13 posts categorized " Red Ginger "

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!

June 18, 2014

A RED GINGER FAVORITE: LOBSTER PAD THAI

Today we’re sharing our recipe for Lobster Pad Thai, one of the most popular dishes served at the onboard restaurant Red Ginger. There are many variations; our version is light, fragrant and not too spicy – although you can certainly add extra kick if your palate prefers! We hope you’ll try the recipe at home or come taste the Asian creations of our talented chefs on board – either in Red Ginger restaurant on Marina and Riviera, or in the Grand Dining Room on Regatta, Insignia and Nautica where dishes from Red Ginger are featured nightly.

LOBSTER PAD THAI

IMG_0160 - Version 23 cups rice noodles
2 tablespoons tamarind paste
½ cup warm water
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon tamari sauce or light soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons palm sugar
2 tablespoons nam prik pao (optional)
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons peanut oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
3 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 small leek, thinly sliced
1 cup lobster, shrimp, chicken, or pressed tofu pieces
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup coarsely chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 lime wedges
1 tablespoon chopped roasted peanuts
1 tablespoon slivered daikon radish, salted (optional)

Soak the rice noodles in warm water according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Drain well.

In a small bowl, whisk the tamarind paste in the water until dissolved. Add the fish sauce, tamari sauce, rice wine vinegar, and palm sugar. For a spicy dish, add the nam prick pao. Whisk well and set aside.

Lay out the remaining ingredients and garnishes in the order they will be used, so you will be able to work quickly.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil in a wok over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic, ginger, and two-thirds of the scallions, reserving the remaining scallions for garnish. Heat for 30 seconds to release the aromas, moving the ingredients constantly to avoid burning them. Push the garlic, ginger, and scallions up one side of the wok, off the direct heat. Add the leek and cook for about 1 minute, until it softens. Push the leek up the side of the wok. Add the lobster and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until it turns opaque. Mix the lobster with the garlic, ginger, scallions, and leeks.

Working quickly, add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil and the eggs and scramble lightly. Then add the prepared noodles and sauce and stir-fry everything for about 1 minute, just until the noodles are warm. Fold in the cilantro. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional fish sauce and nam prik pao if needed. Remove from the heat and drizzle with the toasted sesame oil. Quickly transfer the pad Thai to plates or bowls.

Garnish with the lime wedges, peanuts, the reserved scallions, and the radish. Serve immediately.

February 5, 2013

BEHIND THE SCENES WITH OCEANIA CRUISES’ FLEET CORPORATE CHEF FRANCK GARANGER

Photo 11Any fan of Oceania Cruises knows that esteemed master chef Jacques Pépin is our executive culinary director and the inspiration behind our extraordinary cuisine. But even Chef Pépin knows that it takes more than one person to create a culinary program for a cruise line that can successfully rival the cuisine of even the best restaurants ashore. As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I recently had the privilege of interviewing one of the other culinary team members responsible for creating the finest cuisine at sea.

Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger might modestly resist the label of “creative genius.” But after tasting the exquisite dishes he has conceived for Oceania Cruises’ ships, I can’t think of a more appropriate moniker.

While many cruise lines employ a single corporate chef, Oceania Cruises has an entire team of culinary directors and executive chefs committed to realizing its culinary vision. Thus Garanger is free to focus his creative genius – there, I said it – on designing recipes that uphold Oceania Cruises’ reputation for the finest cuisine at sea. 

Image035
An example of the finest cuisine at sea: Tamarind-Braised Black Cod with Sweet Ginger Sauce and Vegetable Ragout

While Garanger was born in the Normandy region of France, his family moved to Angers in the Loire Valley when he was two years old. His father owned a bakery, and after being exposed to the culinary world at a very young age, Garanger began working with his father and learning the pastry trade at age 16. One year later he began studies in hospitality and hotel management. French universities are very specialized, and the training involved one week of classes alternating with two weeks of hands-on restaurant experience, at which time Garanger worked with a French master chef at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Angers.

Photo 24
Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger
After passing his first exams, Garanger worked at one of the world’s most famous hotels, the Hotel de Paris in Monaco, followed by the equally renowned Hotel de Cap Eden Roc, a palace on the French Riviera in Antibes. He then returned to school for two years to complete his degrees and after exams, at the age of 24, began officially working as a chef.

His first position on a cruise ship was with Silversea Cruises in 1995. When he was asked to join Oceania Cruises in 2003, he did not hesitate to accept. “I liked the vision they had for the line,” Garanger says. “And I really liked the passion of all the people involved. They were so into food that, in everything we were creating, they were not only behind me but also tasting the food with me. When you have the CEO and the president coming onboard just to taste the food to see if we can put it on the menu, it applies a little pressure, but it is also very rewarding because you can really see how important the food is to the company.”

Much like the passionate commitment of the executives, many aspects of Garanger’s tenure with Oceania Cruises have been both challenging and rewarding. “Regatta was a challenge because we had to start from scratch, and we were working with a ship we didn't build, so we had to make adjustments. We built Marina ourselves, but it was also challenging because we opened eight different restaurants – each a completely different concept – and had 160 cooks onboard to manage. In both cases, there were very high expectations, and we had to deliver in a short period of time. Both debuts were a huge success, and so of course, we’re very happy.”

So what is the secret to continuing to deliver the finest cuisine at sea? For one thing, most members of the culinary team, such as Executive Culinary Director Jacques Pépin, Senior Vice President of Hotel Operations Franco Semeraro, Culinary Director Eric Barale and Assistant Culinary Director Pascal Lesueur, have been with Oceania Cruises since its very beginnings. And the line’s commitment to cuisine has ensured that the team is provided every tool they need to succeed.

“I’ve always been asked what I needed, and whatever I asked for, I got,” Garanger says. “Of course, then you have to make sure you deliver, and so far, I’ve succeeded. That’s why I’m still here!”

Each restaurant onboard provides its own unique challenges. Jacques is perhaps the most challenging because of the technical precision required to execute true, authentic French recipes using traditional, time-honored methods on a daily basis. Toscana is also technically challenging because of the à la minute preparation of all the fresh pasta and risotto.

Red Ginger is one of Garanger’s favorite concepts because it is truly “his baby.” Garanger traveled in Asia for two years and then spent time in both London and San Francisco researching ideas before developing the restaurant concept and recipes.

Photo B-Miso-Glazed Sea Bass
One of Red Ginger’s signature dishes: Miso-Glazed Sea Bass in Hoba Leaf

While Jacques and Red Ginger are featured on Oceania Cruises’ newest ships, Marina and Riviera, guests will be excited to know that they can soon get a taste of these restaurants onboard Regatta and Nautica as well. These ships will soon feature an entrée from both Jacques and Red Ginger each night in the Grand Dining Room. The new features are just one small part of Garanger’s latest large scale project, the rollout of new menus for the Grand Dining Rooms on the entire fleet.

In my next blog post, I’ll share Garanger’s insights into the creative process, training and implementation involved in this extensive menu rollout. Check the blog again soon for more behind-the-scenes stories.

December 10, 2012

OCEANIA CRUISES WINS CRUISE CRITIC AWARDS FOR BEST CUISINE AND BEST SUITES

The 2012 Cruise Critic Editors’ Picks were recently announced, and if you’ve ever been onboard an Oceania Cruises ship, you won’t be surprised to learn that Oceania Cruises was chosen for Best Cuisine and Best Suites.

Upon hearing this exciting news, I took a moment to go through the many photos I have taken over the years as Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises and select a few of my favorites of the beautiful suites and incredible meals I’ve enjoyed during my adventures onboard the ships. If you’re wondering what inspired the Cruise Critic editors to select Oceania Cruises, here are just a few of the reasons why these awards are so richly deserved.

BEST CUISINE 

Blogger and Chefs
The men behind the menus: Senior Executive Chef Christophe Belin and Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger (pictured with Pancake, Blogger-at-Large)

GRAND DINING ROOM

One of the sure signs that Oceania Cruises is perfect for foodies is that the Grand Dining Room is just as wonderful as the specialty restaurants. In fact, I’ve spoken with several guests who say it’s their favorite restaurant onboard. The menus change daily, but you will always find European-inspired continental cuisine as well as delicious Canyon Ranch SpaClub® dishes. Here are some photos of a few of my favorite dishes.

GD Zuch
Grilled Turbot with Zucchini and Tomato
GD SHrimp Asp Risotto
Shrimp and Asparagus Risotto
 
GD Lobster
Lobster Thermidor 

TOSCANA

As exquisite as The Grand Dining Room is, I highly recommend pulling yourself away for a taste of Tuscan-inspired Italian cuisine at the wonderful Toscana. The simple but elegant ambiance elicits the romance of the Italian countryside, and quite a few of the recipes are inspired by mothers and grandmothers of Oceania Cruises culinary staff. Also, many of the sommeliers are from long lines of wine-producing families, further enhancing the Italian experience.

Italian food is comfort food for me, and Toscana is definitely one of my favorite restaurants – onboard or ashore. I’ve had the privilege of celebrating two birthdays in Toscana, and if I had my choice, I’d celebrate all of them here! Just look at some of the incredible dishes I have enjoyed at Toscana.

 

TOS Octopus
Carpaccio di Polpo con Patate al Vapore e Vinaigrette allo Champagne (Octopus Carpaccio with Champagne Vinaigrette and Warm Potato Salad)
TOS Eggpland
Involtini di Melanzane alla Ghiotta (Sliced Eggplant rolled and sautéed with Roasted Minced Veal Stuffing and Basil, baked in Fresh Tomato Sauce)


TOS Artichoke
Sformatino di Carciofi in Salsa Tartufata e Olio Aromatizzato all’Arugula (Artichoke and Parmesan Cheese Timbale with Black Truffle Sauce and Arugula Infused Oil)
TOSLinguini Cioppino
Linguine Cioppino (Linguini Pasta with Little Neck Clams, Black Mussels, Calamari, Shrimp, and Monk Fish sautéed in a Light Pinot Grigio and Cherry Tomato Sauce)

POLO GRILL

I admit, when writing about my dining experiences, it is almost impossible not to claim that each restaurant is my favorite. If you have dined with Oceania Cruises, I think you know what I mean, and you’ll understand when I say Polo Grill is another one of my favorites. Polo Grill offers the classic steak house experience with time-honored favorites done the way only Oceania Cruises can, perfectly. The steaks are USDA Prime and dry-aged for at least 28 days.

On a recent cruise, we had reservations at Polo Grill for the last night of the voyage, and my friend spent the entire trip in anticipation of devouring the signature 32-ounce prime rib. Some people claim that a steak this size couldn’t possibly be eaten in one sitting, but I have found the person for whom this cut of beef was designed. He savored every bite, and he was the first one to finish his entrée!

For those of us with daintier appetites, there are plenty of options as well. I find the 7-ounce filet mignon is more my size. And if you prefer seafood, Polo Grill has plenty of excellent options. How does Maine lobster with drawn butter, grilled mahi mahi or jumbo shrimp cocktail sound?

PG Shimp
Colossal Chilled Shrimp Trio with Spicy Cocktail Sauce
PG Prime Rib
King’s Cut 32 oz Prime Rib – Bone-in, Seasoned to Perfection, Slow Roasted and Served Medium Rare

TERRACE CAFÉ

If you’re looking for something slightly more casual, or if you just can’t decide what type of cuisine you’re in the mood for, Terrace Café offers a whole array of international selections in a buffet-style setting. The food is just as spectacular, and you can try a little bit of everything! You will find things like Marinated Fennel Salad, Cold Poached Salmon with Herbed Mayonnaise, Breaded Pork Parmigiana and Creamy Carrot and Pumpkin Soup. Onboard Marina and Riviera, there is even a sushi bar, which I try to visit daily. And good luck trying to decide on just one dessert! Whether you choose to dine indoors or alfresco on deck, the views are stunning in every direction.

TC Desserts
Dessert Selection
TC outside
Outside Seating

JACQUES

If you haven’t had a chance to take a voyage onboard Marina or Riviera, I highly recommend you do so. In addition to all of the amazing offerings onboard Regatta and Nautica, you will find two new restaurants, including Master Chef Jacques Pépin’s namesake restaurant. I recently had the pleasure of dining here and can’t say enough about the whole experience. Everything was just perfect, from the classic French cuisine to the charming French bistro ambiance.

Here are some photos of the amazing dishes my husband and I enjoyed on a recent trip:

JA Mussels
Moules Marinières (Fresh Mussels with Shallots, White Wine and Parsley)
JA Onion Soup
Gratiné à l’Oignon (Baked Onion Soup with Gruyère Cheese Crust)
JA Chicken
Poulet Fermier Rôti aux Herbes (Herb-crusted Black Foot Free Range Chicken au Jus with Gratin Dauphinois and Haricots Verts)

RED GINGER

The other new restaurant onboard Marina and Riviera is the Asian-inspired Red Ginger. The restaurant itself is beautifully decorated, the centerpiece being three gorgeous busts of Buddha, each carved from a single piece of glass and lit from within.

Complimenting the stunning décor is an equally creative menu with contemporary interpretations of Asian classics. Rich, bold flavors are perfectly balanced with delicate subtleties. This is one of the most distinctive and delicious restaurants I have ever experienced, and the moment I finish a meal here I am already hoping for the opportunity to return as soon as possible.

RG Tuna Tataki
Tuna Tataki (Seared Tuna Filet, Shiso Sesame Crust, Wasabi Cream)
RG Lobster
Lobster Pad Thai (Rice Noodles, Bean Sprouts, Lime, Tamarind, Peanuts)
Seafood Stir-fried
Seafood Stir-fried (Scallops, Squid, Tiger Prawns, Mussels, Spring Onions, Ginger)

LA RESERVE

One of my favorite indulgences is dining at La Reserve by Wine Spectator. The restaurant seats only 24 and has an elite spot high atop deck 12. Each course is meticulously created, often before your very eyes, and great care has gone into pairing each dish with the perfect premium wine.

Dining at La Reserve is much more than a meal; it is a special event. When you finish an evening here, you feel like one of the most important and well cared for people on the planet.

LR Short Rib
72-Hour Slow Braised Short Rib with Gnocchi au Jus
LR Cab w Ribs
Paired with Gordon Brothers Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, USA
LR Rasb
Chef making the Raspberry Caramelized Mille Feuille with Madagascan Vanilla Cream
LR Rasb Chat
Paired with Château la Varière, Les Melleresses Bonnezeaux, Loire Valley, France 

BEST SUITES

After a fabulous dinner onboard – and maybe a little dancing at Horizons lounge – there is nothing more perfect than retiring to what Cruise Critic editors called “the most sumptuous suites at sea.”

OWNER’S SUITE

The Owners’ Suites were designed by Susan Bednar Long of New York-based, award-winning Tocar Interior Design and are completely furnished with Ralph Lauren Home Collection. Feeling almost as big as my house, the closets are one of my favorite parts!

OS 1 OS 2 OS 5

OS 3 OS 4 OS 6

VISTA SUITES

When Marina first debuted, I had the great privilege of spending time in the suites with a few honored guests, including Dakota Jackson, the renowned American designer who created the Vista Suites.

OST LPF and DJ
Dakota Jackson pictured with Pancake, Blogger-at-Large

If you like to know where the ship is heading, you may prefer the view from these suites, which overlook the bow of the ship.

VS 1 VS 2

OCEANIA SUITES

Oceania Suites, also designed by Dakota Jackson, are so large you can comfortably host a cocktail party – and they even have the bar for it! Or, if you prefer, make it a quiet night and relax in the whirlpool tub on the veranda.

OST 5 OST 4

OST 2 OST 3

PENTHOUSE SUITES

Penthouse Suites are the smallest of the suites, but small is a relative term! Walk-in closets, marble and granite bathrooms, spacious and comfortable living quarters – one guest told me these suites were her favorite place onboard Marina.

One of the things I enjoy most onboard Oceania Cruises ships is lounging in the beautiful bathtubs. This is just one of many amenities that distinguishes Oceania Cruises suites, and on Marina and Riviera, bathtubs are also featured in most staterooms. There is a shower wand in the bath tub as well as a completely separate rainfall shower.

PS 1 PS 2

With the perfect accommodations and the ultimate cuisine, Oceania Cruises offers an unrivaled cruising experience at an extraordinary value. Some may say that I’m biased, but the editors at Cruise Critic have confirmed what I’ve known for some time: Oceania Cruises truly stands head and shoulders above the rest!

April 30, 2012

VICE CHAIRMAN BOB BINDER SENDS GREETINGS FROM RIVIERA

New Artwork at Red GingerHello from Riviera!

As our president, Kunal Kamlani, announced on Friday, we have officially taken delivery of Riviera, and we're now putting on the final touches in preparation for her christening in Barcelona next week.

For the past few weeks, we've been sharing some of Riviera's unique design elements here on the blog, and I'm sure those of you booked on an upcoming voyage are eager to get onboard and experience the ship. Of course, Marina and Riviera were first and foremost designed for foodies, but our secondary goal has been to create floating museums that inspire and engage our guests with their sense of style and their striking, contemporary artwork. 

Our chairman, Frank Del Rio, holds a special place in his heart for all the Cuban artists featured onboard, which is understandable due to his Cuban heritage. My fascination with Asian art is not so easily explained, but it has likely evolved from my travels on that continent and my experiences with the beauty of not only the paintings and sculptures of Asia, but also the gardens, the temples and especially the people and their cultures. 

As you might imagine, I was especially pleased to be able to help with the installation of the artwork in Red Ginger. Below we are hanging a Vietnamese painting that reads "Celebrate."

Celebrate in Vietnamese
The next painting says "Serenity" in Thai. I especially like it because it reflects the harmony of Red Ginger's bold, yet tranquil, design.

Serenity in Thai
As with all of our restaurants onboard, every detail is a statement on the distinctive style of each venue. So in Red Ginger we had to make sure that the table settings were works of art in themselves.

Red Ginger Table
Frank, Kunal and I can't wait until Riviera welcomes her first guests onboard, and I hope you'll enjoy exploring every corner of the ship. In fact, we only have a few corners left to prepare. We'll continue to share photos here on the blog as we complete the finishing touches.

I hear Chef Franck Garanger is preparing a tasting for us in Waves Grill, so for now I'd better attend to the business at hand. Like I always say, it's a tough job, but somebody has to do it!

April 10, 2012

CHEF ANNIE B. COPPS TEACHES RED GINGER IN BON APPETIT CULINARY CENTER

Posted by Pancake, Oceania Cruises' Blogger-at-Large

Just one month from today we will christen the newest addition to Oceania Cruises’ fleet, the magnificent Riviera. Those of you who will be joining us onboard during her inaugural season must surely be excited about Riviera’s imminent debut. You may be booked on her maiden voyage from Venice to Athens. Or perhaps you’ll be joining President Kunal S. Kamlani onboard the Reunion Cruise in June. Guests on this memorable journey will enjoy special cocktail parties, exclusive shore excursions, and a "town hall" during which they can ask questions of the president.

One of the most exciting sailings of Riviera's inaugural season will certainly be the Bon Appétit Wine & Food Festival that embarks in Athens on October 14. Celebrity chef Stephen Lewandowski of New York's famed Tribeca Grill will host this cruise, offering demonstrations, hands-on cooking classes, market tours, wine tastings and special dinners. The festival will also be featured on Marina's October 22 sailing, hosted by James Beard award winner Chef Ken Oringer.

Chef Copps Red Ginger3

This commitment to an exceptional culinary experience extending even beyond the onboard restaurants is nothing new for Oceania Cruises. Our partnership with Bon Appétit magazine began with the opening of the first hands-on cooking school at sea, the Bon Appétit Culinary Center onboard Marina. If you follow the blog, you've seen posts about the culinary center classes and market tours from Chef Kelly, Oceania Cruises' Culinary Enrichment Director. As Chef Kelly busily prepares to open the new Bon Appétit Culinary Center onboard Riviera, Chef Annie B. Copps is teaching classes onboard Marina.

Chef Copps is not only a chef but also a food editor, travel writer and radio host. You may have seen her on NBC’s Today Show, where she is a frequent guest. During my recent cruise, I enjoyed a class with Chef Copps, and what a treat it was. We learned a lot, laughed a lot, and we loved the recipes we made!

Chef Copps Red Ginger6
Everyone wants to know the secrets to Oceania Cruises’ fantastic cuisine, and the Bon Appétit Culinary Center now teaches recipes from the onboard restaurants. I was so excited to learn that Chef Copps would be sharing techniques from Red Ginger, one of my favorite restaurants onboard – or ashore. First she taught us how to make the banh trang spring rolls. As a teaser, I’ll share a video of her demonstration with you. Note that I captured this with a handheld camera, so let’s just say you definitely get the feel of being onboard the ship. The seas were a bit rough that day!

 

Once she had prepared the filling, Chef Copps showed us how to wrap the rolls in the delicate rice paper.

 

After the demonstration, we all returned to our work stations to put our skills to the test. Chef Copps and the sous chefs circulated around the room offering guidance, assistance and praise for our efforts.

Chef Copps Red Ginger4

We were all very successful in executing the recipe and quite proud of ourselves. Of course, the greatest reward was getting to devour the dishes after we created them.

Chef Copps Red Ginger5
Chef Copps also taught us to make the phenomenal (and surprisingly simple!) lobster pad Thai that is served in Red Ginger. But if you want to learn that recipe, you’ll have to book a class in the Bon Appétit Culinary Center onboard Marina or Riviera. Or perhaps you'll join us for one of the Bon Appétit Wine & Food Festivals. Either way, you're in for culinary delights that can only be found onboard the ships of Oceania Cruises.

July 14, 2011

Oceania Cruises' Marina Featured on The Travel Channel

Travel Channel presenter Julie Peasgoode sailed aboard Marina during a 10-day Pearls of the Riviera cruise through the glorious Mediterranean earlier this year.

Why not join her for a virtual voyage and see what Julie has to say about Marina and all of her culinary delights and surprises.

Bon Voyage!

 

April 1, 2011

RED GINGER: AN ASIAN MASTERPIECE ONBOARD MARINA

 


Red Ginger Stand

The hottest new restaurant in town isn't in town at all. It's onboard Oceania Cruises' new ship Marina. You may have to book a European cruise this summer in order to try it, but go ahead. It's worth it.

I hate the word "favorite." Call it a character flaw, but I enjoy so many things, especially when it comes to cuisine, that I hate to say I enjoy one in particular above all the rest. It seems somehow insulting to all the other perfectly wonderful experiences that by default come in somewhere between second and last. So while my love of all restaurants onboard Marina prevents me from using absolute superlatives, I will say that Red Ginger left me speechless.

Luckily, I had a pen.

Red Ginger Dining Room-1
The wow factor begins from the moment you catch sight of the entryway. The entire restaurant literally glows, impressing with a striking vibrance and yet still feeling softly, gently radiant. The golden walls, the deep red furnishings, and somehow even the ebony accents seem to be lit from within. When you walk into Red Ginger, you think you've entered one of the most renowned Asian restaurants in New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco. The décor is that distinctive and arresting.

Red Ginger Dining Room-2

The impeccable attention to detail apparent in the restaurant's design was amazing, and unfortunately photos simply can't do it justice. I tried to capture the beauty of the wall decor beside our table, but this only gives you an inkling of how uniquely eye-catching it was.

Red Ginger Wall

 

My husband perused the bamboo-bedecked menu while I documented the lovely place settings.

Red Ginger Menu:Setting

We selected our own chopsticks from a colorful Vietnamese assortment made of everything from steel to ivory.

Chopsticks

Normally I would devote some time to the fine selection of wines available to complement the evening meal, but at Red Ginger I could hardly be bothered. Okay, yes, I managed to order a lovely glass of wine – a girl has to have standards – but for this meal the wine was practically an afterthought, as they had me at "amuse bouche." A miniature tureen of edamame beans with sea salt appeared to grace the red scrollwork on our exquisite chargers, and we never looked back.

Edamame
However, I will confess that when the first dish arrived, I was momentarily afraid to take a bite. It was becoming increasingly apparent that we were being served works of art meant to be on display rather than edible fare. As soon as I lifted the fork to my mouth, the ever-adolescent Ashton Kutcher would leap from behind the giant Buddha head, laughing uproariously at his practical joke and screaming, "You got punk'd! Don't eat the artwork, dude!" 

Sushi
As you may have already guessed, this did not come to pass. Each course was as deliciously edible as the china was stunning.

A word on china. When I picture china, I think of dainty white plates with exquisite borders delicately hand-painted around the rim.  Well, this ain't your grandmother's china.  There is a theme in Red Ginger – striking, bold, modern – and it holds true from floor to ceiling:  the wall coverings, the chairs, the chandeliers, the works of art (really EVERYTHING is a work of art), and yes, the china. With all of the distinctive shapes, colors and textures, you could sit and stare at the plates for hours, if the food sitting upon them wasn't so tantalizing.

Tuna Tataki
Oh yeah, the food. Lest you think Red Ginger is all beauty and no brains, let me assure you, the food is brilliant.

In the foreword of Taste the World: The Food and Flavors of Oceania Cruises, Jacques Pepin writes: "Although the food [in Red Ginger] is pan-Asian, this is not a 'fusion' restaurant. Rather, the culinary team did hands-on research throughout Asia and worked with chefs all over the world to find recipes and techniques that represent the best of Vietnamese, Thai, and Japanese cooking – and spent months mastering their preparation. The presentation is refined in a way that is exciting and modern, but the dishes themselves, like all of our food, is firmly grounded in authentic recipes, traditions, and ingredients."

Red Ginger Rolls
The hard work of the culinary team certainly paid off. Hallmarks of Asian cuisine are represented in fine fashion – spring rolls in crisp wontons or delicate rice paper, sashimi so fresh that any condiment was optional, a perfect balance of sweet and spicy flavor profiles. And speaking of flavors, Red Ginger's are exactly what one finds in any successful restaurant – rich and varied, yet unified. Each dish brought something new to the table (apologies for the bad pun), but each bite was distinctly Asian, and more importantly, I soon realized each bite was distinctly Red Ginger.

Carpaccio
Beef Carpaccio with roasted peanuts, coriander, shallots and chili oil

Tom Kha Gai
Tom Kha Gai soup made with lemongrass, coconut milk and chicken

An important note:  That most essential component of Asian cuisine – spiciness – was perfectly executed. No matter how spicy you prefer it, even if you want your taste buds seared, good spicy food still has flavor. Even the hottest chili sauce should ultimately complement the dish in which it is featured, and the food in Red Ginger achieves this delicate balance. 

Lobster Salad
Avocado Lobster Salad with tuna and hamachi on crispy lotus with den miso and shiso vinegar

You may be startled to discover that we are just now arriving at the entrée. Yes, as is our sorrowfully indulgent habit, my husband and I tend to over order when dining with Oceania Cruises because there are simply too many tempting options. But this is another beautiful thing about Red Ginger: Each dish was so delicate, so exquisite, so perfectly envisioned, that we enjoyed every bite of our entrées and even dessert despite the number of courses in which we indulged.  And we were still able to rise from our seats, hustle to Horizons and dance the night away afterward. I don't know what more a couple could ask of a restaurant.

Miso Glazed Sea Bass AngleBut I digress.  As impressed as we had been up to now, the excitement was palpable as we awaited our entrées. And we were not disappointed. My husband ordered the Miso Glazed Sea Bass, which had already practically become a signature dish of Red Ginger. It was a huge hit. Everyone was doing it, and not just because of the cool factor of the mini clothespin grasping the hoba leaf, but because of how the den miso marinate and perfect preparation brought out the rich flavor of the filet.

Sang Har Mein
I ordered the Sang Har Mien. I am not a connoisseur of Sang Har Mien, and I do not have many experiences with this dish to compare to. Frankly, I wasn't completely sure what Sang Har Mien was and only ordered it because it sounded delicious, and I was convinced by that point in the meal that I couldn't go wrong.  I was right.

Whatever the standard may be, Red Ginger's Sang Har Mien surely meets and exceeds it. The noodles were perfectly crunchy until it was time for them to soften, and then they melted in my mouth. The seafood and vegetables were not only my favorites – jumbo tiger prawns, scallops, squid, carrots, broccoli, shitake mushrooms – but were tender and flavorful. And the saucy broth was absolutely divine.

Red Ginger Tea
It is wrong of me not to have mentioned the tea until now, but my husband and I are not usually tea drinkers, and we did not realize what we were missing until we ventured out at the end of the meal.  There is both a special menu and a server dedicated to tea service in Red Ginger, and once you taste the teas, you will understand why they merit such attention. Just like everything else at Red Ginger, the presentation is flawless and the flavors delectable.

Tapioca
Speaking of service, I've hardly mentioned it, but as was the case with the wine, I was distracted by the artistry of the food. Suffice it to say, the service was everything I've come to expect from Oceania Cruises – personally attentive, highly knowledgeable, and perfectly paced.

Red Ginger Sorbet
Our server recommended the sorbet assortment for dessert, so even though we'd already selected our desserts, we trusted that this recommendation should not go unheeded.  We were correct. This grand finale was beautifully presented, immensely refreshing, and the ideal conclusion to a spectacular dining experience.

Oceania Cruises is currently featuring a poll on Facebook about onboard restaurants. Vote for your own personal favorite at http://www.facebook.com/OceaniaCruises?ref=sgm.

 

 

 

 

March 15, 2011

MARINA GETS 5-STAR REVIEW from Patti Pietschmann, National Cruise Examiner

        

Travel writer Patti Pietschmann has given rave reviews after cruising onboard Marina during her 18-day Inaugural Passage. Below we've shared some of her glowing remarks, along with some photos captured by our Blogger at Large and one from our onboard Photo Coach, Curtis Hustace.

You can read this and other articles on Marina from Patti at examiner.com/cruise.

Miso Sea Bass

Miso Glazed Sea Bass featured in Red Ginger

 

OCEANIA CRUISES' MARINA WHETS THE APPETITE IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE

By Patti Pietschmann

The first evening out of Miami set the tone for the maiden voyage of Oceania Cruises’ gunshot-across-the-bow in mid-size luxury cruising.  A woman at the table next to ours in Red Ginger, one of four no-charge alternative dinner restaurants onboard, looked down at her miso-glazed sea bass wrapped in a ti leaf closed with a tiny green clothespin and then up at her dining companion with misty eyes. “I think I could eat here every night,” she said with a note of awe in her voice.

Eavesdropping that first evening aboard the brand new Marina on her 18-day inaugural voyage from Miami through the Panama Canal to San Francisco (via Los Angeles, where we disembarked), may not have been polite. But listening while our fellow passengers praised the food on the fourth vessel and first new build in Oceania Cruises’ four-ship fleet pretty much gave away the headline for the 1,250-passenger ship. We heard the 20-ounce prime porterhouse served in the Polo Grill compared to those found in New York City’s renowned steakhouses, the beef carpaccio in Toscana extolled as exemplary, and the smoked salmon-wrapped salmon tartar in Jacques compared to a dish that might be served at Patina in downtown Los Angeles.

Which of the four was best? That was like asking fraternity guys which of the Victoria’s Secret models they favor.

That’s the food-forward way Marina, whose culinary godfather, after all, is the celebrated French chef Jacques Pepin (he of the eponymous Jacques) means to sail.

Terrace Chandelier

A striking chandelier in Terrace Café


Even dinner at the Terrace Café, the ship’s three-meal buffet restaurant—usually an afterthought on other cruise ships—strived for and often achieved a culinary level far loftier than might be expected. Aboard other ships, this restaurant is often an afterthought. Not here. At breakfast one morning, a passenger who had dined there the previous night buttonholed the maitre d ‘ and told him his meal had been “fabulous.” And one of your faithful reporters himself waxed ecstatic over lamb curry that was ideal in every way save for the odd absence of chutney, a touch that one comes to expect aboard Marina.

Frank Del Rio, the Miami-based cruise line’s CEO, quoted in Taste of the World coffee table book given to all inaugural cruise passengers, clearly enunciates Oceania’s battle cry. “We decided to budget more per guest for food than any other cruise company. Some spend that money on stage shows and dancing girls. We put it on the plate. We want the food to be the show, and the dining experience to be the entertainment.”

To that end, fully one-quarter of the ship’s crew work in the galleys, meaning approximately one cook for every ten passengers. It shows.

Just as much attention is paid to dining service, and on the decks too. Sometimes servers swarm to fill coffee cups and water glasses. It all gets a bit frantic at times. Plates are bussed perhaps too eagerly when a dining companion has not yet finished—an overlooked nuance that can get annoying.

What also quickly becomes annoying, or simply mysterious, is the reservation system for the alternative restaurants. Each stateroom gets one crack at each of the four, but then something akin to a free-for-all ensues. Dining slots are then assigned on a daily basis, beginning at eight in the morning, and a call almost always results in a sold-out shrug over the phone and placement  on a waiting list that sometimes results in a coveted reservation and sometimes not. The arcane system is explained nowhere.

This is a cruise ship designed as its own foodie destination, with virtually everything else—entertainment, ports of call—assigned a secondary role. We attended one show and then decided our time was better used for reading books from the elegant library. As for ports, we found it almost extraordinary that a cruise from Florida through the Caribbean didn’t stop at a single island. The Colombian port city of Cartagena was the only stop prior to transiting the Canal—always a highlight for many passengers except those who, like us, had made the transit numerous times.

Costa Rican Sunset
A Costa Rican sunset captured by Curtis Hustace

After the Canal, we stopped at Puntarenas, Costa Rica, where we bought a kilo of good shade-grown XXXXXX from Coffee John, who for years has set up a stand and sold his Shady Lady coffee whenever a cruise ship docks. We also bought coffee in Puerto Chiapas, the next port, where what later turned out to be a log snagged in the starboard propeller as we sailed away. That forced the captain to shut down propulsion on that side and to bypass Huatulco. At Acapulco, the next scheduled stop, divers freed the propeller. Aside from the skipped port, the glitch was hardly noticed by passengers.

The ship itself is a sharp departure for Oceania, formed in 2003 with repurposed previously owned vessels Insignia, Nautica and Regatta that are half the size of the 65,000 ton Marina and carry half the number of passengers. How roomy is Marina? It took us a week before we ran into Joe and Carol, who live in West Hills and we’ve known for years. Their stateroom was two away from ours.

Vista Living Room

The living room of one of the extraordinary Vista Suites

The Marina’s extra room is reflected in the number of balcony cabins (95% of the total), their size (standard staterooms measure 282 square feet, hardly spacious but bowling alleys compared 216 square-foot standard staterooms of the other ships), and the sprawling deck space including a huge-for-sea swimming pool whose length we could never learn (much head scratching and helpless shrugging) but pace-estimated at 35 feet.

The increased room also means Marina has those four no-charge alternative restaurants compared to two (Polo Grill, Toscana) on the other ships. Marina also has two specialty restaurants that do carry a surcharge--$75 to cover wine-pairing in La  Reserve, $1,000 for up to eight persons for a multi-course menu degustation in Privée.

 

 

 

 

January 21, 2011

THE PRESIDENT'S COUNTDOWN: 0 Days to Marina's Maiden Voyage!

    

Glowing O-2

We are now just hours away from welcoming our guests onboard for Marina's Maiden Voyage. I cannot wait to see all of your reactions when you see Marina for the first time. Of course, if you've been following the blog, you have some idea of what's in store for you, but even the most stunning photos can't do justice to Marina's beauty. You really have to see her for yourself.

I will be onboard welcoming guests and meeting and mingling with as many of you as possible tomorrow. I'll sail with Marina as far as the Canary Islands, when sadly, I will have to depart and attend to other Oceania Cruises business. But with all of my amazing experiences onboard Marina, January 2011 is a month that I will not soon forget.

I still have SO many photos to share. There just doesn't seem to be enough time to post them all. So many of our classic spaces you still haven't seen...

The Grand Staircase

Grand Staircase-Wide Grand Staircase-Detail


Martinis

Martinis-2Martinis

Terrace Cafe

Bob in Terrace Terrace Cafe

And I know at least one of you out there has been waiting ever so patiently for photos of the pool.

Pool-1 Pool-4-Above

Considering how much I've touted all of the new restaurants, it seems appropriate to also share one more menu with you before the Maiden Voyage sets sail.  One of our guests requested a peek at the Red Ginger menu, so I've posted it below.  Also, another guest inquired about the webcam onboard, which unfortunately will not be operational for the Maiden Voyage, but we will get it posted as soon as it's up and running!

RGP1

RGP2

RGP3a

RGP4

RGP5

Some guests commented that they are in Barcelona awaiting our arrival and feel like children on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa. Perhaps I'm Santa in that scenario, but I certainly feel more like the children, as I can't remember having been so excited for a day to arrive in a long time. Tomorrow promises to be a grand finale to the countdown, and yet it is really just the beginning of the experience onboard Marina for all of our guests. I will do my best to share some photos of the festivities if I can catch my breath!

 

January 14, 2011

THE PRESIDENT'S COUNTDOWN: 7 Days to Marina's Maiden Voyage!

Red Ginger Jan 11
We are officially one week away from Marina’s Maiden Voyage, and I have to say this countdown is making me hungry!  Still, I keep getting great shots of the new restaurants and the fabulous menus, and I just have to pass them on to you as part of the final sneak peeks before Marina’s unveiling.

The photo above is of Red Ginger, the contemporary new Asian-fusion restaurant onboard Marina. You’ll see the décor is strikingly modern, and the menus are done in a sharp, minimalist style that complements the décor. Some of the dishes you can look forward to are: 

Caramelized Tiger Prawns - onions, chili garlic sauce, scallions

Avocado Lobster Salad - lobster, crispy lotus, avocado, tuna, hamachi, den miso, shiso vinegar

Thai Vegetable Curry - green curry sauce, sweet potato, aubergine, fried tofu, mushrooms, basil, cherry tomatoes

Malaysian Beef Penaeng - beef short rib, nutty curry paste, coconut, paratha roti

Below are photos of Polo Grill and Toscana, two specialty restaurants featured on all of our ships. If you've cruised onboard Regatta, Insignia, or Nautica, you'll notice that the décor of these restaurants differs on Marina, but once you try them, you'll immediately recognize Polo Grill's classic steakhouse fare and Toscana's authentic Italian.

Polo grill jan 13

Polo Grill

 

Toscana jan 13

Toscana


I don't know about you, but my mouth is watering. If you've already booked a voyage on Marina, you can go online now to make reservations for Red Ginger, Polo Grill, Toscana, or Jacques. And check back here on the blog for my next sneak peek on Day 6 of our countdown tomorrow!

December 8, 2010

MARINA - 45 DAYS AND COUNTING

Marina is only 45 days from her debut and she is shaping up quickly and beautifully. It is truly remarkable how quickly areas of the ship are being transformed. One day, you have exposed steel and wires hanging from the ceiling and 24 to 48 hours later, the room is all but finished.

I wanted to provide our loyal readers and guests with a photo update from the shipyard so that you can see how much progress has been made in the last few weeks.

Marina December 2010 119 (98) 
They are laying the carpet in the Reception Hall and on the Grand Staircase.

Marina December 2010 119 (20) 
The Casino Bar is coming along nicely. When you see the finished space, you will really be "wowed". The chandelier only hints at what to expect from this room.

Marina December 2010 119 (13) 
These are the beautiful wine display cases inside the entrance to the Grand Dining Room.

Marina December 2010 119 (16) 
The elegance of the Grand Dining Room is really begining to shine through.

Marina December 2010 119 (18) 
A detail shot of one of the beautiful fluted wall sconces.

Marina December 2010 119 (19) 
One of the smaller, individual chandeliers being hung.

Marina December 2010 119 (127) 
This is Jacques. The flooring is antique French Oak that was reclaimed from an old barn we came across near Lyons, Jacques' hometown. This is the first time anyone has ever gone such an unorthodox route in terms of flooring on a ship. The yard and the architetcts were somewhat stunned that we wanted to do this but I am glad we did as it adds to the authenticity of the restaurant.

 Marina December 2010 119 (112)
They are in the midst of unpacking all of the chairs for Red Ginger. I am going to bet that this restaurant will be the most stunning of them all. When the lighting is set to the proper levels and the tables are set, it will be a visual feast.

There will be more to come in the next post - including the Terrace Cafe, the Culinary Center, Artist Loft and the Canyon Ranch Spa Club.

November 30, 2010

Bringing Out the Fine China

Jacques China-2
We here at Oceania Cruises hope that everyone enjoyed a delicious Thanksgiving dinner with your loved ones over this holiday weekend. Many of you may have brought out the fine china to serve dinner on this special holiday. So it seems appropriate timing that we too are rolling out our new custom-designed china for Marina's specialty restaurants, Jacques and Red Ginger.

For the first restaurant to ever bear his name, Master Chef Jacques Pepin created exquisite dishes that merit presentation on only the finest of place settings. So we have ensured that the china on which each course is served will reflect the creativity and sophistication of the menu as well as the comfortable, eclectic ambiance of the Parisian-style bistro. Jacques China-3

Jacques China-5
Oceania Cruises gave thanks this holiday for its talented group of chefs and culinary directors who created the contemporary interpretations of Asian classics for Red Ginger. The china for Red Ginger had to hold its own amidst the striking, modernist decor while complementing the elegant menu. We think these sharp, eye-catching patterns succeed at both.Red Ginger China-1

Red Ginger China-2
Red Ginger China-3 Our Oceania Cruises family has much to be thankful for this holiday season. We are certainly thankful that Marina is nearly ready for her maiden voyage, but most of all, we are thankful for all of our guests who will travel with us onboard this year and for years to come.

Happy Holidays!