October 30, 2014


In yesterday’s blog I promised to share this paella recipe, which I’ve been perfecting for over 20 years. I hope you’ll take a class with us in the Bon Appétit Culinary Center on board Marina or Riviera to perfect your own technique, and enjoy a Culinary Discovery Tour in Valencia to savor authentic paella in the city in which it was invented!


{ Serves 2 }

  • Photo 4-54 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional as needed
  • 8 ounces chorizo, diced
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 small tomatoes, finely diced
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 3 piquillo peppers, diced
  • 1 tablespoon Spanish smoked paprika
  • 4 saffron threads, soaked in 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 small red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 boneless chicken breast, skin on, halved widthwise
  • 2 boneless chicken thighs, skin on
  • 1 lobster tail, halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup (80 grams) Bomba, Calasparra, or Arborio rice
  • 4 scallops
  • 8 shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 6 mussels
  • 3/4 cup fish stock or clam juice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 10 green beans, blanched and cut in 2-inch pieces

Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch paella pan over medium heat. Be sure to coat the entire pan with oil. Add the chorizo and sauté until the fat is rendered, about 5 minutes. To ensure the chorizo stays tender, be sure not to overcook. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chorizo to a bowl and set aside.

Add the onion to the paella pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds, just until the aromas are released. Add the tomatoes and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the wine and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes, until reduced to a syrupy consistency. Transfer the entire mixture to a bowl and add the piquillo peppers to complete the sofrito. Add the smoked paprika to the saffron water, pour the water over the sofrito, and stir to incorporate.

Increase the heat on the paella pan to medium-high. Add the bell pepper and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, until softened. Transfer the bell pepper to the sofrito bowl.

Photo 3-6Add the chicken breast and thighs to the paella pan, skin side down, adding more olive oil if needed. Sauté the chicken for about 10 minutes, or until half-cooked. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Add the lobster tail to the paella pan and sear for about 3 minutes, just to coat the lobster with flavor. Transfer to the bowl with the chicken.

To assemble the paella, return the sofrito to the paella pan. Nestle the chorizo, chicken, and lobster into the sofrito. Add the rice and then arrange the scallops, shrimp, and mussels on top of the rice.

Add only enough stock to barely cover the rice. Add the bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a medium boil and continue boiling for 1 minute.

Decrease the heat to medium, cover, and simmer for 15 to 17 minutes. Do not stir. When the rice has absorbed the liquid, remove the lid and discard the bay leaves. Discard any mussels that have not opened. Toss the green beans on top of the paella.

Increase the heat to high and continue cooking for 1 to 2 minutes so that the rice caramelizes on the bottom of the pan and forms the socarrat. Watch carefully to ensure it does not burn, but do not stir. Stirring will prevent the treasured socarrat from forming.

Your paella is ready to serve and enjoy!

October 29, 2014

PERFECT PAELLA: Chef Kelly Leads Culinary Discovery Tour in Valencia

Valencia is known as the birthplace of paella, the fabulous dish cooked over an open fire with short grain rice and an assortment of seafood and meats. On our Culinary Discovery Tour during Marina’s recent call in Valencia, guests learned the secrets to preparing authentic paella and sampled this famous dish in the city in which it originated.

Photo 2Before heading to the market to shop for paella ingredients, we stopped at the City of Arts and Sciences, designed by world-renowned Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava. Among the stunning collection of modern structures are the striking Hemisfèric, which houses an IMAX theater; the Science Museum, resembling a whale skeleton; and Oceanogràfic, Europe’s largest aquarium. During our stop, we enjoyed a refreshing horchata, a local drink made with a tuber called “chufa” that has been farmed in Valencia for over 1,000 years.

We continued on to another architectural masterpiece, the Mercat Central, which was designed by Alejandro Soler March and Francisco Guardia Vial and houses one of the largest and oldest markets in Europe. With over 1,000 stalls, Valencia’s Mercat Central is a feast for the senses, overflowing with seasonal produce, artisanal pork, fresh seafood and tapas bars. It is a lively place where the locals shop daily and politely mix with the tourists drawn to the beauty of the building as much as the magnificence of the market.

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After a brief orientation to the market, our guests split into groups and set off to find a ripe tomato, onion, garlic and red pepper for our afternoon cooking class. Everyone enjoyed shopping the stalls brimming with fantastic produce and selecting the finest ingredients available. Meanwhile, I went to purchase local Bomba rice and pimento, as well as some jamón for tasting later. As the fall season is upon us, squash were beginning to appear, so I sampled the Calabaza squash that was roasted and served in wedges to eat while strolling through the market. It was so delicious that I purchased one to roast for the group when we returned to the ship!

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Photo 1-3We then regrouped for the short drive to La Pepica, a local restaurant renowned for paella. La Pepica has a kitchen that would make any chef’s heart skip a beat, and the setting for our lunch was no less stunning – a seaside promenade where we could enjoy the ocean breeze and the company of new friends. We could hear the waves crashing not 50 feet away, musicians strolling along the boardwalk, and the quiet chatter of Spanish exchanged between the locals. (Not many tourists have the chance to discover this wonderful place.)

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Our luncheon began with local wines and traditional pan con tomate, a remarkably simple yet delicious dish of grilled bread with fresh tomato, garlic and extra virgin olive oil (Spanish, of course). This was followed by a refreshing green salad, fried baby squid, and pickled fish and red peppers in olive oil. 

Then the masterpiece was unveiled – Valencian paella served in a paella pan the size of a flying saucer! After a round of applause and many oohs and ahs, we savored a heaping plate of delectable paella made with rabbit, flavorful rice and the requisite green beans that typically distinguish Valencian paella. The finale was a passion fruit mousse, after which we enjoyed a stroll along the lovely beach as the perfect digestive.

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After returning to the ship for a short respite, we gathered in the Bon Appétit Culinary Center for a class in the art of paella. So as not to leave our readers out of the fun, I’ll share the recipe on tomorrow’s blog!

October 27, 2014

Matryoshka: The Legends, Lore & Legacy of Russian Nesting Dolls

M1A cultural icon, a vibrant folk art tradition and one of the most classic Russian gifts, the colorfully painted Matryoshka has fascinated people for ages. Many are familiar with the iconic image, but few know the true story of how the dolls originated. Recognized worldwide as a symbol of Russia, the traditional Matryoshka features a pear-shaped woman dressed in traditional Russian clothing with a head scarf and an apron that often depicts a Russian fable, flowers, a city or landscape. The doll can be separated into two pieces to reveal another doll, which is also hollow and nests another inside and so on. The number of dolls usually ranges from 3 to twelve, and the smaller dolls represent future generations, symbolizing hope and the value of the family.

The Unlikely Origins
M2Though firmly rooted in Russian culture, nesting dolls appeared in China and Japan long before Russia, depicting mythological and religious figures like the Seven Lucky Gods in Japanese mythology. These are usually linked to the even earlier Chinese nesting boxes dating all the way back to 1000 AD. How did the dolls make their way to Russia? According to some, these first dolls were carved and painted by a Russian monk on Honshu. Either way, a wealthy Russian patron of arts, Savva Mamontov, discovered a set of nesting dolls in the 1890s and had a desire to revive Russian folk art. Working with one of his artists, Sergei Maliutin, and a craftsman, Vassily Zviozdochkin, they created the very first Russian set of Matryoshkas. These dolls portrayed a colorful life, depicting Russian girls in sarafans (peasant dresses) with baskets, scythes, bouquets of flowers, or dressed in short winter fur coats and scarves. Eventually the dolls were made at the Children's Education Workshop in the Abramtsevo estate near Moscow, founded by Mamontov in order to continue to produce and preserve peasant folk art.

How Did the Name Originate?
M3Throughout provincial Russia before the revolution, the name Matryoshka (also spelled Matriosha or Matryona) was a very popular name for girls. It comes from the Latin mater, which means mother, and likewise was linked with the image of a mother of a big family who was healthy and robust. This evolved into a symbolic name that came represent the wooden nesting dolls. Matryoshka were often given as gifts to young women, and the wooden dolls have come to represent Russian culture and history – they’re about motherhood, fertility and infinity.

The Spread of Matryoshka
M4In 1900, the wooden nesting dolls won a bronze medal at the World Exhibition in Paris. Soon after, the Matryoshka skyrocketed in popularity. Over time, the Matryoshka has evolved, depicting fairy tales, animals, musicians and even Russian czars and modern politicians. A famous Matryoshka couple, "Russian Lad" and "Russian Beauty," was taken to the International Space Station Spaceship by Russian astronauts and given as a gift to its international crew.

The legacy continues to live on today with collectors spanning the globe. You’ll see an abundance of Matryoshkas throughout Russia, especially in the busy markets of St. Petersburg and Moscow. Moscow even features the Museum of Matryoshka, showcasing the history of this favorite and storied Russian souvenir.



October 24, 2014

The Rise of Sake: Tasting Notes & Food Pairings

SakeAn ancient Japanese saying, “Sake never fights with food,” only begins to hint at its pairing power. Though an age-old Japanese tradition, the fermented rice libation has recently been garnering increasing international recognition for its food pairing potential – and not just with Japanese food. The variety of sake styles actually offer diverse flavor profiles, ranging from light, floral and smooth to fruity and full-bodied. One of the main factors that affects the flavor and mouthfeel of sake is how much the grain of rice is polished. More milling results in a fragrant, lighter sake, and less milling creates a fuller-bodied, bolder sake.

Sake2In general, there are five basic types of sake: Junmai-shu, Honjozo-shu, Ginjo-shu, Daiginjo-shu and Namazake. Here is just a sampling of the different types you might find on our sake menu at Red Ginger.

Ginjo Sake

Dewazakura “Oka” Cherry Bouquet

A favorite among enthusiasts, a lovely aroma and clean taste, floral rather than fruity, a touch of pear and hint of melon.

Food pairing: salads, sashimi, summer rolls, light-flavored food. Served chilled.

ChopsticksJunmai Sake

Akitabare “Koshiki Junzukuri” Northern Skies

Rich, subdued, rounded, mild texture and earthy aroma, a well-crafted traditional sake.

Food pairing: cheese, mushrooms, chicken, fried foods, meat pastry. Served chilled.

Daiginjo Sake

Akitabare “Suirakuten” Heaven of Tipsy Delight

Aged for two years after brewing, luscious, juicy melon andmuscat grape characteristics, nuanced and gentle, fascinating.

Food pairing: cheese, sautéed mushrooms, grilled chicken,grilled seafood, fried foods, meat pastry. Served chilled.

Red-gingerTry beginning your next meal on board Marina or Riviera with a glass of sake to open up your appetite. For those new to sake, Culinary Director Franck Garanger suggests starting out with a Junmai sake, the most traditional style of sake. Cheers, or as they say in Japanese, kanpie!

October 22, 2014

Discover Wondrous Destinations Even During a Day at Sea

LibraryJust as sailing aboard Oceania Cruises recalls the elegance of the Golden Age of Travel, our inspired English-style library is reminiscent of a charming English country estate where you can while away the hours in ultimate comfort. There is something magical about the dark, rich woods; plush wingback chairs; cozy fireplaces; and rows and rows of books lining the walls, each a new world waiting to be discovered.

On these shelves are more than 2,000 books and periodicals from which to choose, ranging from classic literature to destination guidebooks to bestselling mysteries. Renowned as publishers of fine books on the visual arts for nearly a century, Phaidon Press contributed some gorgeous coffee table books and other volumes that further enhance the inspiring ambiance.

For many who love travel, the e-book is one of the most exciting innovations in recent history, as we can now take an entire library with us in our suitcase. Still, there remains something visceral about the feel of a leather-bound, hardcover book in your hand, and something romantic about the flow of the printed words and the turning of the page. If anything, the proliferation of e-readers and tablets increases the dreamy aura surrounding printed books as they slowly become rarer, more classic and more antique. It is that dreaminess that our warm, elegant English-style library captures so perfectly, and that is why it is one of my favorite places on board the ship.

That being said, I’ve often read my tablet in the library, because this special place is as much about where you’re reading as what you’re reading. It’s simply the perfect environment in which to enjoy a good read and ready yourself for the next fascinating destination you’ll soon discover ashore.

I must admit that the library is also the ideal place to doze off. More than once I have literally dreamt of the places I was reading about – and the wonderful destinations I was then visiting in real life. Turns out, this isn’t by accident. Rumor has it that, when designing the library, Oceania Cruises founder Frank Del Rio insisted that no library has truly done its job until readers are so comfortable and content that they drift off into a blissful nap. Mission accomplished!