Day 50 – Cabo Frio, Brazil – Find Insignia on CruiseMapper
We interrupt this travelogue to … make you hungry.
Perhaps the most-asked questions Partout has received relate to the food on our around-the-world adventure In answer, we invite you to join us for one day in food on Insignia, which – along with its sister Oceania ships – claims to serve The Finest Cuisine at Sea (yes, capitalized).
This edition will be somewhat of a composite in the sense that we did not take every single photo on the same day, but the sequence and selections are typical of a day aboard Insignia.
So, please, take a seat and enjoy.
There actually are many places where food can be eaten aboard Insignia, but we consider only five of them to be actual restaurants: the two “specialty” restaurants (one Italian, one a steak house) with reservations-only limited seating; a “grand” white-tablecloth dining room in the tradition of grand European hotel dining; a casual-dress buffet with both indoor and outdoor seating; and an even more casual-dress poolside grill. All have water views.
The casual Terrace Café is where our days start, on the open deck when weather permits or in the dining room below when it does not.
In addition to these mealtime options, there is a coffee house for on-demand barista drinks, a smoothie bar attached to the poolside grill and an afternoon Tea Time (yes, capitalized) served in a multipurpose lounge that also hosts activities ranging from Crazy Golf Putting and Coffee Chat & Needlepoint to pre-dinner dancing and late-night shows. This is a taste of the Tea Time offerings on Valentine’s Day. Nothing but chocolate was served.
No food venue except (free) room service is open 24/7, and servers dish all the food virtually everywhere. Perhaps this accounts for the general absence of plates heaped with food that goes half-eaten?
But we digress.
The breakfast buffet probably contains everything anyone eats for breakfast if you count the rotating daily specials like Benedicts of every variety and shakshuka.
Louis and Doris are creatures of breakfast habit so we both pretty much eat what we do at home, reserving our calorie indulgences for later in the day. Louis will have the occasional croissant, but we typically skip the sticky buns and pastries, which are varied and heavenly.
Doris is happy to enjoy her usual cottage cheese and fresh fruit, which leans heavily on local crops and is always varied and abundant, or oatmeal topped with berries. About once a week, she will have a made-to-order omelet cooked by our towering omelet chef from Jamaica, and she rarely (okay, never) passes up the huevos ranchero special seen below.
Louis has changed up his morning plate somewhat more, often taking fresh lox or herring with his fruit and toast. He has also acquired a taste for congee, a Chinese hot cereal of rice and chicken. At the urging of one of the Philippina servers, he adds a hard-boiled egg to his congee and eats it Philippino-style.
The Grand Dining Room also serves a complete range of breakfast option but takes too much time for our move-‘em-out taste. Besides, who needs someone to lay a napkin on your lap at breakfast? The specialty restaurants serve only dinner.
“The Grand,” as Insigniaites call the main dining room, is also a bit stuffy and slow for our lunch tastes, and we always prefer to dine al fresco when the weather allows so we generally return for lunch to the Terraces or Waves, the outdoor venue near the pool.
Again, we tend to lunch with an eye to saving caloric intake for still later in the day (dinner!). This means we usually have a cup of soup and a salad. Soups change daily and are varied (from tom yum talay to mulligatawny with stops in between) and delicious. There is always a range of salad options, but we admit to being rather hooked on the Caesar bar.
One of Oceania’s claims to food fame is its Aquamar spa menu, which provides vegetarian options at every meal in every venue, poke bowls at Waves and a daily “power bowl” of whole grains and other Mediterranean ingredients. We occasionally opt for a bowl, usually over salad greens to give it more volume (i.e., keep us from getting hungry again too soon). Diners choose the ingredients and quantity they want, and the server puts the bowl together.
Much more than breakfast, lunch poses temptations. There is a roasted joint of meat every day, maybe a whole roast turkey (a la Thanksgiving) or a leg of lamb or veal or this staggering Roast Steamship (aka, baron of beef), a throwback to the days of steam ocean crossings when the cut was intended to feed passengers by the hundred.
For those grossed out by the carnivorous excess, there is a pasta bar where the pasta of the day is cooked to order (can’t eat garlic? no problem! anything can be customized), maybe some ethnic offering like made-to-order burritos or ho-hum shrimp or lobster (or both) grilled to order. Etc.
Not infrequently, we spy something alluring on our way to or from the soup and salad stations, but we try to succumb to temptation no more than half the time. The day the chef of the Italian specialty restaurant was whipping out fresh pasta in the Terraces Café and then finishing it to taste was one of those succumb-worthy days. Louis opted for butter, garlic and a sprinkling of capers.
More problematic than the meal temptations are the dessert temptations, especially the ice cream station. Insignia has introduced us to a San Francisco ice creamery named Humphry Slocombe that makes an astonishing array of heretofore unknown flavors (e.g., “breakfast snack” of bourbon ice cream with cornflakes – don’t snicker until you have tried it). Beyond Humphry is an array of ice creams and sorbets made on the ship. Don’t get us started on the cocoa sorbet.
IF (big if) we resist the ice cream temptations, the cheese platter is laying in wait. The cheeses are all brought in from France, as is the flour with which the baguettes are baked. The choices change daily, but there is always a cream, a mild, a hard and a blue. We could close our eyes and be in Paris.
We would be remiss if we did not mention there is also a huge array of more standard desserts on offer. Their saving grace is that they are served in the most petite sizes you have ever seen, e.g., four-bite crème brulées like these little mango numbers.
Suffice it to say, dessert is our gauntlet, even for Louis who is ever-ready to announce that he does not eat dessert even while ordering two scoops of Humphry’s white chocolate lavender with caramel sauce.
We also would be remiss if we failed to mention that, in addition to feeding us food, Insignia feeds us food events.
Last week, for example, there was an onboard cooking demonstration of how to prepare beef Wellington. Guest chef Philippe Boulet (oui, French) was brought onboard to present the session with our own executive chef (oui, French) assisting. The Wellie plus a side dish of spinach with morel mushrooms and classic French aligot mashed potatoes were prepared on stage in one of the ship lounges, where big screens provided closeups of the moves.
Two days later, beef Wellington was on the menu in the Grand and on the carving board of Terraces Cafe. The kitchen prepared 14 of them.
Having navigated the breakfast and lunch offerings with relative self-control, we generally feel we can indulge in the full range of excellent dinner options.
Toscana, the Italian specialty restaurant, has emerged as our favorite. Here are the appetizers to choose among today. Doris often enjoys the caprese, while Louis is somewhat addicted to the carpaccio de polpo.
Because of the limited seating and reservations, we generally enjoy Toscana or its sister Polo Grill only once every five days or so. On the other nights, we split our dinners between the Grand and Terraces. The Grand is especially enjoyable when dining with fellow guests (a frequent pleasure) because it eliminates the issue of interrupting conversation for a trip back to the buffet.
In either of the specialty restaurants and the Grand, we generally eat four courses (appetizer, entree, main and dessert), which would be staggering were it not for the European-style portion sizes and the ability to order a half-size of virtually anything. This is a typical first course that Doris cannot remember the name of. Suffice it to say it is a vegetable confit resting in a tomato-based sauce.
But our favorite dinner option is probably the pop-up “Chef’s Market” dinners served periodically in the Terraces Cafe.
Sometimes, the market offers a single special dish based on something the chef scored in the local market (e.g., a tuna) but, more often, the market serves an ethnic or other culinary theme. About once a month, for example, there is an Indian night with a samosa station where the chef prepares samosas to order on the grill. Off the coast of Chile, there was a South American night. Most recently, there was a pan-Asian night modeling after Oceania’s Wild Ginger restaurants found on its bigger ships.
The first stop on Wild Ginger night was a sushi/sashimi bar.
Among the main dishes was roast Peking duck Louis declared the best he’s eaten outside China.
At the grill, chef stir-friend to order. Vegetarian? No problem. Pescatarian? Got that covered.
One of Doris’s favorites were the tempura vegetables. Tempura sweet potatoes … yum.
Afterward, sticky rice pie and, of course, Humphry provided thematic temptation.
A Day in Food Digested
In short . . .
YES! The food on Insignia is as good as Oceania brags.
NO! We do not miss grocery shopping, cooking and washing dishes. (Are you kidding?!?)
YES! There is enough variety to avoid boredom, at least at 50-day mark.
YES! We do weigh ourselves regularly, and one of us has gained no weight.
NO! We will not disclose which one of us has gained no weight though we will say it is not the one who has been traveling Argentina and Brazil on the motto, “There is no such thing as too much steak.”
Until next time, bon appetit!
Another Question Answered
In a comment on Sailing Amidst Nature’s Ice Sculptures, Susan asked, “Which did you like the best?” about wines we have met on the trip.
We adored (and are still drinking) the carménères we bought in Chile. Carménère is a red wine that originated in Bordeaux (thus the accent marks) but is now produced almost exclusively in Chile.
Neither of us is a big fan of Malbec, but we bought a couple bottles in Buenos Aires to give them a try in situ. What we really stocked up on were were bottles of torrontes, the aromatic white wine produced almost exclusively in Argentina that we have enjoyed for years but only with limited availability.
Next wine stop: Cape Town.
12 thoughts on “One Day in Food”
This is fascinating, thank you!! But everything sounds and looks amazing!
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Alberto loves congee also! He says “good for
Yummy, but I didn’t see any scones on the breakfast array.
I felt like I was gaining weight just reading and seeing all delicious food !!! Amazing!😃
Alberto loves congee! He said “Good for Louis!”
I would be lost at the first croissant and cappucino–unless I decided to have an Affogato (espresso dumped over ice cream) for breakfast every day! I am amazed only one of you has gained any weight, and if that would be Louis he doesn’t look it. I can’t imagine Doris saying “no such thing as too much steak”–even though that would be MY motto! Funny, Andrew doesn’t “eat dessert” either– but somehow ice cream isn’t dessert. Looking forward to hearing how you’re working all this off!
Pura vida! Carpe diem! You only live once! (And all that jazz)
Yes this was mouth watering indeed! Thank you for these vivid descriptions. The sushi looked so fresh and plentiful I could eat it every day. I am in full agreement with Louis over the huevos rancheros. I imagine they load up on produce at each stop? I wonder if not being able to stop in Peru messed up any menus?
Here’s a question- are you able to practice your respective languages (other than English) with any of the guests, crew or chefs? I remember on the 2 princess cruises we took that many of the senior crew were Italian and a number of the wait staff were from Serbia and Croatia. We had fun surprising them with some conversation in their language. And I echo the question above – however will you return to real life? And look forward to the fitness episode- however are you burning off these yummy calories?
Really really enjoying your trip
Thanks for doing all this writing at times it must seem like you are back at work
So glad you are having a great time
Love these articles!!!
Wow. Just wow. What a mouthwatering report! Are you wondering whether you will EVER be able to get back to a “regular life?”
Thanks for doing this. I love every word!
Louis!!! well, the simple pleasures of life… no sense to hold back unless you must for medical reasons…
Seriously enjoying reading your updates, I wish I had the writing skills to share my experiences as you guys do.
Keep enjoying your trip and allow us to live vicariously through you. Besos y un fuerte abrazo!