Visiting St Tropez this time of year brings a serene scene and a nearly silent harbor, the likes of which we have not experienced before. “It’s the end of the season, “ Seabourn Sojourn Captain Karlo Buer told me at dinner last night. “Come in the summer and it’s a whole different scene; the place is packed with ships of all sizes,” he added as we enjoyed a wonderful dinner designed by celebrity chef Patrice Olivon. The honor of being invited to the Captain’s Table for dinner would have made a nice end to any day at sea. But there was more to come.
We began late morning with a cooking demonstration by Chef Patrice, once a chef at the White House, and full of stories about that part of his life. Held in the ship’s Grand Salon showroom, Olivon showed us how to make Hillary Clinton’s Favorite B.L.T., a creation he came up with when White House chefs had “run out of ideas for chicken,” initially the only thing she would eat.
Part of a new wave of classically trained chefs taking cooking to exciting and new levels, content of Chef Patrice’s hour-long event could have been rather heady. Applying classic techniques the audience would struggle to master at home to everyday menu items (like a B.L.T sandwich) might have been difficult to grasp.
But the former Iron Chef America contestant made it interesting and fun, filling the time required for ingredients to cook or the audience to taste his creations with personal stories and anecdotes of his time at the White House.
Frankly, there were moments when I think the audience was more interested those White House stories that filled time (there is something about visualizing former-President Clinton walking around the White House in boxers that is simply captivating) than the advanced techniques Chef Patrice was making look easy, as only a well-versed culinary professional can.
Lingering to answer questions from the audience after the presentation, Chef Patrice engaged passengers personally, sharing his vast knowledge by breaking down otherwise complex culinary topics.
But bringing knowledge of food and wine to us in a fun, easy-to-understand way seems to be a very nice pattern we are settling into on this first-ever Seabourn Food and Wine cruise. Further proof came later in the day at the first session of a three-part Wine Tasting Series.
Held in what might be called the alternative-dining venue on another ship, Seabourn Sojourn’s Restaurant 2 provided the intimate setting for guest Sommelier Sebastian Pacheco to begin. With a first flight of ten wines, representative of France’s Chablis, Sancerre and Bordeaux regions, one glance into the room made it perfectly clear: this was going to be serious business.
On other ships, we have done wine tastings before, sampling up to four different wines, about all a sommelier can get through in a reasonable amount of time with a hundred participants. Here, with just 16 wine lovers in attendance and Sommelier Sebastian’s fun way of making normally-subdued events fun, the group would cover a lot more ground and walk away with a deep understanding of many wines representative of France.
Future sessions would cover Italian wines (especially appropriate since our 11-day sailing would end in Italy) and Champagnes, fortified and dessert wines and others. In the end, the Seabourn Wine Tasting Series would cover more than 32 wines, earn each participant a certificate and wine-themed gift.
Before, between and after those two interesting events was St Tropez, the French Rivera resort where tourists can find an authentic French experience and maybe a celebrity or two. Speedy tender service from Seabourn Sojourn took passengers back and forth all day, enabling us to go ashore and enjoy the port of call too.
In other words, the Seabourn Food And Wine Cruise is not like a seminar at sea where topic content is concentrated on a sea day when no one would go ashore anyway. Carefully timed and scheduled, the Food and Wine events complement the ports, if not enhancing our appreciation of them. This will probably prove to be a defining characteristic of this themed sailing that other themed cruise promoters and operators will try to emulate. If they can.
As mentioned, dinner at the Captain’s Table was a menu designed by guest Chef Olivon. That we had come to know him earlier in the day at his cooking demonstration made the experience all the better. I watched as Chef Olivon went from table to table in the dining room, talking with each about what was to come at the beginning of the meal.
Visiting our table throughout the meal, Sommelier Pacheco was there to introduce the wines we would be enjoying. Somehow, what he had to say meant more after session one of the Wine Tasting Series earlier in the day. Had I shut my eyes at the end of that dining event, the day would be remembered as a great experience, well thought out and executed. But there was more.
Returning to my suite, I first found a letter on the bed from Guest Services Manager Colleen Ellis along with a single rose. “We know that sometimes small things, which could be improved, are simply not reported,” asking us to note any small things we would like to have taken care of. Now remember, this is day two of an 11-day sailing and the ship’s management is not putting out fires but asking for feedback right now, when they can do something about whatever little thing might not be quite right. Pretty impressive.
That too might have made a great end to a wonderful day. But moving further into the suite, a little culinary creation of fresh berries in (some kind of wonderful) sauce and a whirly-twirly whipped up coffee flavored shot of some other amazing something had been left in my makeshift work area, again capping a second wonderful day.
Up next: Santa Margherita, another cooking demonstration and a look at some standard features of a Seabourn cruise that are integrating very well with our Food and Wine content. Stay tuned.
Come Along With Us On The Seabourn Food & Wine Cruise
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- Seabourn Food And Wine Cruise Sails Away
- Food and Wine Cruise Visits Marseilles, Meets The Neighbors
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