stuff' and 'spicy stuff' as Mum was always serving up the same limited, over-cooked, 'protein and 2 veg but one of them is always potatoes' fare!

 

I was lucky enough that my high school still had training kitchens and compulsory Home Economics for all, which showed me what Mum was doing wrong in terms of vegetables not needing to be mushy and grey(!?) and gave me rudimentary food safety and knife skills; some of my Uni courses in microbiology and botany were also helpful for not killing myself while foraging, and growing up 'country poor' meant knowing how to grow stuff and what was safe to eat foraging my home area even as a youngster (we'd get taken out of school if necessary when blackberry season hit, so we could gather as much as possible before all the townies came out and stole them on the first weekend of ripe berries).

 

The crux for me was going to high school - which meant almost an hour on the bus each way to reach civilization - and being introduced to curry when dining out with friends in town (I try to remember not to say 'Indian food' as that's not really true at all about British curry - it's mostly Bangladeshi-derived cuisine that has evolved over many generations to include way more meat and dairy) and 'Chinese food' made by a friend's mom (which I found out years later was actually Hakka cuisine, with a bit of Indonesian mixed in as that's where she grew up). From that point I started spending some pocket money on herbs & spices and trying things out when left to myself in the house  - as oldest kid, not unusual for me to be starting dinner on weekdays as Mum went back to work once my youngest sibling was in school.

 

I've done a handful of formal classes here and there in niche food prep areas (like making my own bacon & ham for example, which unfortunately just isn't practical any more now we're in a west coast condo and have neither a coolroom nor space for another fridge to age meat in) but mostly I've learned to cook by watching (open kitchens are the best thing ever, and I always sit at the kitchen counter if available) and asking folks about their process. I'm one of Those People who always asks to chat with the chef - if the resto is quiet of course, totally d-bag move to hassle the kitchen at 7pm on a Saturday! Between having many food-industry friends, apparently better-than-average tastebuds, a willingness to experiment, an extensive cookbook collection - I primarily collect 'charity cookbooks' from everywhere I travel, collections of recipes donated by local folks to raise funds for a church, women's institute, scout troop etc. - I can turn my hand to just about anything, though I prefer to leave baking to the missus (she is logical and 'follow the recipe precisely' whereas I like to improvise way too much to enjoy baking, which is a lot less forgiving than something on the stovetop which can be tasted and tweaked as you go).

 

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@martincath you are a good writer and I would love to cook or eat with you sometime.  For many years I was more like your wife, but have started to get more experimental in recent years.  I'd read years ago that baking is like chemistry - having exact formulas - while cooking was more of an art (not that decorations on baked goods can't be artistic too).

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Most seafood is extremely easy to fix.  I'd advise buying raw shrimp or lobster, and fixing it at home...much cheaper than in ANY restaurant setting.   Season some, don't season others....  Crab legs only need to be heated...they are already "cooked"....dip in butter or sprinkle lemon..or do both!  Doing boiled or steamed crabs takes a bit more effort, but you can buy "steamed crabs" when they're in season....

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