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Theora

Chef's Table Review-Crown Princess Feb. 22 Sailing *LONG*

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I am not a "Foodie". I just don't identify with those people. I like to eat. I like flavours. I'm not particularly adventurous, but I can be persuaded to try new things for the sake of trying new things. I'm not a Food Loser, but I'm not a Foodie either. I just have a big butt to maintain.

 

That being said, after hearing about the Chef's Table experience from my sister I knew that if I ever went on a cruise with Princess, this was something I had to do if at all possible.

 

The Chef's Table program on Princess has won them awards over the past few years since they initiated it, and it's a hot little item. Most people hear about it through word-of-mouth. It's only advertised in the Princess Patter (the little daily newsletter that you get delivered to your cabin every night so you can tentatively plan the next day) once. On the first day. And yet, most of the spots usually fill up before people even have a chance to read it and ask what the heck it is. There are those that are In The Know, and they tell everyone how awesome it is, and those who are in love with food run directly to their staterooms upon boarding and ring the Dine Line straightaway to get themselves placed on The List. Generally, there is only one Chef's Table per cruise, and there are only 12 people allowed to attend any one given Chef's Table. When you're on a ship with approximately 3200 passengers, that's a pretty small amount of people who get to experience this.

 

On our cruise, they actually did two of them, partially because the demand was so high. I think another reason was that it was Alfredo Marzi, the Executive Corporate Chef for Princess Cruise Lines, conducting them, and he's only on any one given ship for about one week per year. We just happened to luck out enough to have him. (My sister, ldyandrea here on CC, actually had the same experience on a previous Princess cruise, so she had actually met him before.)

 

Because I remembered what my sister had said about the experience, I was careful to remind my mother of what she was in for. Basically, as we sat in the spa (thanks to my fabulous BF budgieinspector, who got us Mother/Daughter Pedicures - my mom's very first time getting her toes professionally done!) drinking champagne and getting our widdle footstes pampered, I said to her, "You're gonna get stuffed and drunk. We're going to have to get a luggage trolley from a porter to pour you into to get you back to your cabin." She laughed. Neither one of us really had any idea.

 

At 7:30pm SHARP, we all met at the International Cafe in the Piazza. The requirement was to show up on time, to be dressed for the dining room ("smart casual" i.e. "way more dressy than I usually get for almost anything except weddings and Vegas"), and to wear closed-toe shoes (it's a health code regulation thing). We were then escorted by the Maitre'd to just outside the dining room, where we all donned white lab coats and were introduced to Chef Marzi. Chef led us through to dining room (to a random outbursts of "There they are!" and applause, which felt very very strange) and back to the galley. We all paused at the sinks to wash our hands, and Chef explained that everybody entering the galley MUST do so. He pointed to the ceiling and said, "See that? That's a camera. There's a lot of them, all over all of the kitchens, and from headquarters, I can watch any one of them. Any time I want." We made sure to wash very carefully.

 

As we were led through the SPOTLESS galley (and this was in the middle of first seating dinner service), he told us of the incredibly high marks that the ship gets regularly from government inspections. Any kitchen would be proud to have such high scores. The fact that it's such a hugely busy kitchen, feeding thousands every single day of every single week, makes it even more impressive.

 

We were brought to an alcove area where there were two huge ice carvings and lots of nifty food-art. Okay, I don't know the exact words for what you get when you carve various fruits and vegetables into animals and plants and baskets and things, but that's what was there, including a little chirpy birdie in a cage. All made out of fruits and vegetables. Amazing. More impressive than Devil's Tower made out of spuds on the dining room table, I'll tell you THAT, Mr. Dreyfus. They popped open a bottle of champagne, and served the first appetizer, Blue Crab Margarita with Avocado & Mango. It was fresh, crunchy, clean, and delicious. Served in a martini glass. I could have happily eaten five or six of those and been perfectly satisfied (ooo...what a perfect lunch on a hot summer day!), but this was only the beginning.

 

Chef and the Maitre'd spoke about all sorts of things, including Chef's grueling schedule traveling on all of the ships and then back to California to do work at the main corporate offices. Our champagne glasses were never allowed to get empty, which was good, because then they brought out Bistro Mini Quiche with Fontina Cheese & Black Truffle. I normally couldn't give a boiled damn about quiche in any form, but how often do I get to eat something with a serious piece of freakin' BLACK TRUFFLE on? Try, "Never Before In My Entire Life" for $500, Alex. I couldn't help it. I had two. (Chef didn't help much, the pusher. He must've sensed my weakness, because he kept waving that damn tray in front of me and saying, "Are you SURE you wouldn't like another?" Bastard in a toque.)

 

By now, it was time to bust out another bottle of champagne. The poor nervous girl who was in charge of such things was perhaps not as suave as she would have liked to have been in front of The Big Boss, because that cork went flying out of the bottle, hit the ceiling, and ricocheted off toward the Maitre'd. Thankfully, Chef did NOT give a look of death, but laughed along with the rest of us. Out came Braised Escargot in Vol-Au-Vent. Mom, bless her heart, was as brave as she could be, but didn't get far on that one. Can't blame her really. I never thought I'd be in a position to say, "I've had better escargots", but actually, I was. Very odd feeling. Still, it passed soon enough because I had Roasted New Potatoes with Sour Cream & Caviar to contend with. Having never eaten caviar that wasn't attached to sushi in some form, I was slightly hesitant. My Uncle Dan, however, was so charmed by the little bowls made out of New Potato that he just asked Chef how they were made and dove right in. I had to follow suit. I mean, I love potatoes, and I love sour cream, so two out of three ain't bad, right, Meatloaf? I found that, in fact, I barely tasted the caviar at all, so it was no sweat.

 

Thankfully, it was now time to be led out of the galley. I had said "thank you" to a bunch of the workers there on my way in. On our way out, I turned around to see my mother sticking her face through a gap in the machinery to heartily thank the dishwashers and other workers she saw. I guess it runs in the family. Once out of the galley, we were led back through the dining room to a beautifully set table with gorgeous fresh flowers, loads of various types of thing that probably all fall under the genus "breadus stickus", and the first open flame I'd seen on the ship all week in the form of taper candles. There was also a pretty handwritten menu in the center (copies of which we all got to bring with us as souvenirs), letting us know what was in store.

 

We removed our lab coats and were seated. The chef and Maitre'd were in full effect by this time, and getting into the swing of things by uncorking a bottle of Pouilly Fume (any more specific than that, I cannot do) and bringing out Gratinated Parisienne Gnocchi to bubble and steam before us. Chef Marzi informed us that one of the foods he just doesn't like is gnocchi, and so he adapted this recipe to use puff pastry instead of the traditional potato gnocchi. All I can say is that it was gooey, cheesy, and FANTASTIC. I don't care if he gave the entire state of Idaho the finger while he created this dish, as long as I can someday have more of it. Also, the Pouilly Fume? I don't like white wine as a general rule, and I loved the hell out of this. Go figure. It's pricey, from what I understand.

 

Next, to clear our palates, we are treated to yet another item in a martini glass. This time, it's Strawberry-Lemon Sorbet. It would have been delicious all by itself, but because the point of this whole thing is to be fed a pile of delicious food AND a load of alcohol at the same time, Chef poured Grey Goose over the sorbet in each glass before it was served. Sorbet-tini? Perhaps. All I know is that my mother was slightly hesitant when she saw the straight vodka. I had to be stern. "Mother! Eat your vodka. There are sober children in Russia!" It got a laugh, and (thankfully) it also got results. *whew*

 

Now to the main course. As we happily munched and drank and slurped and chatted, big doings were being set up right next to us. It was clear how nervous the whole staff was, having this guy on board, because when he went looking for salt, approximately three different waiters went flying to try to get it to him before he could finish his sentence. (To be fair, he seems to be aware of this. He said, at the beginning of the evening, "The crew is happy not when I arrive, but when I leave.") The second and only other open flame I saw during the cruise was when he was cooking up Roasted Veal Shank & Veal Tenderloin Carved Tableside with Capers & Jus, Today's Market Vegetable, and Creamy Mousseline Potatoes.

 

Never before had veal touched my lips, but I figured that it was one of those things that I should try once in my life. I have, and I can say with some relief that I'm not a huge fan of it. However, my Uncle and my sister both seemed very pleased with it, as did the others at the table. Guess I'm just not a veal kind of girl after all. This is fine with me.

 

To go along with the red meat, a very nice Shiraz was poured (and consistently refilled, just like the white was during the first half). I cannot tell you the name. I know that I even asked! I was simply too engrossed with the sensory and gustatory overload at that point that I simply forgot to write it down. Please, forgive me.

 

After the veal, an amazingly tasty Baked Brie with Pine Nuts, Port Wine Reduction & Walnut Bread was brought out. (My menu says that it was Camembert, but I do recall that there was at least one deviation from the written menu, and this may be the only one.) I have never had a Port Wine Reduction that was this amazing. It was like extremely sophisticated candy, and suited the brie to perfection.

 

No. Not done yet. That was just the cheese course. Dessert is next.

 

"The Mystery Of The Pyramid," says Chef, as we are served Iced Amaretto Parfait, Vanilla Plume & Brandy Snap Tuile. I cannot describe this plate, except to say that the parfait was, indeed, pyramid-shaped, and that there was a vividly reddish-orange-pinkish bit of pulled sugar involved as well. (Being that it was vaguely "plume" shaped, perhaps that's what it was.) Everything else about the plating defies my current skills with words. Just imagine a very elegant plate with a pyramid of pale deliciousness in the center. It's really all you need to know.

 

After that, Chef signed cookbooks, a photographer showed up to get a few snaps of the group, and all the ladies at the table were given a pink rose to go with the cookbook. Chef stayed around to chat for a while with us, easily and happily answering any old question we cared to ask, from how he makes the port wine reduction to how many languages he speaks (a damn lot, including being fluent in French, Italian, and Tagalog) as we were served after-dinner coffee (or tea) with Alfredo's Homemade Biscotti & Amaretti, as well as house-made Limoncello to finish things.

 

I would not hesitate to do this again on another ship. Even though the cost is an extra $75pp, I'm sure you'll agree that getting that kind of service, menu, and information for $75 in any restaurant is an extraordinary bargain.

 

So. There you have it. Yet another reason I need more cruises, and you do too.

 

Buon Appetito!

 

Originally posted in my blog - small edits have been made for language and references that do not apply here on CC.

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Theora....Thank you for posting this great review on the Chef's Table. Having never experienced it yet, it gave great insight and very informative. You can tell you enjoy writing. Don't worry about the length. The bits of humour that you provided made it easy to read.

 

Anna:)

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What a great review, I LOL all the way. As much as I would love to do the Chef's Table I'm what my DH calls "a cheap date" and would be totally drunk before we left the galley and would miss all the great food! :eek: Guess I'll just keep getting my Chef's Table experience by reading all the reviews here on CC.

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Very nice review!

It sound like the experience was well worth it just for the drinks and desserts alone.;)

review really isn't all that long, people want to hear about what goes on especially when they are putting out that much money. Well done.

 

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Thanks for the great and informative review of the chefs Table. We plan to do it next month on the Coral. Really am anxious to try it.

 

Marilyn

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What a great review! Definately put smiles on my face. We just got off the Caribbean Princess and did not do the Chef's Table, but after reading your review, the chef's table will be #1 on our list of things to do! Thx...

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Wow!!! Another "cheap date" here. My DH really wants to try this, so on our next Princess Cruise I think I will do it. :cool:

 

Wonder review and so easy to read and enjoy:):):)

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What a great and humorous review. I enjoyed it very much.

 

We did the Chef's Table in June on the Dawn and also had the Veal Shank. We are with you......not our favorite but everything else was fabulous.

 

Hoping we get the chance to experience it again on the Star with my DS & DBIL.

 

Cheers, Denise

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Thank you so much for your prose...quite descriptive!

 

The dessert and brie dish sound amazing.

 

I was laughing about the truffle...I've always wanted to try it too! Hopefully I'll get the opportunity!

 

Once on board the Emerald in July the first thing I will be doing is calling the dining hotline to sign up for the Chef's Table...or find the maitre'd at the dining room and sign up there!

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Fantastic review. Gained weight just reading about your experience. I was lucky to attend the chefs table on the Ruby and it was a memorable dinner. I highly recommend it also.

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For those of you who do not drink alcohol but your spouse does, you can do the chef's table at a reduced price. I think its $60.00 or less. It was the best money ever spent on a cruise.

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Very entertaining commentary! Thank you...hopefully we'll be lucky enough to get a spot at the CT on the Ruby in May!

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Thank you so much for the wonderful, funny review. I laughed my way through it and some things you said about family members really hit home. I can just hear myself saying "mom, eat your vodka." :p:D

 

I was lucky enough to be invited to the chef's table on the inaugural of the Ruby Princess and I, too, had the experience of a lifetime. Anyone able to experience this lavish event should definitely do so.

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I plan to run to our cabin tomorrow on the Ruby to call DINE and put our name in. I so want to do this!!

I do have one problem though - I don't own a single pair of closed toed shoes except my gym shoes. (We live in the Keys.) Anyone know if they'll let you do this if you have open toes?

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There are those that are In The Know, and they tell everyone how awesome it is, and those who are in love with food run directly to their staterooms upon boarding and ring the Dine Line straightaway to get themselves placed on The List.

 

I've been reading about the Chef's Table for a long time now, and hope to get to experience it this summer. But since I've never cruised Princess before, I have no idea what the Dine Line is, nor how to dial it. Any help for a Princess newbie?

 

Thanks.

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I plan to run to our cabin tomorrow on the Ruby to call DINE and put our name in. I so want to do this!!

 

I do have one problem though - I don't own a single pair of closed toed shoes except my gym shoes. (We live in the Keys.) Anyone know if they'll let you do this if you have open toes?

When we did the chef's table there were some who did have open toe shoes and they were allowed to participate. One person wore gym shoes during the kitchen tour and changed to sandals for dinner. I wore gym type shoes and they were just fine. I had on long pants and they pretty much concealed most of my shoes. Others also wore gym (tennis) shoes. Don't worry about it and wear what you have.

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I've been reading about the Chef's Table for a long time now, and hope to get to experience it this summer. But since I've never cruised Princess before, I have no idea what the Dine Line is, nor how to dial it. Any help for a Princess newbie?

 

Thanks.

 

On the phone in your cabin, there will be a key that says "DINE". Press it and you will be connected to someone who takes reservations for the speciality dining venues as well as the Chef's Table.

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of our Chef's Table in June on the Dawn Princess. We took our sons & DILs to celebrate our shared anniversary.....Yes, we all got married on June 18 ;-))

 

We weren't asked to wear closed toe shoes nor were we given white jackets to wear. I am not a big fan of alternative dining, so at first I thought $75 PP, no way. I can tell you I have changed that tune. It was worth every penny and probably more!!

 

Photos & menu here:

http://www.pbase.com/dchip/chefs_table

 

Cheers, Denise

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Thanks for the entertaining review and some great laughs - lines I will remember. You brought back memories of our Emerald chef's table experience and confirmed my suspicion that the menu varies from ship to ship somewhat.

Which means we will have to give it a try on the Caribbean, the Ruby and the Golden....and the.......whatever we sail after them.

 

Thanks again!!!

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I plan to run to our cabin tomorrow on the Ruby to call DINE and put our name in. I so want to do this!!

I do have one problem though - I don't own a single pair of closed toed shoes except my gym shoes. (We live in the Keys.) Anyone know if they'll let you do this if you have open toes?

 

How funny, I have the exact same issue with the closed toed shoes for our Crown sailing next week. I was looking through my closet today to find something and all I have is a casual pair of Cole Haan clog type shoes. I hate to purchase a pair without even knowing that I'm going to get in.

 

Good luck getting a spot and I hope you have a wonderful cruise.

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The 3 times we did this the shoe issue was on the pre printed form that we were given.

Don't know if I would take the chance. ;)

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We did Chef Table on 2/8 sailing on Crown and the menu changed a bit on the 2/22 sailing -- we enjoyed it just as much and it was definitely worth it IMHO

Re the shoe issue I would take flats -- even if you have to buy inexpensive ones... dress was what I would call "resort casual" i.e. none of men had sport coats or suits ... If Giuseppe is still onboard as head maitre'd you won't have the shoe issue unless something has changed although would not wear just bare sandles.

Our dessert was this divine orange mousse with spun sugar.. OMG the picture I have of it makes my mouth water.. and we also had the margarita crab appetizer .. have tried unsuccessfully to duplicate and will continue to.. the trials have been pretty good and we like the Patron! :)

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