When we returned to our cabin after spending the day in Dominica, we found these. . .
and this. . .
And, no, they weren’t from Josh, as many friends and family assumed they were. They were actually from Penny, our travel agent and friend who was traveling with us on the cruise. She sent them to thank me for all the work I put into planning the cruise. We took the champagne to dinner to share, but we ate the strawberries ourselves. They were wonderful!
This is a treat that we were fortunate to see throughout our cruise. Our waiters entertained us all week long, although, you could definitely tell that the waiter on the right was not comfortable with this display of fun at all.
As you might notice, this was formal night (hence the lobster). . .
Josh enjoyed the stuffed mushrooms, but since I’m not a huge fan of mushrooms, he got this one all to himself.
I, on the other hand, ordered the shrimp cocktail, which was pretty standard.
This was the pumpkin soup. I think Josh ordered it but it mist not have been terribly memorable because I don’t remember who even ordered it.
Our friend James ordered the Chile Rellenos and he said it was awesome. He wished they served it every night.
Josh ordered the duck, which looked awesome.
He also ordered Cherries Jubilee with an extra scoop of vanilla ice cream.
I ordered the caramel apple pastry and it left quite a bit to be desired.
I’m not sure who ordered this, but it was the diet strawberry cake.
This was our first night in the dining room. We were still sitting in the harbor in San Juan since we didn’t actually leave port until 10pm, which was very different from any cruise I’ve been on before. It was nice to have the ability to get off the ship and do whatever we wanted to do all day after checking in and dropping our luggage off but Josh and I didn’t get off the ship after we got on. It was too hot and we just wanted to explore the ship and see our home for the next 7 days. This was a very good night in the dining room and we got to eat with the family that was traveling with us. My dad’s cousin, his wife, my aunt and her sister-in-law all requested early dining and my parents, Josh and I requested late dining, so we weren’t able to eat together for the rest of the cruise.
Day 1 (Open Seating) Menu:
For an appetizer, I ordered Fried Chicken Tenders, Marinated Cucumbers and Lettuce served with a Zesty Honey Mustard Sauce. It actually came with 3 chicken tenders but I forgot to take a picture before I started eating. Oops! These were some of the best chicken tenders that I’ve ever had. The "salad" was awesome and came with dry roasted peanuts that made it incredible and the honey mustard sauce was perfect. Couldn’t have been better!
Josh’s entree was the Indian Vegetarian Dinner. He’s a huge fan of Indian food and was very excited to see that the head chef on this ship was from India. Unfortunately, he didn’t get as lucky as he was on the last cruise we went on, where they had an Indian option on the menu every night, but he was very happy with what he got for dinner this night. I thought it was comical that the menu called the Paneer cottage cheese instead of Paneer. I got to taste his meal and I thought it was very good.
For my entree, I ordered the Grilled Flat Iron Steak with Mac & Cheese and creamed peas. The peas and steak were wonderful but the mac and cheese kind of lacked cheese.
Day 1 (Open Seating) Dessert Menu:
For dessert, Josh got something that I had been looking forward to since we booked this Carnival cruise. The Warm Chocolate Melting Cake. Warm Chocolate Melting Cake is the ultimate dessert for the chocolate lover. It has a molten center and is served with one scoop of vanilla ice cream (which we all increased to two scoops after the first time we tried it). It’s incredibly rich and really needs two scoops of ice cream to be edible for the average person. I, on the other hand, could probably eat this with no ice cream at all. It’s that good!!!
I decided to hold off on the Melting Cake for the first night and ended up ordering the Black Forest Gateau, which was good, but I should have gotten the Melting Cake.
Our last stop in NYC before grabbing our luggage and heading for Laguardia was Famous Original Ray’s Pizzeria on Lexington Avenue. We had visited here on our first day in the city too, but wanted to grab another slice before heading home. On the first trip, we both had the sausage and pepperoni slice, but this time, I tried the Ziti and Meat Sauce slice and Josh went with the Sausage and Pepperoni again. I have to say, I prefer the sausage and pepperoni. The ziti pizza is kind of a novelty and I’m sure some people would love it, but it was just too much starch for me. I LOVE thin cruse pizza and this one just over-did the bread for me. It was still good, but definitely filled me up faster than I would have liked.
Another stop on our last day in NYC was Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner building. This building also houses many retail stores as well as a Whole Foods in the basement. We visited the Whole Foods but it was close to lunchtime and it was mass chaos in there, so we went ahead and went upstairs to Bouchon.
Bouchon Bakery was founded by famous chef Thomas Keller (of French Laundry fame) and has locations in Yountville, New York and Las Vegas.
The TKO cookie was one of Josh’s choices. It is Bouchon’s version of the Oreo cookie and was very good.
I chose the Coffee Cake. It was delightful and buttery.
The chocolate tart was my second choice. It wasn’t as good as the chocolate tart from Perilla the night before, but I brought it home with me and ate it cold, from the fridge the night after we got home and it was very good then. It was made with a darker chocolate than Perilla’s tart.
Josh’s second choice at Bouchon was the Maple-Bacon Brioche. I know, I know. . . you’re thinking, "bacon on a pastry. . . gross" but it was actually very good. People who have talked about VooDoo doughnuts in Portland have compared their maple bacon doughnut to bacon and pancakes and I would definitely use that comparison here. It was flaky and very good as we peeled the layers off to enjoy.
Josh and I went to Rockefeller Center on our last morning and visited Top of the Rock Observation Deck. It is relatively close to the Empire State Building and people have said that the views are better at Top of the Rock, so we figured that we’d try it out. People were right. The views were amazing.
After we came back down to reality, we were hungry, so we stopped at the Ben & Jerry’s at 30 Rockefeller Plaza (anyone who watches the show 30 Rock will understand). Lucky for us, this Ben & Jerry’s was one that actually carries Elton John’s signature flavor that I have been dying to try out since it came out last year. I was jealous that it was only being distributed in the Northeast because it sounded awesome. We ordered a scoop of Goodbye Yellow Brickle Road (which was apparently only supposed to be available in the Vermont Scoop Shops from July 18th through July 25th, 2008, but had apparently made an appearance in NYC). It’s chocolate ice cream, peanut butter cookie dough, butter brickle and white chocolate chunks. It was delicious. I only wish it was more widely available. We also got a scoop of Triple Caramel Chunk (but you can’t see it in the pictures). Both flavors were great, but the Goodbye Yellow Brickle Road was superb.
For those of you who are familiar with the Bravo Network’s reality show, Top Chef, you may recognize Perilla. It is owned and run by Season One’s winner, Harold. We actually saw Harold walking out of Perilla just after we were seated, so it was unfortunate that Harold wasn’t the one cooking our meal for us, but his employees did a fine job of taking over in his absence.
Sadly, this was another of the restaurants that I was uncomfortable whipping out the camera for, but the food was amazing, none the less. We splurged on this meal and ordered 3 appetizers between us. I ordered the crispy calamari and watercress salad with mint, peanuts and chili-lime vinaigrette (which was probably the best salad I’ve had in my life). Josh ordered the seared diver sea scallops with hearts of palm, xo sauce, daikon & spicy arugula puree (which he said was also amazing – best scallops ever) and we shared the spicy duck meatballs with mint cavatelli, water spinach and a quail egg (I thought they were good, but not amazing).
For an entree, I ordered the special of the night, Colorado rack of lamb and Josh ordered the grilled prime hanger steak with creamed spinach, red shallot puree and natural jus. Both were excellent, but Josh’s hanger steak was not as good as mine from JoJo.
We both ordered dessert and I was especially pleased with my choice. I ordered the warm chocolate tart with dulce de leche sauce and vanilla ice cream and Josh ordered a trio of ice creams (banana, vanilla and coffee, I believe). The chocolate tart was seriously the best chocolate tart I have ever tasted in my life. It melted in your mouth and left you craving more. I really wish I had the guts to pull out the camera, because it was definitely worth it. It was a very simple presentation, but it really stood on its own and didn’t need a lot of fuss on the plate. Perilla was wonderful!
Our last stop on Scott’s Pizza Tour was Patricia’s Pizza & Pasta in the Bronx. It was quite a drive to get there, but we were greeted with pizza delivered right to the bus. At Patricia’s they have both a brick oven and a gas oven and we were able to try half of a slice of each kind of pizza. Both were good, but I still prefer Luzzo’s and Lombardi’s over the others. It was awesome to be able to travel to a location outside of Manhattan for our last stop. I know we wouldn’t have made it off of Manhattan if it hadn’t been for the Pizza Tour.
Thanks so much Scott for an awesome tour and amazing pizza. You’ve got a good thing going here and I hope you have continued success!!!
The second stop on Scott’s Pizza Tour is one that will live in my heart (and stomach) forever. Luzzo’s Ristorante Italiano is hands down, the best pizza I’ve ever had (and I’ve had a lot of pizza). The owner, Michele is from Naples, as is a large number of his staff, so they know what pizza is supposed to taste like. They use real buffalo mozzarella (for those of you who don’t know, this cheese actually comes from Asian water buffalo milk – believe it or not) which has a higher butter-fat content than cow’s milk mozzarella and it really makes the pizza light and buttery. One of the words used to describe this pizza was "creamy" and it was definitely that.
Luzzo’s is in a building that used to be a bakery and has a brick oven fired by wood. The whole pizzeria has a faint smell of campfire, but the pizza is other-worldly.
Josh and I actually ended up heading back to Luzzo’s right after we finished the Pizza Tour to order a small pizza. It was equally amazing the second time around. Although Luzzo’s has only been around for 5 years, Michele and his pizzaiolos have perfected the art of pizza in a town known for it’s pizza.
Ah, Lombardi’s Pizza. . . the first stop on the most incredible tour in all of New York City – Scott’s Pizza Tour. For those of you who are not familiar with Lombardi’s, let me fill you in on a little bit of American pizza history. Lombardi’s was opened in 1905 by Gennaro Lombardi and was officially the first American pizzeria. He first opened the original location as a grocery store in 1897 after landing in America in 1895. Genarro began selling traditional Neapolitan pizzas from the grocery store and when the pizza sales out-sold the grocery sales, he decided to focus his business completely on the pizza. Over 100 years later, Lombardi’s is still going strong in it’s new location, just a few blocks from the original (they had to move because the #6 subway line ran right under the original location and the subway vibrations were loosening the bricks in the coal-fired brick oven). They moved the original brick oven to the new location, so the pizzas people are getting at Lombardi’s today are the same pizzas that Genarro Lombardi was serving in 1905.
Lombardi’s pizza was spectacular. You definitely can’t get this kind of pizza here in Kansas. . . at least not that I have been able to find. If we could, I would be in big trouble. The crust was perfectly done and it had just the right amount of cows-milk mozzarella and fresh basil on top. To die for!
Now, for Scott’s Pizza Tour. Scott is a self-proclaimed pizza expert and has spent the last 11 months guiding pizza lovers through America’s pizza birthplace. Scott is very knowledgeable and keeps people entertained for the entire tour. The tour that Josh and I took included a big yellow school bus dubbed "The Pizza Bus" that took us all over Manhattan and then to the Bronx for pizza tasting at 4 different pizzerias. Posts on the other pizzerias that we visited will be appearing in the next few days. Josh and I would absolutely recommend Scott’s Pizza Tour, whether you do the walking tour around Little Italy or you do the pizza bus tour all over the city. It was the best 4.5 hours that we spent in New York and who doesn’t love pizza?
The next stop on Day #2 was the famous Katz’s Deli. You’ll recognize it from the movie When Harry Met Sally. It’s famous for being the location for the infamous fake orgasm scene between Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal. They even have a sign letting you know which table the actors were sitting at when they filmed that scene.
Josh chose Katz’s because he fell in love with the pastrami when his friend Leo took him there on a visit a few years ago. I don’t think I have ever had a pastrami sandwich before this day and I have to say, it was well worth the wait. This stuff is awesome! What you see on the plate above is half of a pastrami on rye and half of a pastrami on country white. Katz’s keeps it very simple and they only put a bit of mustard on the sandwiches. They were incredible, but they should have been for $15 per sandwich with no sides except the pickles!
The pickles that they serve with every sandwich are homemade at the deli and they offer three different kinds. They were different than any pickle I had ever tasted before and they were wonderful.
Josh was also a fan of the Celery soda at Katz’s. I thought it would be weird, but it actually does taste like celery and it’s made right there in NYC. Katz’s is a great experience and I was even able to keep my claustrophobia in check despite the incredible number of people in that place. I couldn’t believe how many people could fit into that building and be completely content in eating. There was definitely good reason for the lines and crowds. Good stuff!