Sherman's Food Adventures

Carnival Freedom Posh Dining Room Night #4

When I had originally booked this cruise, I didn’t have much intel on Belize. I knew it was South of Mexico, but that was about it. After some Wikipedia, I found out that it used to be British Honduras and hence, their official language is English. I moved onto finding out what we could do with a day there and it was established the best thing to do was to book a tour out to the Mayan ruins of Altun Ha. It was a rather bumpy hour ride out to the ruins, but when we got there, it was well worth it. After another bumpy hour ride (with a van overheating added to the adventure), we made it back to the vessel just in time. That didn’t leave us much time to get to our 4th dinner at Posh.

For my appie, I went for the Braised Ox Tongue which was served on a crostini.  This was prepared properly where the ox tongue was super tender and succulent while still retaining some meatiness.  The braising liquid was flavorful where there was a balanced amount of saltiness and sweetness.  I liked this so much, I asked for another plate!   My son decided on the Cannelloni stuffed with cheese and spinach.  On the menu, the part about the spinach was left out, so once he dug into it, the horrors of greenery was shown on his face.  We ended up eating it and it was alright.  The pasta was a bit soft, but the filling was perfect where the spinach was not overdone.  On top, there was a considerable amount of melted cheese to go with the tangy tomato sauce.

He ended up trading appies with Viv and happily ate it.  Why?  Well, it was an order of Fry Jacks with beans and dipping sauces.  Think fry bread and you get the idea of this dish.  Nothing complex, but done right nonetheless.  It was crispy and warm while the inside was soft and airy.  The tangy dip was a nice compliment as it cut the heaviness of the fry bread.  Since he avoided the spinach, we made him order the Cream of Broccoli as well.  C'mon, cream of anything tastes good right?  In this case yes as he ate it without incident.  It was creamy and lightly seasoned, while not heavy.  As for the broccoli taste, it was kept to a minimum where he didn't even notice it much.  

For his main, he went for his latest obsession, BBQ Ribs with cheesy corn bread and baked beans.  Okay, we all know that these ribs were not the authentic central-Texas BBQ variety.  So let's get that out of the way first.  However, they were tender and fell-off-the-bone.  There was a lack of smokey charring BBQ flavor, but the liberal slather of tangy sweet BBQ sauce ensured there was enough impact.  For myself, I had the Southern Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes and broccoli.  This was actually pretty good with a firmly crunchy exterior.  It wasn't greasy and it was also seasoned enough.  The chicken itself was fairly tender and moist, even the white meat.  However, I would've liked to see them brine it so there would be more penetrating taste.

My daughter decided on the Roasted Beef Tenderloin with polenta.  Since it consisted of only one small piece, she went on to finishing it all.  I gave it a try and there was no mistaking why.  The meat was super soft and tender where it required very little effort to chew.  It was rested properly as the meat juices were still there.  There was a mild rub on the outside, hence the flavors were natural.  The jus did add some saltiness though.  Personally, I would've liked to see it more medium-rare as it wasn't appealing to look at.  Viv gave the Chili Rellano a try and it was stuffed with chicken.  The filling itself was quite good being moist and lightly spiced.  On the other hand, the pepper was a tad underdone, so it was a touch crunchy rather than being tender.

I added the Sausage and Pepper Linguine for good measure and it was probably one of the better dishes.  The linguine was perfect al dente and was coated in a zesty and tangy tomato sauce.  There was just enough of it for impact without drowning the pasta.  There was ample amount of sauce which was a touch peppery with some fennel.  I wasn't exactly hungry due to my main dish of fried chicken, but I ended up finishing the plate.

For dessert, the kid had the Smores Parfait which was layered with chocolate, graham crackers and marshmallow fluff.  Naturally, it was pretty sweet with all of the ingredients involved, however, it tasted like smores and that is all that mattered.  For myself, I had the Blin and Blanc which was like a bread pudding made with cake.  Hence it was pretty rich and filling.  I found the sauce poured on top to be very sweet which in my mind wasn't needed as the dessert was already sweet enough.  For this meal, it was mostly good with a few things that could've been better.  Yet up to this point, the food had been pretty consistent.

Carnival Freedom Posh Dining Room Night #3

The last time we visited Cozumel, it was 5 years ago and we docked away from the Downtown area.  Furthermore, we booked a taxi to take us to the Mayan ruins a little ways out.  Therefore, we really didn't "see" the city portion of Cozumel.  This time around, the pier was right in Downtown and we merely made a right hand turn out of the terminal.  Much like our Mexican cruise last December, the people were friendly, but also very aggressive in trying to sell us something.  Hey, people have to make a living right?  After a great day of sunshine and Margaritas, we settled in for dinner #3.

For starters, my daughter had the Seared Tuna with Romesco vinaigrette, cucumber salad as well as balsamic & parmesan pearls.  Thinly sliced, the tuna couldn't have been more perfectly prepared.  It was only lightly seared on the outside, hence the rest of the fish was rare and buttery.  The spice rub on the outside had a bit of a kick to it.  On top, the balsamic pearls added an appealing sweet tanginess.  My son didn't go far from his meatatarian ways and had the Baked Meatballs in a smoky tomato sauce.  These were lean and meaty while mildly seasoned.  I found the tomato sauce to be tangy and fresh-tasting with only the slightest amount of smoke. 

Viv decided on the Braised Rabbit served in a puff pasty shell.  This was a nice little bite that consisted of hollowed-out puff pastry stuffed with tender rabbit that was in a rich sauce.  It exhibited strong hits of red wine in a reduced sauce with tanginess and a background sweetness.  To top it all off, the pastry was baked properly where it was not undercooked, thus, it was flaky throughout.  For myself, I went for the Tortilla Soup with Braised Chicken.  Unlike the soup I had in San Antonio, this version was zesty and spicy.  There was a nice consistency to the soup where it was smooth and slightly thick.  In addition to the zestiness, there was a pleasant tang too.  

For my main, I decided on the Rosemary Lamb Shank with roasted cauliflower and root veggies.  This was pretty good where the lamb was tender and gelatinous throughout.  I liked that they had removed the bone as it made eating it much easier.  It was dressed in a light curry sauce which was pretty mild in terms of taste and spice.  Loved the copious amount of fresh rosemary as it added a nice woodsiness.  The root veggies were texturally on point by not being overdone.  Viv opted for the Steak Tacos with pico de gallo, cilantro and avocado-arbol chili.  The made-to-order steak was served hot and nicely charred.  Most pieces were tender, except for 2 strips.  Other than that, they were solid tacos.

My son went for the Veal Parmesan atop spaghetti.  This was a rather large piece of veal that was aggressively breaded.  It was good though where the veal was tender and remained moist.  The breading was buttery and crunchy staying that way throughout the meal.  Underneath, the spaghetti was fairly al dente and was tossed in a tangy and slightly sweet tomato sauce.  For my daughter, she had the Seared Tilapia with a caper and parsley butter, succotash and whipped potatoes.  Nicely seared until golden brown, the fish remained moist and flaky.  It was well-flavored by the buttery and slightly salty sauce.  Not sure how whipped potatoes went with this dish, but it was creamy and light nonetheless.

For dessert, I had the Tres Leches Cake with cocoa meringue, chocolate cream and finished with chilled dark chocolate soup.  Okay, I've never had a tres leche cake like this before, but it was good though.  The moist cake was soaked in a chocolaty sweet milk (maybe a touch too sweet) that didn't make it mushy.  I found the meringue on top to be interesting, but it did provide a textural crunch to the soft cake.  Viv decided on the sugar-free Praline Cake with grated meringue and chia seed crumble.  If on one told us this was sugar free, we wouldn't have known.  The cake was uncharacteristically soft and moist for a sugar-free version.  Furthermore, it was just sweet enough.  Once again, a pretty good meal.  Liked how the proteins were prepared this time around.

El Coctelito

Last time we were in Cozumel, we didn't get to check out the town very much as we made our way to the Mayan ruins.  This time, we docked closer to Downtown, so it was an easy walk through the marketplace and then subsequently onto the main thoroughfare.  Originally, we had planned to visit La Choza, but after trying to figure out where we were, it turned out that I had the wrong address.  The kids were pretty hungry, so we didn't feel like walking 8 blocks.  Therefore, we settled on the closest place from where we were standing in El Coctelito.

Viv and I decided that drinks were in order since we had walked all the way from the dock to nearly the end of the strip.  I went for the fruity Mango Margarita while Viv had the classic Lime.  These were blended fairly smooth while being not overly sweet.  The fruit flavour was a tad weak as well as the booze.  It wasn't very strong to say the least.  Since Viv was only thirsty and not super hungry, she shared the Beef Nachos.  These featured fresh tortilla chips topped with strips of steak and plenty of cheese.  As expected, this ate a whole lot more hearty than plain nachos with crunchy chips and fairly tender beef.  They actually didn't finish it and I had to some of it.

For myself I had the Guajillo Sauce Octopus served with rice and veggies.  This was a whole lot better than I expected.  Each little nugget had a tender bite that was just the right amount of chewiness.  There was a definite spice that was both smoky and impactful.  However, it wasn't too spicy, so I could definitely taste the layers of flavor.  Wasn't overly excited with the veggies though.  As for my daughter, she went simple with the kid's menu Chicken Quesadilla.  As you can see, there was nothing super exciting about the presentation.  However, it did the job with a decent amount of cheese and tender chicken tucked inside a soft tortilla.  From the small sampling of the menu, we concluded that although El Coctelito was not exactly the place we would normally dine at when in Mexico, it did the job considering its location.

The Good:
- Awesome water view
- Okay quality of food for the price
- Decent service

The Bad:
- Touristy (but okay for that purpose)
- Drinks were a bit weak

Carnival Freedom Posh Dining Room Night #2

After our first night aboard the Freedom, I was already getting the sense that the food was going to be better than expected.  Sure, I didn't have super high expectations going into it, but I did have minimum requirements.  So far, the first dinner showed that the food wasn't going to be what once was considered, "the McDonald's of cruising".  Our second night was our "Casual Elegant" dinner where lobster would be on the menu.  If my memory serves me right, NCL didn't even offer lobster in the main dining room for the duration of our 7-night cruise.

I started off my meal with the Fried Oysters accompanied by chipotle lime dip.  Although small in portion (hey, you can always order more, it's a cruise!), the 2 oysters were lightly fried, hence being buttery and soft inside.  The breading was crispy and just the right thickness.  What brought this altogether was the creamy and spicy dip.  It gave life to the mildly-briny oysters.  For Viv, she had the Italian Wedding Soup with kale, meatballs, egg, endive and parmesan.  The light chicken broth was not oversalted, unlike many other versions of this soup.  Meaty and lean, the meatballs gave body to the soup while the tender kale florets ate easy.

My son ended up with the Mushroom Cream Soup as a means of satisfying his vegetable quota.  Good try buddy...  We made him eat the broccoli on his main dish...  The soup was indeed creamy and full of woodsy mushoom flavor.  There was actually lots of mushroom which had been diced into small pieces.  Again, the soup was not oversalted, which we enjoyed.  To get my intake of greens, I also added a Baby Spinach Salad on the side.  This was topped with plenty of crumbled blue cheese as well as being dressed in blue cheese.  Hence, the flavors were a touch sharp while creamy throughout.  Loved the walnuts which added a texture.

For our mains, we practically all had the Broiled Maine Lobster with toasted orzo, shrimp, broccoli and citrus gremolata.  Okay, this was another pleasant surprise as the lobster was absolutely perfect.  No joke.  The lobster was barely cooked through, which meant the meat was succulent, buttery and sweet.  This is no small feat as we've been on 10 cruises and this has been executed the best.  On the side, the shrimp didn't take a back seat as they were grilled beautifully being buttery with a cold-water snap.  My daughter didn't do the lobster, opting for the Spaghetti Carbonara instead.  It was a large portion of noodles which were fairly al dente, but a little dry.  It did taste good with a garlicky cheesiness while the bacon crumble added saltiness.  With that being said, we could've done with more saltiness.

To get more of a variety, I added the Slow Cooked Prime Rib with baked potato and broccoli.  The thinly sliced prime rib was medium and sauced with a thick au jus.  Much like the flat-iron steak from the previous night and the tenderloin I had for brunch, the meat was tender and moist.  It was also well-seasoned where I didn't need much in the way of anything else.  So far, the meat quality was impressive and we hadn't even made it to the steakhouse yet.  Our last dish was the Seared Striped Bass with lemon, creamy savoy cabbage and sourdough fried potatoes.  Unlike the mahi mahi, the bass was flaky and moist while being well-seasoned.  The lemon provided a nice acidity.  We weren't enamored with the potatoes though as when the batter got cold, it wasn't that appealing.

For dessert, we shard the Creme Brulee and the Malted Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with warm chocolate sauce.  I thought the custard in the brulee was nicely textured being silky and lightly eggy.  It wasn't too sweet either.  However, the sugar topping was somewhat uneven.  As for the hazelnut cake, it was more of a cross between a ganache and a gelatin.  It tasted good with a nice chocolate start and a hazelnut finish. Other than a few issues here and there, this was yet another solid meal.  Considering that the kitchen has to produce a wide range of dishes for half of the passengers at a time, the execution was more than acceptable.  We went away especially impressed with the lobster.

Carnival Freedom Posh Dining Room Night #1

Heading into the first night, we were scheduled for the early seating at Posh Restaurant.  This is one of 2 main dining rooms aboard the Freedom with Chic being the other main dining room (but for "Your Way Dining").  Unlike any other cruise ship we have been on, we were assigned booth seating which was rather private for the 4 of us and comfortable at the same time.  We were greeted warmly by our waiter, Iradwin and his 2 assistants, Gede and Gefri.  We found them efficient, attentive and responsive to our requests.

For our appetizers, I started with the Maryland Corn Chowder with potatoes, peppers, oregano and cream.  This was served smoking hot and chock full of sweet corn niblets and tender potato nuggets.  I found this to be more similar to a thicker cream of corn (Asian-style) rather than a chowder.  This was not a bad thing though as the soup was lighter and didn't take away our appetite.  Viv went for the Fried Calamari which was served with 2 dips - zesty tomato and lemon aioli.  Although this didn't look like much (weak plating), the squid rings were tender with a chew while coated in a light breading which was crispy.  I enjoyed the lemon aioli as it was tangy and light while the zesty tomato came exactly as advertised with a kick.

My daughter had the Cured Salmon with candied tomato, dill cream, grapes and lemon dressing.  Since it was sugar cured, the salmon was firmer and chewier.  Again, this was not a negative, rather we had to point that out to her as she was expecting smoked salmon texture.  It was mildly sweet with an equal amount of saltiness.  We thought the dill cream added another layer of flavor while the tomato offered up the necessary tang as well as more sweetness.  My son had the classic Shrimp Cocktail with traditional cocktail sauce.  This was pretty straightforward with buttery shrimp that had a cold water snap.   I found the cocktail sauce to have enough horseradish for impact.

Viv ordered the Fried Shrimp accompanied by a tangy sweet and sour sauce and a scallion garlic & shrimp fried rice.  At first, I was skeptical of the dish as we had something similar on Holland America and it was not very good.  This dish, on the other hand, was better since they served the sauce on the side.  As a result, the crispy rice coated shrimp were crunchy and light while not soaked in sauce.  The best part was actually the fried rice as it was nutty and well-seasoned with chewy grains.  For my daughter, she had the Grilled Mahi Mahi with coconut, fresh pineapple and red pepper sauce.  Unfortunately, the fish was a bit overdone, so it turned out to be dry.  Despite this, the sauce was a nice compliment as it was tropical with aromatics and bright flavors.

My son wasn't sick of brisket and decided on the Barbecued Beef Brisket with baked beans and double baked yams.  Although we've had our fair share of authentic smoked central Texas brisket during the week, this one was actually respectable.  It was super tender and moist while lightly smoky.  Sure, it wouldn't beat some of the competition-level BBQ in Texas, but it was delicious nonetheless.  The ball of yams and peppers on the side were good except the peppers didn't seem to go.  For myself, I had one of the standard (offered every meal) dishes on the menu being the Flat-Iron Steak with Bearnaise, baked potato, broccoli and a side of creamed spinach.  I'll admit that I was surprised to see that my steak was cooked a perfect medium-rare.  It was tender, juicy and nicely seasoned.  The creamed spinach was also good where it wasn't cooked to a pulp.

For dessert, we shared their famous Carnival Melting Chocolate Cake for the table.  This large serving was enough for 6 people, let alone 2 adults and 2 kids.  There was a crispy crust on the top and sides while the middle was soft, moist and indeed melting.  Exhibiting plenty of chocolate flavor, the cake wasn't incredibly sweet.  Served on the side was a bevy of vanilla ice cream to eat with the cake.  We also added the Tiramisu for good measure and it was also pretty good.  It sported soft, well-soaked lady fingers and creamy marscapone.  The dessert ate rather sweet and needed just a touch more espresso. For our first ever sit-down meal on a Carnival cruise ship, this was much better than we expected.  Sure, the fish could've been better, but that is not unique to Carnival as it is a hard dish to nail when preparing so many of them.  Good start to the cruise!