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Jacques Pépin’s Favorite Dishes On Board
 

A culinary legend among legends, Master Chef Jacques Pépin was the personal chef to three French heads of state, wrote an encyclopedic guide to French cooking that has become a classic among professional chefs, has charmed an entire nation with his many PBS cooking series – and as you may know, has been our Executive Culinary Director since the beginning. Curious about what this culinary guru and beloved chef orders when he dines aboard our ships? Us too. We sat down with him to find out which dishes catch his eye time and time again.


 

The Grand Dining Room
The surf and turf is one of my favorites. Beautiful filet mignon with great lobster tail. And you can’t find it done better in any of the restaurants in New York, you know.

Jacques Bistro (at The Grand Dining Room during lunch)
Salade Niçoise with a glass of rosé, of course!


 

Jacques
At my namesake restaurant, there is no great food without great wine. A little bit of Bordeaux has to go with it. I have to have escargot, of course – that classic French dish. The bouillabaisse is a favorite and we also have beautiful roast chicken – a must. For dessert, I like to go with the baba au rhum, which is like a very nice sponge cake soaked in dark rum.

Terrace Café
When it’s in the evening, I have the tapas, which I love, and the paella is terrific with the rice and saffron different types of shrimp in it and chorizo. The prosciutto is excellent, and there is always terrific cheese available.


 

Red Ginger
I always enjoy the lobster pad Thai. It’s become an Oceania Cruises favorite for a very good reason.

Polo Grill
Polo Grill is one of my favorite restaurants since I love steak. I mean I’ve had veal shank here, a grilled veal shank which was really extraordinary. And the Angus steak – you can’t beat that. It’s aged properly; it’s done right. You will never be disappointed with a baked potato here or with the prosciutto and melon or shrimp cocktail to start. You can tell it’s one of my favorites, no?


 

Toscana
So you know in a place like Toscana, a real Italian restaurant, there is a great array of pasta and you really can’t go wrong. I mean from linguine cioppino, linguine with clams and black mussels and shrimp to the ravioli, and then there is the gnocchi …the gnocchi with the pesto which is just out of this world – the best that I’ve ever had. I also really enjoy the carpaccio, you know the fillet of beef very thinly sliced with fresh basil on top. I mean all I can say is – it’s an embarrassment of riches.

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AN EVENING OF AUTHENTIC ITALIAN CUISINE IN TOSCANA

6a013480ad3a9d970c019b035b101b970c-120wiAs Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I share this post today to right an egregious wrong. In looking through past posts, I discovered that somehow I have never devoted a blog to Toscana. Considering it is not only my favorite restaurant on the ships but also one of my favorite restaurants period, I can’t believe I’ve neglected Toscana in this way.

Perhaps I’ve been reluctant to share my passion for Toscana because I’ve been teased about how much I love this restaurant. This is probably because each time I join friends for dinner here, my first question is, “How many courses is everyone having?” At my birthday dinner in Toscana, one of my friends answered, “Two.” I very nearly invited her to leave the party.

6a013480ad3a9d970c019b035be967970d-320wiToscana serves authentic Italian recipes prepared with all the love and care of a Tuscan grandmother. And in some cases the recipes actually came from a Tuscan grandmother. Many dishes were created by Oceania Cruises’ talented team of international chefs, and others are generations-old family recipes shared by Italian crew members.

These wonderful recipes beg to be accompanied by a fabulous wine, so as with all evenings in Toscana, my most recent visit began with perusing the list of exclusive Italian wines. While the obvious choice would be a Chianti, my party selected a Famiglia Anselma Barolo from the Piedmont region, northwest of Tuscany. Typically bold and full bodied, Barolo is one of Italy’s greatest wines, and the Anselma family certainly knows Barolo because that is all that they make.

Next it was time to select that essential ingredient in any Italian meal, olive oil. We were presented a menu detailing the range of flavors and intensities of several extra virgin and infused olive oils. With olive oil this good, I prefer to savor the pure characteristics and aromas of the oil, but for those who like to add balsamic vinegar to their olive oil, an equally high-quality selection of balsamic vinegars is also featured. Our chosen olive oils were poured for us, and there was a diverse assortment of fresh homemade breads presented to dip in the oil.

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Then it was time to get down to business. I almost always begin with the Mozzarella di Bufala Caprese, as I simply can’t resist fresh mozzarella, vine-ripened tomatoes and fragrant basil. The Caprese salad is one of the best ways to enjoy these Italian staples – fresh, full of flavor and complemented by a touch of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

The more adventurous will want the try the Carpaccio di Polpo. This octopus carpaccio served with a warm potato salad and champagne vinaigrette is not only delicious but also one of the prettiest dishes on the menu.

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On this particular evening, I decided to try a new antipasto, the Sformatino di Carciofi in Salsa Tartufata, which showcases one of the most treasured of Tuscan delicacies, the truffle. This timbale is made with artichokes and Parmesan cheese, served with a black truffle sauce and drizzled with arugula-infused olive oil. The flavors were exquisite, both rich and perfectly balanced.

In Tuscany, pasta is not typically served as an entrée but rather as an earlier course in the meal. So in Toscana, you can enjoy a small pasta dish as a first course, or “il primo,” and still try one of the delectable beef, lamb or fish dishes as an entrée. The chefs seem to have anticipated my difficulty in deciding between all the wonderful pastas, as they kindly created the Trio Toscana that allows you to sample two delicious pastas and a risotto in one dish. The trio includes a perfectly prepared lobster risotto, a classic fettuccine carbonara, and a spinach and ricotta tortelloni laced with a delicate sage butter. If you prefer a tomato-based sauce, try the Linguine Cioppino with seafood in a light pinot grigio and cherry tomato sauce.
6a013480ad3a9d970c019b035c5c4c970d-320wi6a013480ad3a9d970c01a3facff438970b-300wi
6a013480ad3a9d970c01a3facffc02970b-320wiThe Tuscans are fond of their grilled meats, so on this visit I selected the Filetto di Manzo alla Fiorentina as my entrée. The filet mignon is served with a Gorgonzola crust, sautéed garlic spinach, grilled polenta and a Brunello sauce. I typically order steak when I dine at Polo Grill, but now I will definitely consider a steak entrée at Toscana as well. Each bite melted in my mouth.

The veal dishes are also very popular, such as the bone-in veal chop in wild porcini mushroom sauce. And as if there aren’t enough options already, Toscana also features dishes from neighboring regions of Italy, such as the Osso Buco alla Milanese and Lasagna al Forno alla Bolognese. If you somehow manage to save room for dessert, Toscana has an excellent tiramisu.

6a013480ad3a9d970c01a3fad00f9d970b-800wiNeedless to say, I am completely satiated when I finish a meal in Toscana, and yet each time I leave I’m already looking forward to my next visit. If you love Toscana as much as I do, feel free to share your favorite dishes in the comments here on the blog!

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A MEMORABLE 10TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION IN TOSCANA

6a0120a92e343a970b01901e30cc37970b-800wiOn a sailing that has
already created so many fond memories for me, last night was the most memorable
yet. As Riviera set sail from
Taormina, Sicily, I headed to Toscana with my wife, Daniela, to host some of
our most loyal guests for a dinner in celebration of Oceania Cruises’ 10th
anniversary. Through the windows of Toscana, we could see the beautiful sunset
behind Mount Etna, a perfect backdrop for a very special evening.

Riviera’s string quartet played as our guests arrived. Daniela
and I welcomed each guest, as did Captain Gunnar Romtveit and General Manager
Thierry Tholon. We were also joined by several of the senior officers, each of
whom hosted a table for the evening. Our guests were more than 50 of our most
loyal Oceania Club members, from Bronze level through Platinum, and we were
honored to be celebrating 10 years at sea with some of the guests who had made
it all possible.

Senior Executive Chef
Alexis Quaretti prepared a six-course dinner befitting the exclusive event. The
menu was printed for each guest as a keepsake to remember not only the
exquisite meal but also the wonderful company we all enjoyed as we celebrated
this special occasion together. It was such a pleasure to be able to talk with
our guests in this intimate setting and to hear their delightful stories and
fond memories of their voyages with Oceania Cruises. I was pleased to hear
that, while the ships are beautiful and the cuisine exceeds their highest
expectations, it is our officers, staff and crew

6a0120a92e343a970b01910426f36f970c-800withat truly differentiate the
Oceania Cruises experience from any other. As one guest put it, “It’s like
coming back to see family every time.”

We are so grateful to
have these cherished guests as part of our Oceania Cruises family, and I
offered a toast to their health and happiness. I was glad to have the
opportunity to personally thank them for choosing to explore the world with us
and for making it possible for us to expand our fleet and deliver even more
dream vacation experiences. We raised our glasses to the wonderful journeys
we’ve enjoyed over the past 10 years and to creating more treasured memories onboard
Oceania Cruises in the years to come.

Everyone in Toscana
last night said they are looking forward to the next decade with great
excitement, and in fact, we made a commitment to each other that we would
reunite the group and celebrate Oceania Cruises’ 20th anniversary together as
well. In the meantime, we will always cherish our memories of this special
evening, and I hope our paths cross again many times.