Goldring Travel’s 2018 Culinary & Cultural Cruise – Part VII (The Seabourn Chefs Let Loose! and Katakalon, Greece)

With the Goldring Travel 2018 Culinary & Cultural Cruise on the Seabourn Encore approaching the end, things were anything but winding down!

The only thing “winding down” was the dessert
for our Food & Wine Experience
But more on that later!

Read on for the last of the Culinary Adventures that will absolutely impress (and make you jealous).  While they are extraordinary once-in-a-lifetime experiences, more importantly it unequivocally shows that Seabourn has truly talented world-class chefs on its ships; not managers and/or glorified cooks as some (not all) other luxury lines employ. 

But before sharing the “culinary” adventure it was first time for a bit of a “cultural” experience.  Though having been to many places in Greece, I had not yet been to Olympia; the home of the Olympics and where they light the torch every two years (Summer and Winter Olympic Games now alternating every two years).  I also wanted the opportunity to – well, you know – drink some local wine. So with that a few of our group headed off on an “unofficial” tour and wine tasting.

Olympia was far more interesting than I had expected, in part because of our excellent historical guide and in part because I did not think there was such a complex community.  I was also very impressed with the small, but excellent, museum housing many items from this archaeological wonderland. This is a reason I love to travel: Learning new things!

The Original Olympic Stadium

Very interesting approach:  Leave most ruins where they lie
as a result of earthquakes and pillaging. It is its history.

The Museum at Olympia, Greece is outstanding!

It was then onto the wine tasting!  We visited Olympia Land Estate winery, a very small family owned winery that until recently was focused on growing grapes for raisins.  After the son took over from the grandfather (who was already third generation) wine became the focus. To be honest, with such a limited history I wasn’t exactly expecting anything memorable, but I was oh so wrong!  Again:  If you don’t try something you will never know.  I love surprises!

After a very brief tour (how many more of those do I need?) we were seated in a small tasting room where we would try four different wines along with a small plate of typical local snacks to pair with.

The first wine, Ekecheriria, a blend of two grapes very specific to this region of Greece, was, for me (and later, when I brought some back to the Seabourn Encore, Seabourn’s sommelier) a true hidden gem…and one that I will probably never see or taste again due to the vineyard’s small production and the politics and economics of wine distribution.  But ya never know!

After heading back to the ship I knew that I was going to have a fantastic last dinner (as I was well aware that after Chef David presented the Goldring Travel 2018 Food & Wine Experience on the last day there was no way I could eat dinner that evening.)

Our table of four at The Grill by Thomas Keller was first blessed with the generosity and friendship of our of my guests who wanted to share some of her Chateau La Nerthe Chateanauf-du-pape wine she had purchased way back when the Seabourn Encore visited Marseilles, France for Goldring Travel’s first Culinary & Cultural Experience.  After enjoying so many wines over the past two weeks, it was amazing just how much this wine stood out as being the best of the best.

Then, one of our guests requested foie gras (an off-menu item). That brought out Chef Michael Sandoval, Thomas Keller’s Culinary Developer and previous Chef de Cuisine that not only has opened every one of the Seabourn’s TK Grill restaurants, but was the chef at Bouchon Bistro in Napa Valley, California.  He decided to do something special from beginning to end.  It was absolutely amazing!

We started with an incredible salmon carpacchio

Salmon Carpacchio – The Grill by Thomas Keller and then some!

followed by foie gras with a truffle puree and an acid-balancing pineapple that was of French Laundry quality. OMG!

Foie Gras with Truffle Puree and Pineapple – The Grill by Thomas Keller…OMG!

It was then the return of the duck breast that has been a Grill by Thomas Keller daily special about a week earlier. Honestly the best duck I have ever dined on!

Duck Breast – The Grill by Thomas Keller.
It is even better than it looks.

Our culinary adventure was not over!  We “needed” dessert and Chef Michael made us a special one; this time playing off of one of the evening’s daily specials:  Tapioca unlike any you have ever tasted…and yes, that is popcorn, which added a bit of texture.  Appreciating every element of a culinary expression makes it that much more enjoyable.

Tapioca like you have never had.  BTW, that is a super-soft meringue “egg”

Our last day on the Seabourn Encore was in Nafplion, Greece.  It is a charming town, but as we arrived at 10:00 a.m., it was a tender port, it was dreary and I had been there before, I opted to stay on the ship, start packing and do my best to leave Seabourn’s Corporate Executive Chef David Whelehan and Corporate Head Sommelier Karen Siemens alone while they prepared for the famous Goldring Travel Food & Wine Experience which would be taking my guests back through this very diverse itinerary and culinary adventure.

What I did not know, but was so very surprised and elated to see, was that Seabourn organized a string of “Guest Appearances” by some of my favorite staff from Ivan (who has risen from Colonnade al fresco waiter to the maitre de at the Grill by Thomas Keller), Diana (who has risen even further to maitre de of The Restaurant) and, among others, Chef Michael.  It was a wonderful, personal, “Seabourn Moment” that I privately shared with each of them, but honestly not so much my guests.  It was so understated, yet elegant.  Perfect!

Sommelier Karen did an exceptional pairing of region-specific wines for each course, as well!

Thankfully Sommelier Karen has the talent and connections to find
truly unique wines, including Greek wines, to pair with the creations of
Chef David and Chef Michael

The first course, presented by Chef Michael, was a homage to Spain:  Spanish Pulpo Brava – charred octopus, spicy potato, marinated garden vegetables and paprika espuma (foam).

Spanish Pulpo Brava ala Seabourn

There were so many elements in this beautiful dish, it was hard to decide which combination of flavors was my favorite.  The spicy chorizo was delicious too!

Our second of seven courses was French Lobster and Crevette (Prawn) Souffle with Newburg foam and Parmesan gratin.

French Lobster & Crevette Souffle ala Seabourn

All I can say is that it was sumptuous and decadent. So rich, but light at the same time.  It was a textural pleasure…and incredibly delicious.

It was then time for a visit to Italy.  Seared Mediterranean Branzino with Italian Tomatoes, Capers and Olives.

Seared Mediterranean Branzino with Italian Tomatoes, Capers and Olives ala Seabourn

As we say in New Jersey, “I got nuthin’!”  Perfection and sooo fresh.  And, here, the Olympia Land Estate’s Ekecheiria wine (a white wine blended of Assyriko and Malagagousa grapes) made its return visit…in a sort of cross-cultural way!

It was then time for a respite. Natural Apple Sorbetto with Lemon and Thyme Granite with a splash of Grey Goose Vodka.  And this is where the Corfu Kumquat Liqueur made it’s surprise appearance. (By the way, did you know that Seabourn makes all its gelato and sorbetto from fresh, local, ingredients right onboard its ships?  Yup.  It’s true…and they are delicious!)

Natural Apple Sorbetto with Lemon Thyme Granite
and a Grey Goose vodka splash

Speaking of Corfu, Greece, our last main course was the very simple, but delectable, Corfu Beef Sofrito with White Wine, Garlic and Feta Salad

Corfu Beef Sofrito with White Wine, Garlic and Feta Salad

For dessert the Seabourn pastry chefs created a beautiful sweet ending:  Greek Loukoumades with Honey Sauce and Roasted Pistachios

Greek Loukoumades with Honey Sauce and Roasted Pistachios
ala Seabourn’s Pastry Chefs

Rounding out our Food & Wine Experience was a Selection of Cheeses gathered by myself and Chef David during our 14 night Goldring Travel 2018 Culinary & Cultural Cruise visiting Barcelona, Spain; Mahon, Mencora; Marseilles, France; Ajaccio, Corsica; Portovenere, Italy; Syracusa, Sicily; Amalfi, Italy; Crotone, Italy; Kerkira (Corfu), Greece; Katakalon (Olympia), Greece; and, Nafplion, Greece. 

A Beautiful Selection of Cheeses collected during the Goldring Travel 2018 Culinary & Cultural Cruise

Paired with a nice port and espresso, it was a rich, delicious, and almost too much to take-in finale.

I cannot express what a phenomenal experience was created by Seabourn’s Corporate Executive Chef David Whelehan, Chef Michael Sandoval and Corporate Head Sommelier Karen Siemens.  It was so truly appreciated and enjoyed by all of the Goldring Travel guests…and, especially, myself.

And with that the Goldring Travel 2018 Culinary & Cultural Cruise came to a very successful end.

And I know what you have been waiting to hear!  When and where is the Goldring Travel 2019 Culinary & Cultural Cruise.  It is August 3, 2019 on the Seabourn Ovation sailing for 14 nights round trip Copenhagen, Denmark with port calls in Sweden, Norway, Germany, England and Scotland…including an overnight stay in Edinburgh for the Military Tattoo.  Details to come!

Interested in a Seabourn cruise? Give me a call, drop me an email or send me a Facebook message!

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