Food And Wine Cruise Bakes A Luxurious Cake

Just a few days into the Seabourn Food and Wine Cruise, passengers on board Seabourn Sojourn have sailed from Monte Carlo to the French ports of Marseilles and St Tropez.   Today we stopped at Santa Margherita, our first Italian port. As one might expect, pasta played a rather large role in the day’s culinary activities, for some unique and interesting reasons. The day began with a cooking demonstration, included an Italian Aperitif Tasting, paused for a beautiful sunset then continued with the ship’s evening entertainment. Along the way, we baked a cake. Sort of.

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Celebrity Chef Alfio Longo is normally the Executive Chef at Circo New York, a family-run restaurant that opened in 1996 serving upscale Italian fare in a setting reminiscent of old-style European circus tents.   Today, Chef Alfio was center stage in the Grand Salon showroom of Seabourn Sojourn for a Pesto Making Demonstration and Competition, one of the main events on Seabourn’s Food and Wine Cruise.

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Choosing four participants from the audience, Chef Alfio had brought along some interesting techniques to making traditional pesto sauce. Downsizing commercial-size recipes and methods, passenger-competitors learned how to set aside the food processor, making the Basil-based sauce with a simple mortar and pestle.

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Known for maintaining the natural flavors of the best ingredients, Chef Alfio explained the process of making pesto sauce, adding interesting tidbits of information about ingredients (the best part of fresh garlic is on the outer layers, skip the center) while using the freshest available (the Basil for today’s demo came from Santa Margherita minutes before the event).

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Asked at the spur of the moment to judge the end result of the competition, I had a hard time choosing one pesto sauce over another, for a couple reasons.

  • I have never consumed pesto sauce in my life. It’s just one of those food products that never looked good to me.
  • They were all actually quite good.
  • A setup planned in advance, I was secretly told to be sure Chef Alfio lost.

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All in good fun, I picked the winner (after receiving a scowl from Chef Alfio the likes of which I have not seen since working as a part-time high school prep cook and thought it would be a good idea to run the chef’s prized knife collection through the dishwasher) when I did not pick his rendition of the recipe as the winner and am quite frankly ashamed of not trying pesto sauce before. Well, at least this version of it, which Seabourn passengers would see served in the ship’s Colonnade dining venue moments later for lunch.

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The afternoon brought back Sommelier Sebastian Pacheco and Italian Aperitif Tasting. Prior to the interesting event, divided into three different ‘stations’ around Seabourn Sojourn’s top deck Sky Bar, when I thought ‘aperitif’, I thought ‘Campari’; an alcoholic beverage that comes from the infusion of herbs and fruit into alcohol and water. In the United States, it’s mostly an ingredient in something else or a dust collector in the liquor cabinet.

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In Europe, Campari and a number of other Aperitifs are solid winners often turned into a spritz by adding something sparkling.

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Throughout the day, many Seabourn guests tendered back and forth from Santa Margherita for time ashore shopping, exploring on their own or on a guided tour. Others viewed the island from the ship, enjoying their time remotely,  and the thought occurred to me: This is like baking a cake.

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What Seabourn does on a day-to-day basis, without the well planned Food and Wine Cruise content, is spectacular.   As expected of an ultra luxury travel experience, they don’t miss a beat. That’s their standard and they do it well and with great consistency.

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Layering on Celebrity chefs, adding unique culinary experiences and an equal measure of wine learning/tasting/enjoying opportunities, Seabourn has built upon what they already do in an interesting and unique way, probably not possible on most other ships.

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It’s that integration of additional Food and Wine Cruise-specific elements that will probably put this experience way over the top, globally. On a more narrow view, it’s the little things passengers will take home with them that will be remembered. Pesto without a food processor will be one of those. Considering aperitifs as a viable beverage option at home will be another. Already I am hearing others on board remarking “I can’t wait try this at home”; pretty much the most that Seabourn could hope for.

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The night brought standard evening elements of a Seabourn sailing. A talk about the next port of call, live music and entertainment in multiple venues; all parts of the Seabourn experience not mentioned before in this space. Why? Well, that’s the icing on the cake. Stay tuned.


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