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A Frenchman in Málaga: The Confluence of Culture and Cuisine

By Damien LaCroix, General Manager

Any city that combines magnificent beaches, Moorish cathedrals, some of the best museums in Europe and happens to be the birthplace of Picasso, must be a favorite of mine. The heart of the famed
Costa del Sol, Málaga is, of course, famed for its beaches, ramparts and cathedrals.

It also boasts some of Spain’s best dining, and progressive art as well. I recommend you start off by visiting the Centre Pompidou – I needed to see the sister of the one in Paris – or the Contemporary Art Center. You also won’t want to miss the Museo Picasso and if you can, the Interactive Music Museum.

All of the culture, as well as the walking, is bound to make you hungry. As a Frenchman from Lyon,
dining is a very important part of every day. If you want a magnificent seaside experience, try Restaurante
Toro – Muelle Uno with its million dollar views and great Spanish seafood. If you want to go off the beaten
path in the city center, try El Tapeo de Cervantes. The tapas here are some of the best you’ll find, or you
might try a local specialty such as wild boar in sweet Málaga wine sauce with a rustic tomato pancake.

While Málaga exhibits a new-world vibe, you’ll be smitten with the blending of old architecture and new. Be certain to take in all of the Moorish influences and how the city so beautifully integrates contemporary architecture alongside it. Málaga exemplifies the best of Spain – cuisine, culture, history, and jaw-dropping vistas.

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French Polynesia for Foodies: New Culinary Discovery Tours

This winter, join Marina, the most luxurious and amenity-laden ship sailing Tahitian waters, for a true epicurean adventure in French Polynesia. The only ship in the South Pacific with immersive chef-designed Culinary Discovery Tours™ that bring you an insider’s look at local cuisine, Marina also offers hands-on cooking classes at our state-of-the-art onboard Culinary Center. An array of unique gourmet dining options on board, featuring hundreds of flavorful dishes prepared à la minute include traditional French Polynesian dishes, fresh island fare and special Chef’s Market Dinners, bringing the culinary experience full-circle.

When you go ashore on one of our unique Culinary Discovery Tours™, you enjoy the chance to immerse yourself in the local food scene and learn all about regional cooking secrets. From exotic island markets to agricultural traditions and recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation, our adventures in French Polynesia invite you to connect with the culture through the lens of cuisine and discover the heart of each fascinating destination.

Featured South Pacific Culinary Discovery Tours


Bora Bora, French Polynesia Gourmet Dinner at St. Regis Bora Bora
As the sun sets on the Pearl of the Pacific, cruise to the St. Regis Bora Bora Resort, where a cocktail party awaits you on the open-air terrace of one of Bora Bora’s most exclusive restaurants, Lagoon by Jean-Georges. Meet your host for the evening and enjoy a sumptuous 5-course meal, where exotic meets Occidental cuisine. Afterward, learn the secrets of this delicious local cuisine. A souvenir, signed menu, and special recipe card will serve as mementos of this exclusive experience.

Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia Traditional Polynesian Culinary Experience
Enjoy an authentic, once-in-a-lifetime culinary experience in Nuku Hiva during which you will travel back in time to immerse yourself in traditional Polynesian culture and ancient cooking techniques. Explore local taro and manioc plantations as well as a nearby honey farm, and learn how these beautiful agricultural traditions have been preserved throughout the years. Learn about the traditional underground oven used in the South Pacific during a memorable cooking demonstration and savor a traditional Polynesian lunch accompanied by carefree island music.

Raiatea, French Polynesia Culinary Secrets of the Sacred Island
Discover a unique side of Raiatea – the “Sacred Island” – as you learn the secrets of authentic Polynesian food. Stroll through a picturesque market with your expert guide and learn the essentials of locally grown tropical fruits and vegetables. Discover age-old methods and regional secrets for preparing savory indigenous dishes, and enjoy the opportunity to assist during an entertaining cooking demonstration at the beautiful Raiatea Lodge Hotel. Crown the day’s exploration with a memorable Polynesian dining experience featuring traditional dishes prepared à la minute.

Come join us on a Culinary Discovery Tour to taste the true flavors of the South Pacific!

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Adventures on a Belize Spice Farm

By Guest Lecturer Sandy Cares

Tucked away in the foothills of Maya country in the beautiful little Central American nation of Belize, a spice farm has grown to become a national treasure and travel attraction under the watchful attention and caring direction of proprietors, Dr. Tom and Tessy Mathews.

The Mathews

The Mathews, U.S. citizens originally from India, purchased some 500 acres of land in southern Belize in about 1990 to establish their spice plantation, Belize Spice Farm and Botanical Garden. With support from the Belizean government, they imported spice seeds and cuttings from their native Kerala, India, known for its exotic spices and a place that shares a topography and climate similar to southern Belize.

If you visit Harvest Caye with Oceania Cruises, you’ll have an irresistible opportunity to tour the property on the Culinary Discovery Tour “Spice Farm, Botanical Garden & Onboard Cooking Class” or an excursion that includes both Nim-Li-Punit Mayan Ruin and the spice farm.

Spice Farm

The Mathews personally welcome visitors in Cinnamon Hall, a glorious and airy pavilion appointed with contrasting woods combined in artful patterns and mosaics in the floor, walls, and ceiling, showcasing the wood of local trees, including mahogany, the national tree of Belize. Cinnamon Hall has become the worthy setting for many a local wedding.

After boarding comfortable tour mobiles, covered wooden carts with bench seating pulled by new, bright green John Deere tractors, guests enjoy a narrated tour of the lavish gardens. The tour rolls past water lilies and lily pads so enormous and healthy they could come straight out of a primeval setting. And that’s only the beginning.

A team of 50 shift their attention seasonally from one spice or fruit to another to capture the optimal planting and harvesting opportunities of the various plants, each posing special challenges. Vanilla, for example, must be hand-pollinated and the exact time for pollination is an extremely narrow window: only when the flower blooms, which happens only for a few hours in the morning of a single day. After that moment, the opportunity is lost. No wonder vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world, following saffron.

Vanilla Pod

Other spices grown here include cardamom, black pepper, cloves, turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg and even cashews. You’ll appreciate the groomed acres of coconuts palms, wild bamboos of many varieties, colorful bougainvillea flowers, radiant hibiscus and shrimp plants. The occasional visiting parrot or macaw further reminds you that you are deep in the tropics.

As the tour mobile weaves along the carefully manicured pathways, you get up close and personal with exotic fruits like rambutan, bismarckia nobilis, wax apple, canistel, ackee, soursop, and jackfruit. The engaging and knowledgeable guide might jump off at any time to cut fresh and fragrant lemongrass, allspice leaves, coffee beans, and even crack open a cacao pod while explaining something of the history and health benefits of each.

For the tropical plant lover, this is truly an experience not to miss. Hope to see you in the Caribbean this winter!

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Chef Garanger’s Passion for Paella + Secret Recipe

Chef Franck Garanger prepares paella

During the decade that Fleet Corporate Executive Chef Franck Garanger has been living in Valencia, he has become very passionate about learning how to cook true Valencian paella. To discover the way locals cook this famous national dish, he began traveling from village to village in Spain to watch paella competitions.

“I realized this was the best way to learn the grandmother secrets that make traditional paella so irresistible,” Chef Garanger said.

Along the way, Chef Garanger learned many things such as how important it is to start with sautéing the red bell pepper very slowly to flavor the oil and precisely following the order of adding ingredients. He also discovered how Valencianos crush the tomato and garlicusing a mortar, the traditional way of cutting the meat, and even having a sense of how to control the fire as the paella cooks.

“But more than anything else, as I cook this dish alongside chefs from all over Spain, I feel the passion, and the enormous sense of pride that goes into each giant pan of paella,” Chef Garanger said.

Next June, Chef Garanger will continue the paella competitions with a French team for the best paella in Dénia, a small village outside of Alicante.

“Though I have my doubts they would let a French team win,” he said, laughing. “After 10 years of living in Spain, I’m confident that I can make one of the best paellas in the village, so I hope you enjoy a taste of Valencia with my special recipe – it carries with it a piece of each Spanish village I’ve cooked in.”

Paella Valenciana

Franck’s Paella Valenciana

Serves 5

INGREDIENTS

TOMATO BASE

2 tomatoes, quartered

2 garlic cloves, crushed

3 sprigs flat parsley, chopped

PAELLA

7½ cups chicken stock

½ teaspoon saffron pistils

½ cup olive oil

1 red bell pepper, sliced lengthwise

¾ cup squid, sliced into rings

10 tiger prawns

¾ cup pork, cut in 2 1/2-inch cubes

1 ½ pounds chicken, cut into 10 pieces

Salt and pepper to taste

1 ½ tablespoons smoked Spanish paprika

(pimentón de la vera)

¾ cup flat beans

2 ½ cups Sarica Valencia paella rice

10 fresh black mussels

1/3 cup fava beans

2 lemons, quartered

FOR THE TOMATO BASE

Combine the fresh tomatoes with the garlic and crush using a mortar. Mix in the parsley and then set the tomato base aside.

FOR THE PAELLA

Heat the chicken stock and add the saffron pistils. Bring to a boil, and then set aside. In a paella pan, add oil, sauté the bell peppers on low heat until soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. In the same pan, sear the squid and prawns. Remove from heat, drain, and set aside.
Add the diced pork, and olive oil, if necessary. Sauté on medium heat until golden brown, about

20 minutes. Add the chicken and season with salt and pepper. Roast until chicken is cooked through. Deglaze with the tomato base and add the paprika. Add the flat beans to the pan and cook until all the water evaporates and it begins roasting again. Add the rice and stir for 2 minutes. Mix in the saffron chicken stock and place the bell peppers on top.

Add the fresh mussels, prawns, squid, and fava beans. Bring to a boil and cook on high for approximately 20 minutes, or until all of the liquid evaporates and mussels open. Do not stir the rice in order to create the soccarat, or crispy crust, on the bottom. Garnish with lemon quarters.

Buen provecho!

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From France to Vietnam: 4 Vietnamese Dishes that were influenced by the French

From the country’s thriving coffee culture to the ubiquitous rice-flour baguette, the culinary culture of Vietnam reveals French influences at every turn, making this country’s cuisine ever so diverse. The Franco-Vietnamese relations began with the arrival of Catholic missionaries in Vietnam in the 17th century. France colonized Vietnam and Cambodia, forming the Indochinese Union in 1887, which set the French influence in Vietnam for the next 70 years. French colonialism influenced Vietnam in numerous ways – most noticeably in their cuisine. However, the locals took these influences and made these dishes their own. And while the two cuisines couldn’t be more different at first glance, they share far more than you would expect, regardless of history.

Coffee

The French started sipping this magical concoction in the 1600s. About 200 hundred years later it was brought over to Vietnam. And while the French usually serves it hot and black as espresso or with steamed milk as café au lait, Vietnamese coffee is customarily served cold and sweetened with rich condensed milk. Coffee drinking is now very common all around Vietnam since the quality of beans that are grown in the country’s backyard is outstanding. Today, Vietnam is the 2nd largest coffee producer in the world.

Vietnames Coffee

 

Creamy Desserts

Cooked cream desserts like bánh flan, whose name and appearance contradicts its origins as crème caramel, are typical in Vietnamese cooking. In France, these desserts are usually made with a milk and cream mixture, while in Vietnam they use coconut milk instead. Another twist that makes it extremely popular in Vietnam is the addition of coffee instead of caramel like the French do.

La Baguette

Bread is not widespread in East Asia, but when the French colonists arrived in Vietnam, they brought in their influence in the form of baguettes. However, while the French make their dough with wheat flour, Vietnamese use rice flour, giving it an entirely different flavor and texture. These baguettes are used as the base of one of the most famous Vietnamese dishes in the world called banh mi. This sandwich, which depending on where in the country you are, may contain either margarine and pâté, or a combination of cheese, cold cuts, pickled vegetables, sausage, fried egg, fresh cilantro, and chili sauce.

Vietnamese Style Sandwiches - Banh Mi

 

Pot Au Feu to Pho

Another French influence in Vietnamese cuisine is a traditional soup known as Pho, pronounced fuh. This staple consists of a salty broth, fresh rice noodles, a sprinkling of herbs and chicken or beef, which some say may be a copy of the French pot au feu or stew. The noodles, of course, are part of a basic Asian dish while the beef certainly comes from the European influence, since meat is not very common in Eastern cuisines. .

Vietnamese Pho

From the lush countryside of farms and rice paddies outside of Saigon to the bustling shops and restaurants of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, enjoy the traditions and unique culture and cuisine of Vietnam with us on a voyage this winter.