Held just once on each voyage, Azamara Club Cruises Best of the Best dinner is sure to go down as one of those magical dining experiences that can only happen at sea.
Land-based dining venues can offer the latest, most sought-after cuisine, served in a variety of ways. Celebrity chefs earn respect with signature eateries that frame their efforts for the entire world to see. They author cookbooks, host television programs and come into our homes a variety of ways.
At sea, much of the same happens across a variety of lines with as many different choices, but are rarely reserved for a select few on each voyage. Recently, cruise lines have added chef-centered experiences which have been well-received but none as exclusive, well-done or appreciated as what we experienced on Azamara Journey.
Hosting just twenty guests, normally those in the top suites on each voyage, Azamara continues its mantra of intense immersive experiences with this exclusive dining event.
The unique menu, created by Azamara Executive Chef Fabio D’Agosta is different each voyage. Featuring a thoughtful, fixed menu, each course is paired with wines from around the globe by Sommelier Pierre Pelletier. Prior to well-executed, synchronized service, both preview the menu with guests prior to raising the curtain on what will be a once-in-a –lifetime dining experience.
Beginning with Caponata alla Palermitana, a blend of sweet and sour eggplant, full of Sicilian flavors, paired with a German Riesling, the event begins. Well-timed, fabulous presentations silence the table, demanding our full attention. Between courses, lively conversation flows naturally as anticipation for what comes next builds.
Service continues with Rissoto Ai Frutti di Mare, a first-rate rendition of the classic favorite, presented in a lobster tail and paired with, get this: a Sauvignon Blanc, La Mayerie from Loire Valley, France. Bam. Frankly, I could have stood up and walked out of the room right then and called the experience a win. But had I done that, I would have missed what, at any other meal, would have been the main attraction which came next.
I chose the Seabass, paired with a crisp California Berzgner Chardonnay. Those who chose the Fillet, a simple yet elegantly presented fork-tender cut, had a traditional Italian Chianti, a gutsy yet appropriate call by Sommelier Pelletier.
Ending the experience came the answer to a question posed by Chef D’Agosta in his opening comments where he strategically told of a surprise dessert creation to be revealed later, when he would emerge from the galley for presentation.
I have been writing about food since 1981 when we owned a little restaurant in Kansas and have never, ever seen a dessert like D’Agosta’s Warm Chocolate Surprise, a creation the name does not do justice to.
Presented on a pastry brushed canvass of chocolate, painted on to the service ware and among assorted fresh berries was what appeared to be a globe of white chocolate. He could have stopped right there and called it a win.
Instead, Chef D’Agosta went around the table, pouring a hot chocolate sauce on top of the white chocolate orb, revealing the tiramisu inside and earning gasps of wonder from all. Thankfully, I managed to keep my wits about me and shoot this short video of that presentation.
A choice of coffee drinks along with a snifter of Grand Mariner, a rose for the ladies and gift of assorted scotch mini’s reminded us of Kirkwall, Scotland, the destination we had been immersed into that day, capped off the experience.
An interesting and slightly sad side note for frequent readers, hero-chef Molly Brandt from sister-line Royal Caribbean’s 150 Central Park dining venue has some competition for the Best Ever At-Sea Dining place in our hearts.