Cruise Dining (Much, Much Better than You'd Expect)


Appetizers, Soups, Salad. 1. Beef Tartare 2. Mushroom Vol-au-Vent 3. Beef Carpaccio 4. Chicken Curry Salad 5. Oysters Rockefeller 6. Pea & Mint Soup 7. Buffalo Frog Legs 8. Bruschetta 9. Escargot 10. Tuna Carpaccio 11. Crab Louis 12. Romaine Salad

At the risk of losing all credibility, I'll just say it. I really liked the food on the Celebrity Summit. Yes, they are serving over 9,000 meals a day. Yes, they spelled Palmier "Palm Ere." And yes, sometimes the fish was overdone and we ate breakfast and lunch on cafeteria trays (that were, let it be noted, covered with a white tray-tablecloths).

But all things considered, the food in the main dining room was exceptional -- partially for the quality (which was better than you'd expect considering the scale, tight quarters and lack of immediate access to ingredients), but mostly for its endearing retro factor. You just don't find this stuff anymore.


Entrees. 1. Pomegranate Glazed Quail 2. Seared Asian Tuna 3. Cornish Hen in Ginger Broth 4. Glazed Pork Loin w/Rosemary Blini 5. Moroccan Lamb Shank 6. Seafood Linguine 7. Quail Stuffed w/Black Truffle Wild Rice 8. Veal Cordon Bleu 9. Vegetable Napoleon 10. Beef Tenderloin w/ Foie Gras, Shallots & Morels

In the 80's, I grew up devouring cookbooks like this that were filled with recipes like Oysters Rockefeller, Beef Wellington, Cherries Jubilee, and Baked Alaska. But by the time I was old enough to eat at nice restaurants that would serve such things, those dishes were already passé. But not on this ship. I finally got to experience all of those dishes, and then some.

Remarkably, the menu changed every night. We dined on things like Poached Lemon Sole with Shrimp Quenelles in Fennel-Pernod Sauce, Julienned Summer Squash, and Caviar. At long last, I tried Vitello Tonnato, and unironically enjoyed straight-up delicious Crepes Suzette and Apricot Clafouti. I ate clever "Buffalo-style" Frog's Legs and Quail Stuffed with Black Truffles. I had the best escargots of my life, relished in my love of marzipan, and even had a mint aspic with melon. Aspic! Who does that? I dabbled in l'art de saucier with dishes drizzled and topped with Périgourdine, Diplomat Cream, and Bourguignonne. Huh?


Dessert. 1. Rhubarb Meringue Tart 2. Litchi Raspberry Mousse Cake w/Green Tea Sauce 3. Chocolate Souffle 4. Poached Pear with Sabayon & Chocolate Sponge Cake

Celebrity's VP of Food & Beverage, Jacques van Staden, was once nominated for the "Best Rising Chef" award by the James Beard Foundation. Who knows how involved he is with the cooking and recipe generation, but smart, inventive people who care about quality en masse are surely running the show. You could have eaten other things, like pizza and pasta and sushi. But I can always do that in New York. Other dishes were atrociously unmodern, but so, so classic.

How many stars would I give this restaurant? Well, it's not really like that. I finally got to eat the foods that made me fall in love with food in the first place. And that's a different sort of achievement, one that will stay with me for a long time.

All these dishes were eaten in the main dining room by me or a member of my family.