Caribbean Diary, Day 5 (continued): FOOD.
Posted by Lissa on June 13, 2008
I think that was the best dining experience I’ve had in my life. WARNING: The rest of this post is going to be nothing but a description of food, pretty much. If you’re hungry right now, I recommend you skip the rest.
My prior standard for that dubious distinction was Jiko’s, the restaurant in Animal Kingdom at Disney World; the service there was wonderful, the food was marvelous, and the restaurant décor was cool. But – not Jiko’s fault – it wasn’t on a humongus boat, so tis hard to compete!
Last night’s restaurant is named Portofino’s and specializes in Italian seafood (as Mike mentioned, we just hate seafood. And Italian cuisine. About as much as we hate kitties). We were seated at eight and started with a few different types of rolls, a breadstick and a baked flatbread which reminded me of Italian Mexican food. To decorate the bread, we had bruschetta, a paste of mushrooms with a little truffle oil, a paste of olives (I let Mike eat that one), and a dish of roasted garlic cloves in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. We ordered a Chianti to go with dinner (Ruffino, Il Duchete or something like that, if you’re curious) and nommed happily. Mike had a bit of trouble deciding what to order; the seafood skewer seemed to be the best choice, but he was really tempted by the Spaghettini di Frute del Mare. As it turned out, the server really pushed the option that, if we wanted an extra pasta dish or main course, we could get just a little as a second course. Shockingly, Mike jumped at the chance J
For appetizers, Mike chose tiger shrimp served on a bed of creamy saffron risotto. (Like me, he has a slight problem with the texture of risotto – it’s supposed to be “slippery” and sometimes all I can think is “slimy,” but he layered it with the shrimp and the noodles and said it was delicious.) I had Insalata Caprese, grape tomatoes and baby bottoncini (?) smothered in basil pesto and drizzled with balsamic vinegar. I still don’t know exactly what the cheese was, but it tasted an awful lot like fresh mozzarella, so perhaps they’re related? Very, very tasty. For the second course we had the Spaghettini sample, which was much more peppery than I anticipated; it wasn’t until I finished that I noticed the red pepper flakes. The spaghetti was served in a white wine sauce, with shrimp, scallops and squid on top. (Mike ate my squid; he’s very fond of calamari, whereas I’m neutral, and the neutral tips to unfavorable when I can see all the little legs, sans breading. No thank you, I is not wanting that.) Both of us have a decent pepper tolerance, so we quite enjoyed it, and the pepper made it sit better with the Chianti.
It wasn’t until they cleared away the second course that, according to our server Maria, the chefs began to prepare our main course. We’re still somewhat puzzled by this, but they did check at the beginning of the meal whether we had an event scheduled afterwards; I imagine that if the answer had been yes things would have gone more quickly. As it was, it allowed us time to sip the wine and digest the mountains of food already consumed. It actually took long enough between the second and third course that Maria offered to fetch us bread, or something else to nibble on, then brought each of us a glass of champagne (or sparkling wine) with a strawberry slice floating in it.
The main course arrived not long after the champagne; we pushed it aside to save for dessert and marveled at our entrees. We both ordered the seafood skewer; it came in a stand, the bottom part holding a plate securely and the top part consisting of an arm to hold the dangling skewer. (I’ll insert a picture here later.) I was eyeing the stand appreciatively but dubiously, wondering how on earth I was going to extract the seafood and consume it without skewering my dress or something worse, when the server returned to rescue me. She took the skewer down, using a napkin to grasp it, and slid all the food onto my plate. Shrimps, scallops, salmon and a lobster tail (which she helpfully extracted from the shell) nestled around a tomato beurre-blanc (sp?) sauce, garnished with two stalks of asparagus. At this point, if I’d had any sense of self-preservation, I would have called it a day and doggy-bagged the rest for another time. Would anyone like to guess whether I did so? Anyone? Bueller?
After the main course we were fairly groaning in our seats. Maria cleared away our dishes and gave us dessert menus, promising that the best part of the meal was yet to come. (We chuckled to ourselves, knowing there was no topping The Skewer, but humored her nonetheless.) Again, it took long enough between courses that we finished our wine and decided that, yes, we could probably attempt dessert with no more than a 65% chance of imminent death. Then dessert arrived and we decided that death was an acceptable price to pay. Mike ordered Tiramisu, while I had a sample of desserts – a shot glass of Tiramisu, a tiny flourless chocolate cake, a little circle of Panacotta topped with raspberry sauce, and a small square dish of coconut crème brulee. My friends, if ever you have the chance, I sincerely recommend that you visit Portofino and JUST order the dessert. It’s that good, and the complimentary champagne made it all the better. Twas a pity that neither of us really had room for the chocolate-dipped strawberries that came with it. Maria was absolutely correct.
Naturally, about halfway through my dessert the waiters all gathered round to chant Happy Birthday and give me ANOTHER dessert. Because, y’know, the FOUR I was working on just weren’t sufficient. The large white dish had my name (spelled correctly, yay!) written out in chocolate sauce and held another mini flourless chocolate cake, a sliced strawberry and two more chocolate-dipped strawberries. I thanked them all and, after the waiters and Maria departed, put the cake on a clean saucer and gave it to the table next to us. I was far too close to death as it was. When I ordered, I was under the delusion that a flourless chocolate cake allowed gluten-intolerant people to order it; actually, it’s so that the flour doesn’t get in the way of the EIGHTEEN POUNDS OF CHOCOLATE THEY MUST COMPRESS INTO THAT LITTLE MORSEL. I swear, they put it down on the table and the boat immediately listed to starboard.
After polishing off the majority of our respective desserts and thanking the staff, Mike and I waddled to the elevators. We considered going back to our rooms and abandoning ourselves to a gluttonous stupor, but decided it was more dignified to remain upright, so we wandered over to the cigar bar. We topped off our evening with cigars and drinks, The Glenlivet for me and Remy Martin V.S.O.P. for Mike.
Thank you, again, to everyone who helped make my birthday beyond-amazingly-wonderfully-fabulously-great. Mike obviously gets the most credit, but my sincere thanks also go to my family, and finally to all my friends. It was wonderful, and I love you all!
P.S. We’re almost at Cozumel now – time to ride horsies! HORSIES!!!!
P.P.S. We spent more time than you would think at dinner last night, trying to remember what we’d eaten and drunk for the previous dinners for the cruise. I offer, for your food fetish, the following accounting:
Sunday: Prime Rib with horseradish for me, salmon for Mike, Beaujoulais-Villages (I’m SURE I spelled that wrong)
Monday: Filet mignon, medium rare, and Cline Zinfandel
Tuesday: Chicken marsala for Mike, lamb shank for me; I finished the zinfandel and he ordered pinot grigio
Wednesday: Filet of shoulder for both us, medium rare, with chive béarnaise sauce, and the same Beaujoulais from the first night
Thursday: ENOUGH FOOD TO THAT I SHOULD NOT EAT FOR THE REST OF THE TRIP. MAYBE FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. AND IT WAS WORTH IT.