The phrase “runs a tight ship” isn’t applicable anywhere more than in the kitchens of an ocean liner. When you’ve got over two thousand guests to feed, plus a staff of around a thousand or so, a “tight ship” is essential. But also having the right temperament to deal with various needs that might arise is important, especially when you’re dealing with a multicultural staff, special events, nearly a dozen kitchens, and – well, you name it, it’s likely the kitchen staff on the Queen Mary 2 has seen it.
Recently in Europe category
I woke up this morning to the most spectacular sunrise I’ve ever seen. I would have loved to have shared it with you, but it was something like 4 in the morning and I could only stare at it through the curtains. My camera was likely somewhere, but I wasn’t all that keen on dealing with anything electronic at that hour. I just wanted to look at it.
Whenever people ask me “How often do you get back to the states?” they always seem to be taken aback when I say “Never.” It’s not that I’m turning my back on my home country, it’s just that the idea of sitting in a dismal gray airport (with abysmal food choices), waiting in lengthy lines, going through the frenzy of stripping down for security, getting my privates x-rayed ( – yikes!), then sitting in a cramped seat unable to move for thirteen hours, isn’t my idea of fun.
So when the folks at the Queen Mary 2 offered me a trip to compensate for canceling a culinary journey I was to make last year due to the irksome volcano, I jumped at the chance. (Although considering it’s a multi-story boat – I should probably use a different word than “jump.”) Instead of arriving somewhere all crumpled and jet-lagged, I’m looking forward to sleeping horizontally, in an actual bed, and arriving in America as a normal person. Whatever that is.
Due to demand for my Paris and Lausanne Gastronomy Tour, we’re offering a second trip this fall. We’ll begin the week in Paris, exploring chocolate shops, tasting wine, and dining at my favorite tables in Paris. Then we’ll take the high-speed TGV train to Lausanne, Switzerland, to this lovely small city perched above Lake Geneva.
With the historic Lausanne Palace and Spa as our home base, we’ll sample everything from molten cheese fondue to ribbons of air-dried beef..as well as sip lovely regional white wines, which are produced in such small quantities that they rarely make it out of the area. (The exception are the bottles in my suitcase.)
What else will we do?
A Swiss local in Lausanne was the first to tell me about Café Romand, “It’s one of those places where – and how do you say it? – those men who are very pretty, that sometimes dress as women, go. You would like it!”
I’m still trying to figure out what that means because no one’s every called me “pretty”, and my only experience wearing women’s clothing was trying on my mother’s Emilio Pucci pumps (how could I not?) when I was around eight years old.
Les françaises are justifiably proud of their chocolates and chocolatiers, but if you talk to them about Swiss chocolate, many will say – “Oh, Swiss chocolate is very, very good.” Yet when I press them on which particular brands of chocolate are “very good”, they often don’t, or can’t, pin down the specific names* of any.
Folks who have been to Lausanne – French, American, and otherwise – however, always talk in glowing terms about Chocolats Blondel. And indeed, they’re worthy of adulation from people, far and wide, a fact I recently was reminded of.
After my visit to the Vevey market with Chef Stéphane Décotterd, we headed back to Le Pont de Brent, his restaurant located above the lakeside Swiss town of Montreux. While he was laying out the fish for the day, which he had just sourced, I noticed the kitchen was unusually calm for pre-service and I didn’t see anyone in the usual panic that happens in restaurant kitchens just before the customers arrive. The cooks were quietly doing tasks like peeling and slicing vegetables into tiny pieces, rolling leeks around scallops with thin wisps of black truffles in between, and baking off miniature tartlet shells.
Laid out neatly on trays, he showed me the different fish he had, from a kite-sized Turbot to a blue lobster from Brittany, with tiny black eggs stuck in between all the craws and crevasses.
Everyone once in a while – and I could likely count the number of times on one hand – I’ve put something in my mouth that silenced me. Unfortunately for the people around me, it doesn’t happen all that often. But when I was told that there was a special lard made in Nyon, I changed my plans for the morning because something inside me (perhaps my rumbling stomach…) told me that it was something that I just had to check out.
When we pulled up in front of Chez Philou, the windows were blocked by stacked crates of cabbages, no doubt destined for saucisse aux choux fumé, or smoked cabbage sausages, a specialty of the region. But a pile of raw cabbage didn’t really interest me as much as the smoky aromas clouding the windows of the shop and wafting outside whenever a customer went in or came out.