When things are difficult, we yearn for comfort. As we neared the end of the cruise and tensions were raising due to the many uncertainties, the Chef and his staff consistently soothed us with pastries and afternoon teas. It felt like my absolute duty to taste-test the offerings. Research, you understand.
Warning: items shown in this blog post have been consumed. Discretion is advised.
Each night for the entire cruise, we returned from dinner to a small pastry or sweet of some kind. Often we were too full and too tired to eat it, but it was such a nice little thing to return to the room, bed turned down, towels refreshed, room tidied, and two little night nibbles. One evening in particular there appeared on our freshly turned down bed, two perfectly lovely little boxes decorated with a likeness of French author, Marcel Proust. Each contained one of his favourite small, shell shaped cakes known as ‘madeleines’.
It seemed only polite to sample the many breads, pastries and croissant freshly baked for breakfast each morning. I remained restrained throughout, but carefully worked my way through, the flakey fruit pastries, the croissant and the many varieties of bread that were beautifully displayed. I regularly returned to favourites like croissant and grainy bread. Mostly I had a bowl of fruit and a piece or two of cheese, followed by a pastry or piece of bread…delicious…with butter. If that sounds sinful, guilty as charged.
For lunch and dinner there was also bread but often I saved myself for a little dessert. One of the best things about desserts were the very small servings. Could this be the secret to how French women stay so slim? One could taste and enjoy without completely throwing caution to the wind. Or when one felt compelled, try two or three things…because they were so very tiny…not me of course…but I heard stories…
My two favourite meals were a confit duck pie, and vegetables on polenta. Most meals were very good, even with me having to dodge onion in things, but these two were outstanding, comfort food dishes, while being a bit gourmet as well.
For the first half of the cruise I am sorry to say I purposely avoided the afternoon teas. There was so much good food at meal times and then there was the whole ‘will my pants fit me in another three weeks?’ issue. I thought discretion was called for. However. I made up for it the last week or so when they started doing themed teas…
Parisian classics – the tiny one dipped in chocolate is a small madeleine…the round one to the left was my favourite ‘cookie’, a crisp buttery morsel, but one was never enough, the little tiny ‘loaf’ shaped cake was almond.
French Regional Classics –tiny donuts in sugar, an almond bread filled with lemon curd, and an orange flavoured glutinous mouthful to the right
Choux and Mille Feuille–choux pastry filled with custard, and crispy layered pastry, likewise filled with custard
Macarons–classic meringue shells with pistachio, chocolate or vanilla cream filling
And Crêpes Suzette, so tender and sweet, it was comfort on a plate.
Oo lala. So fancy.
For those who are partial to savoury tea treats, there was a ‘pata negra’ tasting (Spanish ham, named for the hoof colour of the pigs from which it is made), caviar tasting, and often tiny little toasted French sandwiches.
Creme Caramel is always a favourite of mine and this was no exception. The photo doesn’t look so attractive, but the flavour was delicious. Also, a favourite was the lemon tart. So clean, crisp and just sweet enough. This came in two forms, a single serving tart with meringue topping, and a simple tart with no topping. I preferred the simple tart but somehow missed getting a good photo of it…probably ate it too fast.
I also would not refuse this almond and nut tart if someone sat it in front of me.
The pièce de résistance, however, was the chocolate tart. It really was perfection. The filling was rich and velvety, the pastry crisp and light. Merveilleux. (I learned the French word for ‘marvellous’ just so I could complement the chef)
Food and wine wasn’t the most important reason we chose this trip, but it was certainly a major contributor to our enjoyment. And too much of a good thing can be wonderful, n’est-ce pas?