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Old December 5th, 2008, 09:00 AM
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Paul Motter Paul Motter is offline
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Last night we had dinner in the Tuscan Grille. It is fully aft on deck five, which is reminiscent of the traditional dining rooms on all other Celebrity ships which are always fully aft with two deck tall full ocean-view windows. This specialty restaurant, $25 per person, features extravagant Italian meat dishes like veal, grilled lamb chops, steaks; or a variety if fish dishes including Chilean Sea Bass and of course pasta from linguine to penne. There was no gnocchi, which surprised me a little.

I recommend that you go to this meal hungry, do not have even a small snack in the afternoon. Not only were the portions extravagantly sized, the staff was also extremely generous if you wanted to try something to help you make up your mind.

The meal starts with an appetizer course, with selections like crab cake, chopped salad, antipasti or buffalo mozzarella with basil and tomato.

The next course included soups, breaded and fried calamari, etc.

My wife opted for the crab cake, which actually came in its own iron pot. It was not cake at all, it was a crab stew immersed in thick and stringy melted mozzarella cheese, with spices and bread crumbs. It was heavenly.

I had the cioppino, which started with a dry pot with large chunks of lobster, a large clam, calamari rings and pieces of sea bass. It was then covered with a delicious seafood broth which was created by boiling lobster shells and inner bits in a tomato base. It was deeply rich in flavor enough to remain unforgettable.

My wife’s Sea Bass came with the skin loosely attached. It had been baked to a crispy confection with peppery spices and olive oil. It was the perfect adjunct to the creamy sea bass underneath. Delicious.

I had the “mixed grill” with a lamb chop, veal, chicken and Italian sausage. All of the food was served almost too hot to eat (always a rare treat on a cruise ship). The grilled food was all ideally completed, with slightly charred outsides to give just the right mount of crunch to the tender insides. The lamb chops were to die for, and when I told th Maitre D’ how much I enjoyed them he brought me two more.

By this time we were just already entirely satiated, but we3 still had to face dessert. When we saw an item called “chocolate fondue” we smirked at the memory we had of another cruise ship where they had a dessert item called “white chocolate fondue with raspberries” that turned out to be more like a vanilla mousse with a couple of berries at the bottom of the dish.

For those of you who didn’t live through the 60s, fondue is a popular Swiss food preparation where you are presented with a hot pot of either cheese or hot oil (for entrees) or meleted chocolate for dessert, and you get a variety of bite-size treats that you dip into the sauce and eat.

After we were assured this was REAL chocolate fondue we naturally could not resist no matter how full we were. Surely enough, a pot of hot, fudgey chocolate arrived along with marshmallows, banana pieces, brownie chunks and pieces of fruit like pineapple. We dipped with pleasure and it was sinfully good.

My wife ordered Gelato, because she was so full, but they brought her three scoops. On top of that, simply because we had asked, they brought each dessert on the menu and put them in front of is, so we just had to have a bite of each one. The mousse desserts with tiny chocolate drops are particularly tasty. I am not sure what these crunchy little chocolate drops are (perhaps a piece of nut or cookie inside), but they put them on many desserts and they are just the right touch.

Afterwards we were too full to do much more than go to bed. The casino is very active on this ship and features three-card poker, craps, 21, roulette, Texas Hold’em, and several slot machines.
Today we have more CruiseMates group activities scheduled. I am giving the crowd a trivia test on the Solstice. As I have mentioned before, the people cruising on this ship all seem to be VERY experienced cruisers. I know believe cruising has reached critical mass where certain cruise lines like Celebrity, Princess and Holland America can live largely off of repeat passengers. These people will never stop cruising, and now that there are so many bargains out there they are cruising even more than before.
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