Think Sangiovese, Bordeaux varietals, good value and the joy of traveling in and around Florence / Sienna…
Food, wine and travel writer Cori Solomon (a member of the prestigious International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association & Founder of L.A. Wine Writers) recently returned from a 10-day cruise of Italy and the Greek Isles aboard the Celebrity Reflection, the pride of Celebrity’s fleet. Her accommodation was a spacious, Deluxe Ocean View Veranda Stateroom.
This is a Solstice-class ship. Modern cruising offers a memorable vacation experience for all ages and interests with considerable value. Cori is with us to share her smooth-sailing, cruise highlights.
“Celebrity Reflection® is our newest marvel. She boasts an expanded deck, 72 additional staterooms overall, more seating in the main and specialty restaurants, more sun lounges on the pool deck, and more seats in the theatre.”
“Celebrate the flavorful joys of outdoor grilling in the new Lawn Club Grill. Enjoy more than 20 delicious options in the Main Restaurant. Unwind in your own cabana-style haven, The Alcoves, on the Lawn Club. And check out all the new spa innovations in the enhanced Canyon Ranch SpaClub®.”
“Your vacation time is precious. Time aboard Celebrity Reflection will make the most of it.”
Food, wine and travel writer Cori Solomon (a member of the prestigious International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association & Founder of L.A. Wine Writers) recently returned from a 10-day cruise of Italy and the Greek Isles aboard the Celebrity Reflection, the pride of Celebrity’s fleet. She continues…
The Reflection can accommodate 3,046 guests served by a crew of 1,255.
There is an ambitious wine program aboard the Celebrity Reflection. The ship’s Cellar Master is actually the senior sommelier for Celebrity’s entire fleet. He trains all the other Cellar Masters.
Each Cellar Master adjusts his or her cellar selections to the demographics of the passengers and the countries the ship visits on that particular cruise. If you enjoy wine with meals the best value is one of the beverage packages. There is a tasting seminar offered on the options before you make a commitment. The Cellar Master also hosts a number of fun, interactive wine education events on each cruise.
From Cruise Critic:
With the impressive overall quality of food on board Celebrity Reflection there is little need to spend extra on specialty dining unless you feel like a treat. Even Oceanview, the cheerful buffet venue on Level 14, takes things to a new level with tasty International dishes that belie the restaurant’s casual surroundings.
Celebrity didn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to dining on Reflection, sticking instead with familiar options. In the main dining room passengers can choose from traditional dining (6:15 p.m. for the early seating and 8:45 p.m. for the late) or the more flexible Celebrity Select Dining, which allows them to eat in the main dining room any time between 6 and 10 p.m. Bookings for Select Dining can be made online up to four days before the ship sails or once onboard. Or, like us, you can simply walk-in whenever it suits you. We never had to wait longer than five minutes for a table for two although we did notice a queue on one formal night.
The main dining area, Opus, occupies space on Reflection’s third and fourth decks. It’s an elegant venue, decorated in deep browns and silvers, with bright white tablecloths and crystal as far as the eye can see. The vast space — which accommodates 40 more seats than its counterpart on Celebrity Silhouette — is stunningly designed, though tables are a bit too close together making private conversation difficult (although this can be a good way to meet fellow passengers if you are so inclined).
Menus in Opus offer appetizers, soups and salads, entrees and desserts, and they’re flexible enough to accommodate specific dietary needs. You’ll choose from a variety of options, including favorites like shrimp cocktail, escargot, prime rib, rack of lamb and crème brulee. Food is generally good, with appropriate portion sizes and some surprises on the menu, like the beef Carpaccio or frog legs. Do ask your waiter what they recommend as suggestions are usually spot-on.
Vegetarian and healthier options are identified on the menu, but if you have specific dietary needs (vegan or gluten-free), discuss them with the maitre d’ before your first meal, and ask specific questions about the menu items you select.
Bruno Amato is the new head chef of the popular Paisano’s Italian Restaurant at Pechanga Resort & Casino. A native of the Calabria region of Italy, Chef Amato injects his innate knowledge of traditional Italian fare and flavors to make Paisano’s dishes approachable, contemporary, and authentic to his home country.
Bruno Amato grew up in the 7,000-person town of Nicotera in Calabria, Italy. A popular fishing village, Bruno enjoyed casting ropes and hooks from rocks into the ocean to catch seafood. During his childhood, his mother worked in a neighborhood restaurant kitchen. After school and on weekends, Bruno went to the restaurant to help her. This would be his first taste of culinary life, and he would later develop an affinity for cooking fish. From the dishwashing station, he watched the chefs work frenetically creating their specialties. He continued to assist his mom and when he was 14, decided culinary was the direction he would take his career.
After high school, he enrolled in culinary school, free for all interested students in Italy. Following graduation, he moved to Guestalla, Italy to become a line cook. His subsequent gastronomic tour of Italy lasted 20 years and took him to Ostia, Milan, Rome and other well-known locales, working at some of the top restaurants and resorts in the country.
“I love cooking for people because it gives me the chance to improve myself every day,” said Amato. “When the food goes to each table, I watch the customers’ faces. To see their reactions makes me happy.”
Chef Bruno joins us.
Dean Kim has developed an incredible (and well-deserved) following among the top (and most demanding) restaurants in Orange County as the personable, artisan bread baker creating a superior, boutique product along with unmatched customer service. He’s just moved his 5-year-old bakery into a vastly expanded (4 times as big) new production bread bakery with state-of-the-art equipment and ten ovens. His deck oven is from Italy.
Dean actually has the enviable problem of having more business than he can comfortably handle. Baker Dean tears himself away from the morning bake to bring us up-to-date on the new Orange facility. Yes, he’s always on the rise…
“An artisan baker is a craftsman who works with flour, water and salt rather than clay, stone or paint to create a work of art. And while the basic elements are the same and available to anyone, it’s the personal knowledge, experience and talent of the baker that helps create his own signature artisan breads.”
“OC Baking Company‘s award-winning executive artisan baker Dean Kim has been baking handcrafted breads for many of Southern California’s leading hotels and restaurants for nearly 18 years. He works hand-in-hand with chefs to create artisan breads that complement their meals. Artisan breads, like fine wine and cheese, each have their own aromas, taste and structure that impact the overall taste of the food and wine.”
“OC Baking Company is dedicated to producing “the ultimate in artisan breads” for its customers that are as unique as the meals with which they are serving.”
“The restaurant world is a blend of business and poetry” states renowned restaurateur Piero Selvaggio, who, after over 40 years in the business, has mastered the perfect balance of both. He is one of the true pioneers in bringing the foods of Italy, with style and authenticity, to Los Angeles. Piero has skillfully stewarded successful restaurants in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Las Vegas, Houston and aboard luxury cruise ships.
Piero just returned from Expo Milano in Italy and will share his experience there. He has high praise for the Pavilions of Italy and Spain. The dazzling USA Pavilion, with its emphasis on food, is a star attraction.
“Our theme for the USA Pavilion is American Food 2.0: United to Feed the Planet. Expo Milano 2015 will enable the USA Pavilion to showcase the United States as an innovator not only in the food sector, but also in many aspects of culture, science and business. Feeding ourselves engages a massive infrastructure, advanced technologies, and dynamic systems that touch on just about every aspect of the world we live in. Each step from farm to table reflects a set of values and connections that impact our identities and shape our future.”
“The USA Pavilion is a one-of-a-kind building designed by architect James Biber of Biber Architects in New York. It is a 35,000 square foot space within Expo Milano’s 3.6 million square foot sustainable “smart city.” The building is a multi-level experience that flows with activity from top to bottom, side to side. It includes a massive vertical farm that will be harvested daily. “I’ve drawn inspiration from the straightforward, ‘honest’ agricultural buildings that are part of our nation’s history,” said Biber in a recent interview about the process of creating the USA Pavilion. “It is a very simple building, and when people look at it, they’ll instantly understand exactly how it was made.”
What’s Valentine’s Day without some premium chocolates? Certified Master Chocolatier Amy Jo (Valenza) Pedone of Valenza Chocolatier is with us to satisfy our chocolate craving. She trained in the Pacific Northwest and Italy.
Valenza Chocolatier is an authentic Italian inspired Artisan Chocolate and Confections online and wholesale business based in Orange County at The Hood Kitchen Space in Costa Mesa. Their award-winning gourmet Bonbons, Bars and Confections are handmade from the finest local and Italian imported ingredients paired with the purest single bean origin, fair trade chocolate and no added preservatives.
“Valenza Chocolatier aspires to create a brief escape from “life” with each savory taste of True Amore infused into every decadent creation.”
Celebrity Cruises and their executive chef, John Suley, are always innovating when it comes to dining on Celebrity’s modern fleet of 11 cruise ships. Now the coveted white truffle, “the diamond of the kitchen,” will be featured on very special menus on select Caribbean sailings in late November and early December.
Celebrity acquired two coveted white truffles (weighing 700 grams) at the recent World White Truffle Auction in Grinzane Cavour, Italy. The rare truffles are only available a few months of the year. Chef Suley returns to the show to talk about the mouthwatering dishes he’ll create which will showcase the extraordinary white truffles.
“Chef Suley and his culinary team will use the highly coveted truffles acquired at the auction to create an exclusive dining experience onboard Celebrity Equinox during a 10-night Caribbean cruise departing on Friday, Nov. 21st from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Truffle-themed dinners will be available onboard Celebrity ships for select Caribbean sailings in late November and early December.
Today’s guest host is Executive Chef Steve Samson of Sotto in Los Angeles located just East of Century City. He was previously the high profile executive chef at Piero Selvaggio’s Valentino in Santa Monica. Orange County diners remember him as the opening executive chef at the popular Pizzeria Ortica in Costa Mesa.
Chef Steve was just in Bologna, Italy for a Family celebration. This influenced him to initiate a monthly series featuring dishes of the North. He’s also brining in complimentary Italian wines from the North.
Last Saturday afternoon at UCLA Chef Steve was one of the participating celebrity chefs at L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade culinary benefit. Samson was paired with one of the young cheftestantants from Fox’s MasterChef Jr. series.
Sotto delivers an honest, market-driven menu of regionally-inspired Southern Italian dishes, including fresh housemade pastas and Neapolitan pizza cooked in an artisan wood burning oven. This wood burning oven was built onsite by Neapolitan craftsmen using traditional Old World techniques.
You know executive chef and pizzaiolo Zach Pollack from Sotto in Los Angeles. Orange County listeners remember him as the acclaimed opening pizzaiolo at Pizzaria Ortica. He’s just launched Alimento, his own 40-seat place in Silver Lake.
“While Sotto’s early vision was mostly Southern Italian, Pollack expands his reach here. “It’s not as regionally specific, but more loosely inspired by the different regions of Italy,” says Pollack. “It’s really my interpretation of these dishes, so it makes sense for Los Angeles, a city that doesn’t take itself too seriously.” You’ll find small and large plates, seasonal salads and handmade pastas, sometimes using grains from Pasadena’s Grist & Toll flour mill.” (Credit to Lesley Balla of Zagat).