It's impossible to keep my voice low when I talk about my dining experiences aboard Silversea Cruises' 382-passenger Silver Whisper! I'm driven to talk out loud about this imaginative cuisine to anyone who'll listen!
The Silver Whisper, one Silversea's four luxury ships, serves some of the finest cuisine afloat, from the kitchens of the renowned Relais & Chateaux group of inns and restaurants. From the casual menu offerings at the Grill on the deck, luncheon buffets and special dining in the Terrace Cafe, to the Main Dining Room, I had few disappointments. Under the meticulous eye of Executive Chef Laurent Austrui, my dining experiences were filled with culinary surprises.
The private dining planned for The Champagne Room is surely the jewel in Chef Laurent's well-deserved crown! This new venue was launched on the Silver Wind in June 2003 and will soon be launched on the Silver Whisper. Designed with a team of Relais & Chateaux chefs, the exquisite Champagne Room will host an evening of private dining for 20-30 guests. Make your reservation as soon as you board and enjoy an evening of world-class dining.
At a dinner designed to preview the Champagne Room experience, I was treated to an evening of great dining without a misstep. Each course was paired with exceptional wines, selected by Head Sommelier Gabriele Chiappini. As we sailed toward Londonderry, U.K., I relished the first of six courses: a warm crushed new potato with chives and Sevruga caviar. As a glutton for caviar, I delighted in every bite! I was also very happy with the next course, foie gras ravioli with a truffle sauce! I usually sprint from liver in any form, but this was special. Delicately wrapped in light ravioli pasta, it was balanced with a perfect sauce making the dish luscious and not overbearing.
The next course, tempura-fried lobster tail, was another fabulous surprise. The lobster tail, marinated in a fine olive oil and lime leaves, was prepared with a simple wrap of fresh spinach and nori. Cooked to crispy perfection in a tempura batter, the lobster tail was presented on a light endive salad. This inventive, Asian-influenced course was a pleasure! Before the next course, we had a refreshing apple and rosemary ice granite -- delicate but distinct with the flavors of its ingredients. As a palate refresher, I found this granite to be exceptional.
I heard only compliments from anyone who selected the fish course. The freshest fish with herbs and fine olive oils is one Chef Laurent's favorites. Whenever possible, he includes local produce purchased while in port. As an example, grouper fish fillet and sea bass from the market in Copenhagen were offered as dinner entrees as we sailed out of that wonderful city.
Who doesn't love a unique and delicious dessert? Chef Laurent closed our evening in The Champagne Room with a surprising creation of glazed stuffed cherry tomatoes with 12 flavors, complemented with Madagascar vanilla ice cream! I was completely intrigued by this recipe, and I want to try it at home to "wow" a few guests!
Make a reservation for a special party in The Champagne Room as soon as you board the Silver Whisper! A new menu is offered each evening with courses selected from Chef Laurent's extensive repertoire of Relais & Chateaux-designed recipes and menus.
Special dietary requests are accommodated with low-fat, low-calorie menu selections for both lunch and dinner. This is an ever-expanding area of menu planning in the Silversea kitchen. With advance notice, Chef Laurent and his staff seek appropriate, healthful ingredients to create imaginative meals that meet dietary needs with imagination and flavor. I dined one evening with a guest who spoke proudly of achieving a significant weight loss. With several food allergies restricting her food selections, she raved about the special accommodations made by the chefs. They consistently presented creative and delicious meals that were within her food plan.
As a diabetic, I appreciate these considerations. I sampled some of the low-calorie or "zero-zero" calorie desserts and found most of them to be pleasant, with one humorous exception one evening. I selected a dessert of "zero-calorie" blueberry ice cream. I anticipated something that resembled blueberries made into ice cream, but the waiter presented scoops of something green! It was cold and sweet, but didn't have the flavor of anything in particular. I'd prefer Mother Nature's idea of blueberry ice cream! I'll add that some of the soup courses were less than stellar. Some combinations (carrot and ginger or sweet potato and cumin) piqued my taste buds' interest but failed to deliver any excitement. While pleasant to taste, the expected flavors were not distinct.
No, I can't merely whisper about the dining experiences on this Silver Whisper voyage. With no major culinary rough seas to endure, I sailed along through every port with the smile of a very happy "foodie"!
Here are two recipes I'm planning to serve at home. Give them a try!
TEMPURA FRIED LOBSTER TAIL WRAPPED IN NORI SHEET AND ENDIVE SALAD (Serves 4)
Tempura batter ingredients: 10 oz. of ice cold water 2 beaten eggs 1/3 cup flour passed through a fine sieve To make the tempura, mix the beaten eggs with the ice cold water and add the flour mixing with a fork (do not beat).
Beurre Blanc ingredients: ¼ cup dry white wine ¼ cup white wine vinegar 6 finely chopped shallots 3 sticks of butter Salt and freshly ground pepper To make the beurre blanc sauce, sweat the shallots in ½ stick of butter and add the wine and vinegar. Reduce until almost dry. Add 2 tablespoons of cream and add the balance of the butter slowly. You may need to add a bit of water to keep the beurre blanc smooth. Keep it warm in the pan but not boiling. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.
Marinate and Lobster preparation: Warm extra virgin oil to 140 degrees and marinate with kaffir lime leaves overnight. Add peeled whole lobster tails and marinate a minimum of 2 hours. Wrap lobsters with spinach leaves then wrap in nori sheet (like a sushi). Keep lobster tail whole and dip into fresh tempura batter. (See recipe below) Deep fry the lobster until golden brown. Careful not to overcook.
Endive Salad preparation:
Julienne endives and season with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Add chopped chives and season more to taste. Serve the endive salad in the center of a plate. Cut the cooked lobster in half and place on the salad. Finish with the beurre blanc sauce around the plate.
TWELVE FLAVORS "CONFITE" CHERRY TOMATOES WITH VANILLA ICE CREAM (Serves 4)
This original recipe is from Alain Passard, guest chef on the Silver Whisper in August 2002. He is the owner of Relais & Chateaux L'Arpege in Paris.
Ingredients: 16 cherry tomatoes 1 chopped fresh apple 1 chopped fresh pear ¼ cup of chopped fresh pineapple 1 tablespoon of grated fresh ginger 4 cloves 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon Star Anise 2 teaspoons orange zest 2 teaspoons lemon zest ½ cup raisins 1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint ¼ cup each chopped walnuts, almonds, pistachio 2 vanilla beans, scraped Juice of one orange
Preparation: In a hot sauce pan, saute the chopped fruits with a little brown sugar until almost done. Add the lemon and orange zest, grated ginger, cloves, cinnamon, raisins, fresh mint, walnuts, almonds, pistachio and one vanilla bean. Saute a few more minutes and set aside. Cut the tops of the tomatoes and remove the inside flesh. Fill each tomato with the fruit and nut mixture. Place the top back on the tomato and set aside. In a saucepan, caramelize a little sugar with the orange juice and the scrapings of one vanilla bean. Place the tomatoes in the sauce pan and cook in the oven for 5-7 minutes. Drizzle the tomatoes with the juices several times to give them a nice shiny coating. Remove tomatoes from the saucepan and arrange warm individual plates. Add a scoop of the best vanilla ice cream and garnish with mint and vanilla beans. Serve immediately and ENJOY!!!