Chefs and cookbook authors on cruise ships are now as ubiquitous as lifeboats. And they're not just doing onboard demonstrations; they're finding great food in ports worldwide.
The Far East
Brad Farmerie, chef at New York City's Public
holland america 14-day hong kong–to–osaka cruise
"We started our trip at a tiny place in Hong Kong called Shui Hu Ju (68 Peel St., Central; 011-852-2869-6927). The most memorable dish was deep-fried chicken wings in a bowl of whole dried chiles. As you reach into the bowl, the chiles break up and release their heat onto your fingers and the wings. What an amazing idea. If I open a bar, I'm stealing this dish. " 877-SAIL-HAL or www.hollandamerica.com.
Alain Sailhac, senior dean of programs at New York City's French Culinary Institute
oceania 15-day east asia sailing
"In Hanoi, my wife and I had lunch at Cha Ca La Vong (14 Cha Ca St.; 011-84-4825-3929) in the center of the Old Quarter. Guests get a plate of rice, raw beef, peanuts, coriander and Vietnamese sauces and then cook their own food in a boiling pot of oil set on the table. It was really good and a lot of fun. " 800-531-5619 or www.oceaniacruises.com.
Joyce Jue, author of Savoring Southeast Asia
silversea 10-day asia cruise
"When I went to Kuala Lumpur, we drove two hours to Melaka to eat at the places serving authentic Nonya cooking. The cuisine is a cross between Malay and Chinese. Nonya-style laksa (spicy noodle soup) is very distinct, with a currylike gravy." 800-722-9955 or www.silversea.com.
Grace Young, author of The Breath of a Wok
regent seven seas 15-day singapore-to-sydney cruise
"Singapore is really famous for its chile crab, and we had some that was to die for at an incredible outdoor restaurant, Chin Wah Heng Seafood (01–01 East Coast Seafood Center; 011-65-6444-7967)." 877-505-5370 or www.rssc.com.
Europe and the Mediterranean
Rob Feenie, chef at Vancouver's Lumière and Feenie's
the yachts of seabourn seven-day mediterranean cruise
"At Feenie's, I have some Greek customers who insist that when I'm in the Athens area, I eat at Kollias (3 Plastira St., Piraeus; 011-30-210-462-9620) near the port, a 35-minute cab ride from downtown. It's exactly how you want a seafood place to be. There are no menus; instead, they take you to the kitchen, and you point at the fish you want. " 800-929-9391 or www.seabourn.com.
Tony Mantuano, chef at Chicago's Spiaggia
regent seven seas seven-night venice–to–monte carlo cruise
"In Venice, my wife and I found a restaurant called Alle Testiere (Calle del Mondo Novo, Castello 5801; 011-39-041-522-7220), where we tried cuttlefish eggs. The owner told us Venice is the only city in Italy that serves them. Now we have them at Spiaggia. We stumbled on a great find in the backstreets of Hvar, Croatia: Palaca Paladini (Petra Hektorovica 4; 011-38-521-742-104). We ate tasty local octopus salad with capers and onions." 877-505-5370 or www.rssc.com.
Mary Sue Milliken, chef at Santa Monica, CA's Border Grill
the yachts of seabourn seven-day mediterranean cruise
"My cousin lives in Barcelona and recommended we try La Bodega (Plaza Molina 2; 011-34-93-217-7185), a family-run restaurant that was packed with locals. My son ordered sautéed goat brains and ate the entire platter. In Minorca, Spain, Es Cranc (Calle Escoles 31; 011-34-97-137-6442) is one block from the shoreline and a world away from the touristy restaurants. This is the place to try the regional dish called caldereta de langosta, a fragrant stew of fresh Balearic lobster, rice, tomatoes and saffron." 800-929-9391 or www.seabourn.com.
Govind Armstrong, chef at Los Angeles and Miami's Table 8
cunard six-day transatlantic crossing
"I remember every detail of my meal at London's St. John (26 St. John St.; 011-44-20-7251-0848). I pigged out. I was there during seagull-egg season; I had the eggs hard-boiled with celery salt. They taste like duck eggs but gamier. The yolk is a brighter orange and richer. " 800-728-6273 or www.cunard.com.
Katrina Markoff, owner of Chicago and New York City's Vosges Haut-Chocolat
silversea 10-day stockholm-to-london cruise
"In Stockholm, outside the church square in Old Town, I went to a cool bohemian café called Chokladkoppen (Stortorget 18; 011-46-820-3170) that serves amazing cinnamon rolls: Think IKEA, but great! I also found a modern confectioner, Chokladfabriken (Renstiernas gata 12; 011-46-8640-0568), crafting chocolates infused with local fruits like cloudberry and Arctic raspberries. Dwór Oliwski (Ul. Bytowska 4; 011-48-585-547-070) is a 17th-century home in a park in Gdansk, Poland. We ate at its restaurant every single night. The pastry chef made some of the best chocolate I've ever had. The density of the ganache in his soft chocolate caramels was spectacular. There must be something to Polish dairy!" 800-722-9955 or www.silversea.com.
Eric Ziebold, chef at Washington, DC's Cityzen
crystal cruises 15-day dubai-to-italy sailing
"I stopped at the spice market in Gabès, Tunisia. It's huge, probably six blocks long. Just ask where the bazaar is and locals will direct you. The spices coming out of Africa are so much fresher than what we're used to in the U.S. It's a pretty eye-opening experience. I picked up cardamom from one merchant, and when I told him it wasn't good, he brought out a new jar that was fresher. It was so green it smelled like pine needles. The ginseng I found didn't have the medicinal quality ginseng usually has and instead had a cinnamony flavor. If you know anyone who's going, I need more. We're using it on a dessert at the restaurant, and we just ran out." 888-722-0021 or www.crystalcruises.com.
Raphael Lunetta, chef at Santa Monica, CA's JiRaffe
holland america 16-day santiago–to–rio de janeiro cruise
"We stopped in Punta Arenas, a charming town south of Santiago, Chile, where my wife and I went to Sotito's (1138 O'Higgins St.; 011-56-61-243-565) and met chef-owner José "Sotito" Soto, who greets every customer. The space is humble, but the seafood draws locals on Sundays. I ordered locos, poached abalone dressed with lemon and mayo. I also had king crab, a South American specialty not to be missed. The seafood, a simple avocado-tomato salad and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc made for a beautiful meal. Restaurants in Chile peel all tomatoes, but the texture isn't mushy. It's crazy. I don't know how they do it." 877-SAIL-HAL or www.hollandamerica.com.
José Andrés, chef at Washington, DC's Minibar
holland america seven-day alaskan cruise
"I had the best Alaskan king crab of my life at a tiny place called Tracy's King Crab Shack (356 S. Franklin St.; 907-723-1811) near the dock in Juneau. In Sitka, the clam chowder at Bayview Restaurant (407 Lincoln St.; 907-747-5440) is delicious. On the same street is Reindeer Redhots (Lake St. and Lincoln St.; 907-738-5559), a cart where owners Carole Knuth and Peter Apathy sell reindeer and all-beef hot dogs. One of my daughters loved the reindeer hot dogs." 877-SAIL-HAL or www.hollandamerica.com.
Norman Van Aken, owner of Orlando, FL's Norman's
the yachts of seabourn 10-day caribbean cruise
"I vividly remember getting off in St. Bart's with my wife and finding fabulous rums, and great Cuban cigars at Le Comptoir du Cigare (6 Rue du Général de Gaulle; 011-590-590-27-50-62). And in St. Martin we went into French grocery stores like Supermarché Match (Howell Center), which have all of the famous French raw-milk cheeses that are banned in the U.S., like unpasteurized Camembert and Epoisses. That was a very hedonistic pleasure." 800-929-9391 or www.seabourn.com.
Allen Susser, owner of Aventura, FL's Chef Allen's
celebrity seven-day eastern-caribbean cruise
"In Barbados, I recommend going off the ship to get some conch salad. All along Baxter's Road, in Bridgetown, there are shanty-type shacks selling conch. The women cook on kettle drums with makeshift fryers. Go to any shack and take your pick. They're all good." 877-202-4345 or www.celebritycruises.com.
Neil Brazier, chef at Northland, New Zealand's The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs
silversea 126-day world cruise
"The Bay of Islands Farmers' Market (6 Hobson Ave.) happens on Sundays in the port town of Kerikeri on the North Island. The produce is second to none. You can find anything from fresh free-range chicken eggs to local organic wine. Kerikeri is also known for feijoa, a tropical fruit with a floral taste. I'd never heard of it until I began working in New Zealand. In the port town of Paihia in the Bay of Islands, there's Pure Tastes (116 Marsden Rd.; 011-64-9402-0003), a restaurant near the dock overlooking the sea. The menu is a Pacific Rim mix of French and Asian flavors—what I call New Zealand food. It's a blend of everything and it all works very well. The Thai crispy beef is really nice." 800-722-9955 or www.silversea.com.