Friday, June 4, 2010

Honeymoon Gluttony: The Sunset Catamaran Cruise and The Chef's Table

Since Steve and I booked our honeymoon with the "gourmet" package at CuisinArt, our trip came with a really yummy continental breakfast (delivered to the room every morning!), a reservation at the chef's table, a reservation for the chef's tasting menu at one of the resort's restaurants, a cooking lesson with the head chef and a sunset catamaran cruise.

Well, the catamaran cruise and the chef's table were only scheduled one day a week and they happened to be on the same day. So we readied ourselves for the busiest day of the trip so far (because it required us to actually go somewhere besides the beach and look presentable).

The wind had really picked up on our side of the island late Tuesday, so the waves in the bay were looking a little more, um, menacing than usual on Wednesday. We found out later that the resort had actually cancelled the cruise but then decided to give it a go anyway (bad decision, concierge!). I don't want to go into too much detail, but needless to say - 42-foot catamaran + 12-foot waves = feeling like I was going to die. We likened it to waves from The Perfect Storm. You could see them coming but there wasn't anything you could do to avoid them.

 (Image from The Perfect Storm)

Ok, so it wasn't really that bad. But it was still really choppy, and I was shaking by the end of it and I'm pretty sure I was on the verge of breaking Steve's hand. Thankfully once we turned back toward the resort it was smooth...which led to 3 of the 6 of us feeling seasick and wanting to hurry along home. No one ate the appetizers or drank the champagne, wine or beer that the resort had put on board for us. Sad.

So Steve and I were worried at that point about whether we'd be ready to eat and drink at the chef's table 30 minutes after getting off the boat ride from hell. Since we had gotten drenched on the boat, we had to race back to the hotel room and shower (for that whole looking presentable thing). Felt much better after that.

Good thing. Because what was supposed to just be a six-course meal turned into an eight-course meal. Usually when you have multi-course meals, the courses tend to be smaller. Not on Anguilla, apparently. Three of the courses the chef served were normal entree size. And the wine pairings? Not smaller pours. Full glasses of wine.

Course 1 was a Spiced Ginger Rum and Blood Orange Martini. Not my favorite - they lined the rim of the glass with cinnamon and sugar and it evoked memories of pumpkin pie. And I wasn't crazy either - another girl said that too. Steve liked his though.

Course 2 was a small serving (thank goodness) of creamy potato puree topped with caviar and fresh microgreens. Really really yummy. Steve thought the puree should have been creamier and not quite as lumpy, but I thought it was delicious. The puree was a perfect bed for the very slight salty flavor of the caviar.

Course 3 was a roasted sea scallop salad with vegetables and tomato sauce and ohmygosh was this amazing. This was the first of the entree-sized portions and I would have been so happy if that had been it. The scallops were beautifully golden and plump and the vegetables (being from the hydroponic farm) were so fresh and delicious. The sommelier paired this course with a sauvignon blanc - one that Steve and I had already had on several occasions at the hotel bar. Nice and crisp and perfect for serving with seafood.

Course 4 was a palate cleanser - ice and armagnac. I thought it was waaaaay too heavy on the armagnac, but most of the other people loved it. Steve ate all of his. Mine melted in its little bowl. At this point, although, I was already starting to feel slightly full.

Course 5 was by far the best. It was Anguillian-style roasted whole snapper on a bed of risotto with cherry tomatoes. This one was the most universal crowd pleaser and multiple people kept wanting to ask for the recipe (I was lucky enough to get it at our cooking lesson two days later). The snapper was so tender and delicious. It was basted in its own juices and fish stock and roasted with vegetables. Home freaking run. And the risotto was made with the leftover juices and stock. Amazing. This course was paired with a white rioja - a little on the heavier side, perfect for the heavier dish.

Side note: Everyone was pretty much stuffed and getting slightly tipsy at this point. Did that stop anyone? Of course not.

Course 6 was a duck breast pot au feu served with szechuan pepper and vegetable tempura. The duck was my least favorite thing of the evening - there just wasn't anything special about it. The broth, however, was like nectar from the gods. It had little szechuan flowers that many people, including Steve, ate and then regretted later - lots of stinging lips at the table. This one came with a gigondas red wine - really delicious. The broth and the wine battled it out for my favorite part of the course.

Course 7 was a dark chocolate coconut bar served with a mango puree and chopped pistachios. At this point, I was beyond stuffed. So I only tried the chocolate coconut bar. The coconut-chocolate pairing was a good balance, but it had some ice cream in it and that was the killer for me. Too heavy. Steve devoured his though, and he's not even a big coconut person.

Course 8 was the dessert that was actually listed on the menu. Because no, the coconut bar was NOT on the menu. It was one of the extra courses. But course 8 was a strawberry tiramisu and it was ENORMOUS. It was served with an espuma of red berries, which was almost like a berry foam around the tiramisu. The dessert was good and tasted REALLY fresh, but at that point most people were really slowing down. On top of that, the wine paired with this course was a sauternes - dessert wine (obviously). I'm not a dessert wine person, so I handed mine over to Steve. Plus at that point I was fairly tipsy from all the other wine.

As we were finishing dessert, Chef Daniel sat down at the table with us and chatted, which was fun. Got to ask him all sorts of questions about cooking and his past and all that. I was at the other end of the table, so I didn't get to hear everything that went on. Plus I was in a food coma.

Overall, an awesome experience. Food was delicious and I can't wait to try making the snapper and risotto. More on that recipe later!

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