Tag Archives: olives

Vienne and Some Food Notes

Many people have asked us about the food on board. I rate it about 7.5 stars on 10, this being more of a reflection on Rob and I, not Viking. The Viking chefs and kitchen staff, thoughtfully and carefully prepare and present meals that are pleasing to 98% of the passengers — a considerable feat in light of the fact that the average cruising age is about 60 and from all over the world. The chef, always accessible, makes recommendations and visits each table at dinner to chat. In light of that, there is not a single meal that I cannot wait to get home to recreate or an item I would return to order again. Despite their use of local ingredients and menus, the food is still what Rob and I call “hotel” food. We would prefer a more rustic style menu, a slaved-over bouillabaisse, ham and cheese on excellent baguette.

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However, on this, day 5 of our 8 day cruise, we made a discovery which I hope holds out to not be an anomaly. Each day the ship serves a three course lunch and dinner but offers “lighter” fair on the beautiful forward deck. As I mentioned yesterday, we were changing to our original ship, the Hermod. After touring lovely Vienne, our cabins were not yet available so we retired to the aforementioned deck for a little sun and beer. There was a light nosh of local olives, charcuterie including local tiny sausages, whole wheat and white baguette and an excellent olive tapanade already placed at the tables on the deck. Since the light lunch was about to be served and we were comfortably seated, we decided to stay.

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This decision led to the best meal we have had on board. Memorable, delicious, and yes…I would eat here again. The chef carved up perfectly roasted herbed chickens, ducks and lamb. Sides included a rich gravy, ratatouille (of which I am generally not fond, but must say this was excellent and light on the eggplant which I find makes it bitter), whole grain baguette, a sweetish, red cabbage salad, herbed tomato, arugula, bocincini salad dressed with a light vinegar and a most excellent olive oil, and potato wedges that I think are cooked in a chicken soup base. Also on offer was squid salad, fish in tomato sauce, green salad and a tuna salad.

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Dessert, a feast for the eyes and palate, was a table of colourful, delicate, airy, melt on your tongue macrons, a local very trifle-like, specialty tart from Vienne,  mille feuilles, candied lemon and orange peel and other assorted tortes. This was exactly the kind of rustic fare we have been craving in France. This change may also be a reflection of the chef on the Hermod.

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Earlier in the day, we departed by motor coach to Tournon and headed off to meet the Hermod, our new ship at Vienne, a lovely town on the Rhone which is built into a hill and features some amazing Roman architecture and ruins.  Vienne is an hour bus ride through the Rhone valley countryside alive with the ubiquitous terracotta roof tiles, fruit orchards, rolling hills dotted with small villages and churches, steep vineyards, cypress trees which stand erect on their own rising from mixed forests and landscaped properties. Unfortunately for us we are teased by the neat, soft silver grey-green fields which will erupt in waves of glorious lavender in about a week, long after we depart.

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Arriving in Vienne we disembark and promptly board a tour tram which takes us to the top of the steep hill into which old Vienne is built, overlooking the Rhone Valley. At the top we see ancient Roman walls and quaint properties with walled gardens, a timeworn cemetery and a small chapel of Notre – Dame de Pipet, noted for its acoustic properties. Our guide says she will sing to us to demonstrate. She begins to sing Ave Maria in a mesmerizing acapella rendition, that rings through the chapel and renders the tour spellbound.

After this little treat, we reboard the tram and descend to the town square where our leisurely walking tour guides us by a Roman Temple to Caesar Augustus and Livia, Roman Forum ruins and the massive, ornate  St – Maurice Cathedral. Medieval and Roman buildings are found side by side here, an interesting view to the past history of the valley.

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Upon our return to the boat and lunch we depart for Lyon where we are to have a tour of Les Halles de Bocuse, ultimate foodie destination and what we have been looking forward to all trip. By the time we pull in to Lyon we are told the excursion has been cancelled and the reason is because it is France and that is what France does. Even though it is a “bank” holiday, this has been arranged and approved but Les Halles decided business was too light today and they were not going to wait for us to arrive. C’est la vie. We are told today that our visit to the Avignon market earier in the week was superior and that while we could go off-book tomorrow, the tour would be more fun.

For dinner this evening Rob chooses the creamed mushroom appetizer, veal tenderloin and spring pea main and a white chocolate bread pudding. I opt for the refreshing tomato, cucumber, incredibly creamy and light blue cheese salad, snapper with a cream sauce of fresh green peas and white Tuscan beans and raspberry cake for dessert. Our new Austrian chef may be a difference maker.

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Tomorrow we will walk the streets of Lyon and peruse the shops.

Cacio e Pepe

Another glorious, warm summer day in the Capital city inspires me to make a simple, light pasta for tonight’s dinner on the deck. Something a little creamy, not garlicky and goes with a nice rose. Cacio e Pepe, a dish we first encountered in Mario Batali’s now-closed Enoteca San Marco in Las Vegas, is little more than good quality egg pasta, butter, olive oil, pepper and cheese. Actually that’s all it is. And it is delicious.

Pasta is the star of the show so I recommend buying (or making if you are so inclined) fresh egg spaghetti. Italians treat fresh pasta and dry pasta as different ingredients. This dish requires fresh pasta for the sauce to coat perfectly, and it makes all the difference in the world. The simple sauce and eggy pasta will give you happy mouth. It with coat your palate with delicious creaminess and a nice black pepper burn. Such a simple creation that many people would dismiss it out of hand. How tragic for them. Serve with a nice light red or rose and some well chosen olives and voila! Dinner.

Cacio e Pepe
Serves 2

Ingredients:

Fresh egg spaghetti for two
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsps. butter
1 heaping tbsp. fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan and Romano cheeses (use mostly parmesan in the mix, pecorino is good too if you have it), and some for serving.

Method:

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add fresh pasta and cook 3 minutes. Drain.
2. Meanwhile in a large saute pan or skillet, melt two tablespoons of the butter with the olive oil on medium high heat. Add fresh pepper and toast for about 45 seconds. Turn heat to low. Reserve 1/4 cup pasta water.
3. Toss cooked pasta with pepper sauce in pan. Add final tablespoon of butter and cheeses. Toss. Add reserved pasta water to loosen if desired.
4. Serve immediately.

Serve on a sun-drenched deck or garden patio with a dry rose and olives. Pretend you are in Roma.

Click HERE for a printable version of this recipe.

 

 

Spanish Tapas Night!

Rob and I are unfamiliar with Spanish wines in general. Oh sure we can pick out a decent Rioja but beyond that we are a little lost. We decided to cozy up an Ottawa winter evening by inviting a group of friends that enjoy red wine, food and travel. We sent out an invite to bring a tapas dish or a bottle of a favorite Spanish wine one might like to share. Our group of eight guests was more than up to the task and we had a fun evening trying new wines, comparing wines and enjoying the fruits of our friend’s kitchens. This is a great excuse to get together, weather be damned and learn about wine. Little or no coordination was done and so it was a true potluck with the tapas. Here’s a rundown for most of the food. As recipes show up, we’ll add them to the list.

The Menu:

Mediterranean Spiced Olives
Shrimp and Chorizo with Smoked Tomato Dip
Manchego Cheese
Spanish Roasted Potatoes in Tomato Sauce (Patatas Bravas) – Simply Recipes
Tooma Cheese with Guava Paste
Mussels in Spicy Coconut Milk
Grilled Mushrooms
Homemade Gooseberry Compote
Quinoa Salad
Olives with Roasted Peppers
Whipped Potato, Fish and Olive Spread with Garlic Crostini
Tart with Gorgonzola, Fig, Watercress and Serrano Ham

Abby and Nico’s Quinoa Salad (Abigail Lixfeld and Nico Pham-Dinh )
– toast the quinoa lightly, then cook in duck stock until done
– chop snow pea leaves and then blanche in hot water for one minute, then shock in cold water
– coarsely chop and then saute vegetables in duck fat (e.g. carrots, leeks, bell peppers)
– mix quinoa, snow pea leaves and vegetables, dress and season to taste

Dressing:
– grapeseed oil, reduced sodium tamari, garlic, cracked pepper, agave

Abby and Nico’s Grilled Mushrooms (Abigail Lixfeld and Nico Pham-Dinh )
– thinly slice king oyster mushrooms
– toss in a dressing of grapeseed oil, soy, agave, dijon mustard, tarragon, salt and pepper
– bbq, pan fry or grill until cooked through but still firm

Served with Nico’s Mom’s Ground Cherry Compote

Rob’s Shrimp and Chorizo
– Peel, clean and de-vein gulf-caught fresh shrimp
– Toss cleaned shrimp in spice mix (paprika, chili powder, garlic, salt, pepper)
– Slice Spanish-style dry chorizo into 1cm-thick coins
– Saute chorizo to render some of the fat. Remove from head when tender.
– Saute shrimp in same pan with chorizo-oil (augment with olive oil as needed) until just cooked.
– Take toothpicks and secure chorizo coins inside the curve of the shrimp
– Serve with your favourite dip, in this case, a smoky tomato jam. Sauces made with melted citrus marmalades are excellent as well.

Rob and Maureen’s Tart with Gorgonzola, Fig, Watercress and Serrano Ham
preheat oven to 400 degrees F
Brush flatbread with olive oil
Distribute sliced fresh figs, gorgonzola and watercress sprigs on flatbread
Bake in oven until crispy and golden, and topics are cooked and melted.
Top with slices of Serrano ham while hot (it will “melt” into the hot flatbread)
Cut into easy-to-eat squares.

Spicy Mussels (Courtesy of Jan and Patti adapted from 222 Lyon Street Tapas Bar)
Serves 2 (main course)

 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2-3 cloves chopped fresh garlic
¼ cup chopped Spanish onion
2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
2-2½ cups chicken stock (use less/more depending on how much liquid you want)
¾ cup dry white wine (less if you want it less “winey”)
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
Sprinkling of crushed red chillies (to taste)
2 lbs (one mesh bag) fresh live mussels, washed and scrubbed if necessary
1-1½ cups heavy (35%) cream (use less/more depending on how much liquid you want)

In a large pot, heat the oil until hot. Add the chopped garlic, chopped onion and parsley. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the chicken stock, wine, crushed red chillies and Dijon mustard. When heated, add the mussels. Cover the pot and cook until the mussels have opened, 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cream and stir well. Discard any mussels that have not opened. Serve immediately in a large bowl.