Photo by Tom Mascardo/Flickr CC
Three decades after their first trans-Atlantic voyage together, Wendy Littlefield and her husband set sail on the Queen Mary 2. She's reporting on the people, places, and--of course--food they encounter along the way. To read the other posts in this series, click here.
Rule of thumb at sea: You add a pound for every day afloat. Gain an inch on your waistline and lose and inch from your wallet. Here are some of the places where you can do both on the Queen Mary 2:
Boston-based celebrity chef Todd English has a restaurant on the Queen Mary 2--his 17th overall. The chef on the QM2 is from Romania, Maria Polixenia. She has only ever once eaten at a Todd English restaurant other than the one she runs. She works from recipes and photos. Crew members call her "Mama."
The restaurant is popular with the American clientele. Many of the European clients find the food too rich, portions too big, and flavors too bold.
We loved our dinner there. Don had rabbit with espresso barley. I had duck with mango coulis accompanied by a Marques de Murietta Gran Riserva. We had about eight desserts: carrot cake (actually a cinnamon pancake, cheese cake, carrot ice cream, and carrot tapioca caviar concoction), warm chocolate pudding, biscotti, cassis jelly, and mango, raspberry, and banana sorbets--all lovely.
Such indulgence calls for many more trots around the deck the following morning.
The Pig & Whistle
The staff bar; there was a bar of the same name on the Queen Elizabeth 2. We wondered about the name. The personable captain of the ship, Nick Bates (an Irishman who is also a published author) explained. In the old days of seafaring, beer was served in a portion known as a "piggon," and officers would dispatch their aide to "go fetch me a piggon of beer."
The sailor would descend to the bottom of the ship to the storeroom to get the beer, often sampling a bit on his way back up. After a number of these trips, the sailor would be tipsy. Cottoning onto this, one shrewd officer said, "Get me a piggon--and whistle." Naturally, no one can drink while whistling, so this put an end to the tippling pilferer--or is it pilfering tippler?
A beautiful bar on the ninth deck looking over the bow of the ship. Stefan Engel, food and beverage director, says this is his favorite spot on the Queen Mary 2 and that it is known as the finest cocktail bar at sea. Popular drinks are martinis, cosmopolitans, and the mandarin mojito.
The alcohol pours are more generous here than elsewhere on the ship at 2.5 ounces (versus 2.0 ounces), which you of course pay for. For the view alone, it is worth it.
The King's Court
The food in the King's Court--an exalted food court, of which I do not entirely approve but am in the minority as it is always packed--is served buffet-style. Tables are smaller than in the main dining room, mostly two and four seats.
For us part of the lure of sailing at sea (aside from Don's aversion to dinner jackets) is the formality of the dining experience--the chance to get to know the staff and the opportunity to talk to fellow passengers. There is less conviviality in the food court even though there is greater propinquity. I suppose Cunard is responding to its clientele's desire to have food almost round the clock.
Last night we went to a cooking demo Indian dinner in the Chef's Galley. Every night a different cuisine is featured and 20 to 24 passengers can reserve to attend. I have included a recipe from the four-course dinner. The demonstration chef Sidwell Yarrow presided, preparing each dish before it was served to us. He did a fine job. Yarrow went to culinary school in South Africa, where they follow the same curriculum as the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. He likes being the demo chef and has been offered jobs and even a few proposals of marriage in this line of work.
This is a fun alternative to formal dining. They transform the Chef's Galley from a little station where burgers are served at lunch into an intimate candlelit boite by night. The food was fine but not as assertively spiced as I think it would have been if we had been dining at our favorite Indian restaurant back home. Serving the tomato soup in a martini glass rimmed with spices was an intriguing idea, sort of like a Masala gazpacho.
We are loving the journey. Though at breakfast this morning Don remarked that he has a lingering sense that we are "wasting time" in doing something so very pleasant. It seems in our culture that we have so gotten away from process and journey and put such a premium on goal and destination, we feel self indulgent for sailing. Stefan tells me the ship is the destination and we shouldn't feel bad at all.
To try a recipe from the cooking class described in this post, click here.