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 Mediterranean Cruise 2008 - 10/02 - Katakolon

Cruise Pictures
     

10/02 - Katakolon
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Breakfast
First, a quick stop for breakfast at the Great outdoors breakfast buffet. The funny thing about cruises is that they're ultra picky about hygiene and require everyone to use hand sanitizer before entering a restaurant, although they don't provide enough to properly sanitize your hands (your hands should remain wet for 30 seconds to be sanitized, 60 seconds to be sterile). In addition, only gloved staff may serve food from the buffet which reduces efficiency since there are usually only one or two attendants for any given section of food. The drink station is consistently busy serving coffee, tea, juice and water.

The food itself is decent, but obviously mass produced: not bad, but not particularly good, though I will say the best items on the bar are probably the fresh fruits, particularly the honey dew and green cantaloupe (musk melon?) which were consistently sweet and juicy. Bacon is a close second simply because, well, it's bacon.

The pastries vary from day to day but some are fairly bland. The tasty ones were strawberry and blueberry pastries or chocolate croissants. The everyday standards were cinnamon rolls, apple, lemon or poppy seed danishes and plain croissants. The most disappointing was the bear claw which had no flavor inside or out.

There were about a dozen types of yogurt. We tried the Passion Fruit Peach yogurt which tasted like a pretty basic mixed peach yogurt. The Mango yogurt was quite tangy and I personally thought it tasted more like Passion Fruit than the other yogurt. The last one I tried was from Turkey (I'm assuming based on the Arabic name) and was a tart plain yogurt. I was full by that time but I imagine it would be good with some marmalade or jam and might make a decent tzatziki sauce. However, it wasn't as flavorful and robust as the Greek yoghurt I had at the Heathrow Starbucks.

Other items varied greatly in quality. The 2.5" pate patty rounds were quite livery and not very tasty. I'm not surprised, I can't imagine that pate in 2.5" diameter cylinders is particularly high quality. The stewed plums were pretty good, much tastier than a prune. The raisin french toast is pretty good, despite every piece being the exact same sized isosceles triangle. The pancakes were pretty plain and a tad rubbery, but they made a decent McGriddle style sandwich with eggs and bacon.

Katakolon
Our first port stop was Katakolon (pronounced cut-TACK-oh-lo). This is a small town known primarily as the port of entry for visiting Olympia, the birthplace of the ancient Olympics. It is also known for its jewelry stores but my sister and I were not particularly interested in either of those.

There were three streets set up for tourists (read tourist traps) so we decided to start the day wandering aimlessly around the area to see what was there. Although the ambiant temperature was in the mid 70's, the strong sun beat down on us and made us quite warm as we wandered through the largest of the three streets. We passed store after store pawning off cheap trinkets and souvenirs that we mostly ignored.

We stopped at a couple shops selling Greek products such as herb and spice mixes, ouzo (anise infused liquor), honey, olive oil and boxed loukomi (Turkish Delight) but nothing interested us enough to purchase anything.

Pretty soon we arrived at the end of the tourist area where the primarily residential road was blocked off for construction. There, on the side of the road in a rather unassuming position was a small bakery called Psomi. We ventured in and found a tiny little sweet shop with just a couple display cases. One was filled with small buns and cakes that didn't look particularly special. The other was full of baklava and another pastry called ktaifi (sp?) which is composed of custard and tiny strings of dough. I only got a chance to try the ktaifibut my sister's favorite was the apricot baklava.

Lunch
Next we wanted to check out the beach but it turned out to be pretty rocky and hard packed in this section of the town so we turned back and decided to look for some food. We passed a cafe on the main street serving gyros and other streets but due to it's proximity to the tourist traps it didn't look as cheap as we wanted. The prices were still decent at 5-6 euros per item but we decided to venture out a bit more.

At the end of the third tourist street we found a small cafe with a chalkboard sign listing Greek Coffee, Nescafe, Fresh Fish and Ouzo (sorry, forgot to get a picture and name) . It was not very full but there were some locals eating there so we decided to give it a whirl. We sat down at a table covered with a paper table cloth that was basically a gigantic sheet of Brawny or Dixie. Apparently the waiter did not speak English because he walked out of the restaurant and disappeared down the street.

A minute later the waiter reappeared followed by the owner who did speak some basic English. We asked for the fresh fish, ouzo and Greek coffee and she suggested a tomato salad as well. Within seconds, a small stray cat appeared, eagerly anticipating the arrival of some food. Equally random, a middle aged man sat down at the table next to us with a Heineken and a pack of cigarettes and began asking us where we were from and what our ethnicity was. He then started telling us all about his trips to Asia and how he was from Olympia and had carried the Olympic torch 4 or 5 times (his stories didn't seem to consistent).

Our food then arrived along with two additional stray cats. The fish turned out to be sardines that had been gutted and fried. They were sufficiently small that I could eat them whole without worrying about bones, although my sister decided not to attempt it and ate around the tiny spines.

The salty fish perfectly complimented the tangy tomato salad. It had red onions, olives, green peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and a light vinaigrette. The tomatoes were just as bright red as the ones I saw in Athens Central Market and they were as good as I expected. Firm yet tender, vividly red inside and out, sweet and tasting like a sun ripened tomato should. I haven't had tomatoes that good in years! The onions were mild, the cucumber light and crisp and the peppers sweet.

For drinks, the Greek coffee, medium sweet, was tasty and had the traditional finely ground coffee at the bottom of the cup. I haven't figured out if you're supposed to drink that or not. The ouzo was interesting as it was served with a small dish of ice. When you drop the ice into the ouzo, it formed wisps of cloudiness that eventually turned all of the liquor a translucent white. The ouzo had a very strong anise/licorice flavor that my sister did not like. The stuff is pretty strong (38-48%) and is generally meant to be sipped while relaxing but as Americans we're always in a rush to the next planned event so trying to down the stuff quickly was a bit tough.

Meanwhile the three cats were doing their best garner attention and act cute by laying on their backs, mewing quietly but pitifully and staring at us with big sad eyes (like the Puss in Boots in Shrek). I was very tempted to give them our last sardine but they were so good that my sister stopped me and we ended up eating it ourselves. Sorry cats!

Also during this time, the Olympian sitting next to us offered to buy me another round of ouzo and provided us a postcard showing him at the Olympic torch ceremonies many years ago. He offered us the chance to hold an old Olympic torch and take pictures if we simply dropped by his Jewelery store. We smelled a tourist trap and politely declined. Happy with our lunch, we returned to the ship.

Dinner
For dinner we had early bird reservations at Le Bistro, the French restaurant on board. To celebrate my mom's birthday, we had the whole group of 17 people join us. The restaurant was beautifully set up and I noticed the extremely fancy dinner plates. My mom noticed them too and also checked to see who made them and they turned out to be part of the Versace collection. See the pictures for descriptions of the individual dishes. Overall, we were quite pleased with the food. I will note that the main reason I ordered the cassoulet was because it was on Top Chef this year and I wanted to try it for myself.

10/02 pictures are here.
Posted 10/10/2008 02:29 PM in Food, Greece, Pictures, Restaurants, Reviews, Travel | Total Comments: (1)
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Morning sun streaming through the clouds in Katakolon   Breakers put in to protect the harbor.   The Great Outdoors breakfast buffet. Bacon, eggs and pastries were pretty standard. Pancakes were nothing special but perfectly sized to make a McGriddle. Pate patty was very livery and pasty, both my sister and I took a small nibble and passed on the rest. The passion peach yogurt tasted like a standard peach yogurt. There was also mango yogurt which was very tangy and tasted more like passion fruit than the passion peach yogurt. The Arabic Yogurt was plain and quite tangy..

   
Nice panorama of the bay from The Great Outdoors.   My sis posing.   One of our tug boats.

       
After trudging through the tourist trap shopping areas we found this small bakery (Psiomi?) at the end of the main street and decided to pop in for some treats.   Treats included various forms of baklava and ktaifi (sp?). My sister really liked the apricot baklava.    

     
At the end of the third street we found a small cafe and ordered a tomato salad, ouzo, Greek coffee and fish, which turned out to be sardines. These were simply fried with a little salt and were wonderfully tender and easy to eat. The salty fish perfectly complimented the tangy tomato salad which had olives, peppers, cucumbers, onions and tomatoes. The Greek coffee, medium sweet, was tasty and had the traditional finely ground coffee at the bottom of the cup. The ouzo was interesting as it was served with a small dish of ice. When you dropped the ice into the ouzo, it formed wisps of cloudiness that eventually turned all of the liquor a translucent white.

     
My parents and some of the other parents took a taxi to Olympia.

     
My mom, Mrs. Shieh and Dr. Chiou holding an Olympic torch   We returned to our ship pleased with our tasty local meal and returned to find our rooms nicely made up and an extra towel made up into a seal or other amusing animal. As we left port and headed out to sea we snapped some pictures.

     
The Mediterranean is a beautiful deep blue so I took a few different angles.

     
For dinner we went to the French restauarant, Le Bistro along with the rest of the group for the 2-for-1 early bird special.

       
The Lin family.   My family, the Chious, the Shiehs and the Wangs    

     
My mom immediately noticed the fine plates and quickly discovered they belonged to the Versace collection.   Bread was good and the butter nicely salted.   Duo de Foie Gras et Poitrine de Canard Fume - Foie Gras Terrine and Smoked Duck Breast, Celery Root and Pear Salad, Dates and toasted brioche. This looked like the breakfast pate except this stuff tasted good, though not as tasty as a whole piece of foie gras.

     
Roquefort Frisee Salad - Roquefort Crumbles, Roasted Pancetta, Dried Figs, Candied Walnuts, Lemon-mustard Vinagrette. I didn't try this but did not hear any complaints.   Seared Spice-crusted Sea Scallops with Sweet Potato Mousseline and Provencal Tomato-herb butter. According to my sister they were, "Yummy."   My escargot, traditionally prepared, were just the right amount of buttery and garlicy and necessitated the use of bread to clean out each little cauldron.   The cream of mushroom was decent but honestly I would take Campbell's condensed over this, otherwise I've made better cream of mushroom from scratch. They partially pureed the mushrooms but I prefer to have large slices in mine.

     
Roasted Rack of Lamb with Sauteed Artichokes, Cherry Tomatoes, Zucchini, Green Olive Sauce. The lamb was well cooked, very tender with excellent flavor while being mild in lambiness.   Cassoulet - Duck Confit, Smoked Sausage, White Bean Ragout, Seared Foie Gras. This whole slice of foie gras was well seared and had only a slight liver flavor. The Duck Confit was very tender and the skinw as delicious. The white beans were good but I prefer them as American sweet or barbecued baked beans   Grilled Swordfish with Braised Pancetta Lentils and Garlic-ginger Butter. This looked great but I didn't try any. I only heard good things about it.   Foie Gras Stuffed Chicken Breast Perigourdine with Crushed Potatos, Asparagus Tips and Truffle Sauce. My sister got this and said it was good, but not great. The foie gras inside wasn't that tasty.

     
Dessert and Cordials menu   Pre-dessert truffles   Flambe for the Crepes Suzette   The Crepes Suzette were classically prepared tableside and were well made, though a bit too sweet.

       
Chocolate Napolean - Flourless Chocolate Cake, Hazelnut Crunch, Gianduja Cream. I personally did not like this. I think the roasted hazelnuts were a little too strong for me and the chocolate wasn't sweet enough. I was expecting something smooth and decadent like Nutella but felt like I got plain chocolate and over-cooked hazelnuts.   Strawberry Chiboust - Light Strawberry Mousee, Crisp Meringue, Citrus Short Crust. The crust was not as tasty as I expected from a short bread crust, nor did I detect any citrus. The meringue sticks were good, especially soaked in the strawberry sauce and the strawberry mousse was tasty but, like other foams on the ship, it was overly gelatinized,   Even though we were stuffed, we were celebrating my mom's b-day so they gave us a whole sponge cake, candle and song. The sponge cake wasn't that special though, it just tasted like frosting.    

 

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