Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Celebrity Reflection: Nitrogen Cocktails and Posh Bites

The culinary team in the main dining room.
It's obvious that Celebrity Cruises takes their culinary program seriously. Two years ago they tapped John Suley, a 2010 James Beard Foundation “Rising Star Chef” nominee and former Gotham Steak chef, to head up culinary operations. And their latest ship,The Reflection, is awash is "specialty dining" outlets. That's cruise-speak for smaller, more upscale restaurants where passengers dine for fee (usually $5-$40 per person) as an alternative to the usual buffet and mass dining rooms also available on the ship. We hopped on board to sample the goods at the "Taste of Modern Luxury Event" as part of the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. The event was a round-robin of venues whereby event goers visited six spots on the ship and got to sample a dish, a cocktail and chat with the chef.
In a sign that cocktail culture is gaining traction in mass-appeal circles, the culinary roster also featured Junior Merino who goes by the name "The Liquid Chef." He developed the cocktail program for the ship's Molecular Bar and gave a crash-course on how he uses liquid nitrogen, fresh squeezed juices, and specially created syrups to put together drinks for guests who prefer not to pound 32-ounce daiquiris (not that there's anything wrong with that).
Junior Merino aka "The Liquid Chef"

At Blu, the Mediterranean-influenced spot espousing lighter "spa cusiine," we sampled lump crab martinis and blackened ahi tuna on Forbidden Rice.
Blue and white tables set the tone at Blu.

Lump crab martini, anyone?
The entrance at Tuscan Grille has the cave-like feel of a wine cellar, and the focus is Italian. There are authentic meat slicers and a bevy of cured meats available. The carpaccio di manzo with sun-dried tapenade and arancini risotto balls with basil ailoi greeted us here.
Arancini at Tuscan Grille.
Qsine is more of a whimsical spot with funky place settings, iPad menus and playful food presentations. There we sampled grilled zahtar lamp chops and almond-crusted French toast.
Funky place settings and furniture at Qsine.
We were pretty full but saved room for a bit of ducle de leche crepes at Bistro on 5, a dainty creperie offering half a dozen sweet and savory stuffed pancakes. As the event wound down and everyone gathered in the main dining room, I felt a little bit of envy towards the passengers we saw filing in for their seven-day excursion. Based on what we tasted that day, it was clear they'd be going on a culinary journey as well.

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