Episode 170 – Sometimes It’s Cheesy

January 20, 2022. 82°F/28°C

#myvikingstory

It’s World Cheese Lovers Day! Naturally, no food theme can go unacknowledged by Executive Chef Thomas, so today’s food pictures could be a bit cheesy.

But before looking at food, some of our sea day activities:

We don’t really take part in bridge, crafts, mahjong, bible studies, early morning stretch classes, or even team trivia, but we do manage to stay busy and active. We enjoy “walking the deck” for miles (literally), going to the gym (well, Ted anyway), and attending the many talks and demonstrations offered. If we’ve had a shore day, Ted needs at least the following day to edit and archive photos. Of course, we need to ensure there is plenty of time for lingering over fancy coffees, staring out at the ocean, and socializing with other passengers – as well as getting to know our wonderful crew members better.

I took in a demo and a lecture today. Viking’s Corporate Pastry Chef, Chef Alessio Piantanida, side by side with our ship’s Pastry Chef Patrick were our hosts for a morning demonstration that included how to make Vegan & Gluten-free Pistachio Cheesecake. I guess that’s “almost” cheese-themed, although there was absolutely no cheese harmed in its making – just a lot of crushed pistachios, boiled cashews, and puréed coconut.

Top: the theater set-up for our cooking demo.
Centre: Chef Patrick (left) and Chef Alessio (right) explaining the items they’ll demo. Bottom: Chef Patrick smoothing the “cheesecake” filling. It will be tonight’s featured vegan dessert.

The chefs have the neatest tools, including a “thermal mixer” to simultaneously heat and mix the nutmeats, brown sugar, maple syrup and cocoa butter into a beautifully textured press-in no-bake crust mixture. As we move from port to port, the type of nuts used will change – even coffee beans being incorporated at times! Chef Alessio mentioned that he is a huge fan of cocoa butter, even for sautéeing meats, since it has a very high smoke point.

More interesting to me was the demonstration of mixing and laminating the double-coloured croissant dough actually used for the many flavours of croissants and the chocolate brioche served at every breakfast. The croissants made daily aboard the Star rank with some of the flakiest I’ve eaten. My biggest “aha” in the croissant process was the use of honey, which caramelizes during baking and gives the finished pastry a lovely colour. Although the dough COULD be mixed by hand, the ship’s bakery has several “plane mixers” to do the job more efficiently.

1. Adding yeast to the croissant dough ingredients. the plane mixer is the red appliance in the centre of the table.
2. Rolling out the rested croissant dough after “convincing” it to stay on the pastry board.
3. Scoring the layer of chocolate brioche dough being layered onto the croissant dough.
4. Rolled chocolate brioche, which will need to rise naturally at room temperature, since using a proofing oven would make the butter leak out of the dough.

Every day on the Star, around 200 flaky pastries are made just for breakfast (plus all the other daily cakes, breads, desserts, cookies……) All breads are served within 45 minutes of baking, with everything consumed on board baked fresh from scratch each day.

Anything not “exposed” on the line (i.e. not kept refrigerated) can be offered to the crew. Foods (not just baking) that have been in the open air must, according to food safety regulations, be disposed of after 4 hours. I’ll try to remember to ask Executive Chef Thomas about that process. Bottom line: eat more chocolate croissants to save the environment!

I loved some of the terms used. For example, after the butter-laminated dough has rested, it needs to be thinned into a sheet in order to be shaped into pastries. As opposed to simply rolling the croissant dough and potentially “squashing” the butter out of the lauers, Chef used his rolling pin to first “convince” the dough to stretch by smacking it repeatedly before rolling it. “Convinced”, indeed!

There’s live music everywhere on this ship, but generally it starts around 3:30 in the Wintergarden, Explorer’s Lounge, and Atrium and eventually ends with a couple of late night sets by the band and vocal duo around midnight in the Torshavn Bar. Today, however, we had the additional sea day treat of the Viking Band performing on the Pool Deck during lunch, decked out in South Pacific floral shirts.

I thought London (on drums) with his ponytail and shades particularly epitomized the South Pacific look. Anna-Lyn, of course, is always stunning.

Back to National Cheese Lovers Day. Our lunch menu featured cheesy quesadillas and nachos, two of our favourite comfort foods.

Beef chili nachos & Buffalo chicken nachos, both with extra jalapeños, plus shredded pork quesadillas.
Out of sight, a Corona with lime and a Bloody Mary
… and we SHARED that plate!

Later in the afternoon, after a short siesta (AKA food coma) for me, while Ted did his 3 miles of power walking, I attended Dr. Bradley’s second talk, entitled “Unique Quilts, An Ethnic Art Form”. I thoroughly enjoy her presentations, especially as they are supplemented with stunningly gorgeous visuals. Until today, when I thought about quilts, what came to mind was the beautiful handwork of the local (to us in Ontario) Mennonite communities, cozy cottage bedrooms, and blankets for baby bassinets. After today’s talk I have a much greater appreciation for the artistry inherent in quilt-making, as well as the reasons that varied communities of women – and sometimes men – created their quilts, whether that be personal necessity or economic advancement.

There was a huge difference in the design “rules” (or lack thereof) in the three kinds of American quilts on which Dr. Bradley focussed.

Quilts made by the African-American women of Gee’s Bend (Boykin Alabama), most of whom are descendants of the slaves of the Pettiway Plantation, started out as necessary bed coverings, mattresses, and wall insulation. They were fashioned from scraps of fabric and worn-out clothes, and are completely unique and occasionally almost free-form.

Gee’s Bend Quilts. L: Housetop R: Housetop Half-Log Cabin variation

Quilts made by the Amish of Lancaster County Pennsylvania for personal use incorporated dark colours and traditional fairly geometric designs so as not to be too showy or “prideful”,as exemplified in the quilt top left below. The top right quilt reverses to a less “showy” plain green, which really shows off the intricate stitching pattern. Of course, they also create brighter patterned quilts for sale, as a way to supplement family incomes, like the 2 examples on the bottom.

Hawaiian quilts were a complete revelation to me. Rather than following the traditional designs taught to the islanders by missionaries, Hawaiian quilters developed their own incredibly ornate version. If you’ve ever made a paper snowflake, imagine taking an 80-100 inch (200-250 cm) square piece of fabric, and folding it into triangles to create 8 sections, and then cutting into it to create your design. Now imagine unfolding that fabric! Then appliqué either the “snowflake” or the cutouts onto a second piece of fabric in a contrasting colour. Now quilt it! No wonder each quilt can take 3-4 YEARS to complete, and sell for up to $10,000 USD.

Dinner in the World Café was a cheese buffet, but we were pleasantly surprised to be invited to join Dr. Bradley and her husband for dinner, so we ate instead in the main restaurant (after enjoying King’s guitar set in the lounge) where the ambience and table service are much more conducive to conversation. Linda and Mike – he’s an ex-Marine, navigator, sailor, and scuba-diving instructor who also lectures on board – are accomplished storytellers, which makes them first-rate dinner companions (as are those we’re dining with tomorrow – you know who you are!)

Remember that giant yellowfin tuna in yesterday’s blog? On the left is the portion that I ate tonight, garnished with avocado salsa and enhanced with wasabi and soy sauce. Ted’s dinner was a juicy papaya-stuffed chicken breast with crunchy coconut breading. Both were delicious.

Two more sea days before we reach Costa Rica. The ocean has behaved itself by being perfectly calm. Here’s hoping it stays that way!

6 comments

  1. Hmmmm, I wonder why they invited you to join them! Oh, they are lucky to have dinner with such interesting people. Picture of quilt I made for Carolyn is following. How nice that you are cocooned with such interesting …

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    • Indeed, we often feel as if perhaps we’re in an alternate reality and don’t really belong here, because there are just SO many interesting and accomplished people aboard- not just the speakers, but also the passengers!

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  2. Loved your blog today. Hoping to give the cooking part to my husband who loves to cook and bake. Do they offer cooking lessons often, free ones that is.

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    • Free demos every couple of weeks on the world cruise. Hands-on actual “classes” for max 10 people are not being offered during the pandemic, but are not free. If I remember correctly, they were around $90USD for 4 hours incl eating what was made.

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