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The Chef's Table
Aboard Holland America Line's ms Westerdam

by Linda Coffman

By day, Westerdam's Queen's Lounge is the location of the Culinary Arts Center, where cooking demonstrations and hands-on classes are offered in the state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen.

When the sun goes down, it doubles as an elegant nightclub with live music for dancing, a venue for late night comedy, and a theater where movies are screened.

However, one evening a week the Queen's Lounge is transformed into a setting for fine dining at the Chef's Table. With reservations limited to only twenty-four diners, the Chef's Table is an exquisite five course pairing of wines selected by Cellar Master Saurabh to complement the gourmet dishes prepared a la minute by Executive Chef Andreas in the Culinary Arts Center's show kitchen.

"A meal without wine is breakfast." Chef Andreas
As we arrived and took our seats, Chef Andreas broke the ice by introducing us to the menu and sharing his passion for food by serving an "Amuse" with champagne to get us started while he began to cook.

As we sampled the unexpected course of Dungeness Crab Cake, prepared in the Pinnacle Grill galley (the only dish not cooked on the spot), Chef Andreas began to explain the next courses.

Ginger Marinated Plump Scallops
Enhanced with a spicy orange marmalade and wasabi dressing

Complemented by 2007 Chateau Ste Michelle & Dr. Loosen Eroica Riesling, Washington State

Chilled Lime Froth
Served with cayenne crusted carmelized crab legs

Matched with 2008 Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand

Potato Chests with Mushrooms
Filled with a truffle flavored cognac cream and accompanied by caviar on the rox

Paired with Conundrum, California

Chef's Indulging Version of Surf and Turf
The famous filet and lobster dish with an Asian twist

Enjoy with Domaine de la Serre Cailloux, France

Variate of Tropical Cheesecakes
A trio of Blue Mountain Coffee, Mango-Chili, and Lime-Tequila cheesecakes, served with a spiced strawberry sabayon (illustrated right by Chef Andreas)
Made sweeter by NV Graham Six Grape Port Wine, Portugal

Dinner and A Show
The Chef's Table is fine dining, but more than that.

As he prepared each dish, screens overhead in the Culinary Arts Center captured Chef Andreas at work. His banter was informative as he explained why certain ingredients would work with others and how to avert disaster when mixing them.

Chef Andreas also discussed kitchen gadgets and the cook's workspace. For instance, he let us in on the secret to the quickest way to clean a cutting board—"turn it over."

As participants in a unique dining experience, we were encouraged to interact with Chef Andreas. Questions, such as, "do we dunk the crab leg in the frothy lime?" were asked. No. Some of us were relieved to know because we weren't sure either. Although served together, they were two distinct flavors, the tart chilled lime soup and the sweet, peppery crab balanced each other beautifully.

Skeptics among us who frowned when Chef Andreas said the filet for the main course would be prepared "medium" were reassured that we wouldn't be disappointed. I, for one, thought it would be too "done," but the meat was fork tender, juicy, and delicious. The lobster accompanying it was one of the most flavorful crustaceans I've ever tasted.

Cellar Master Saurabh introduced the wine for each course and explained why it was chosen. He mingled among the tables and was available to answer our questions.

Coming Soon
Chef's Table is a new dining concept for Holland America Line aboard Westerdam and, at about $130 per person, the seats are booked quickly each week. It's proven so popular that Holland America guests should look for it to be introduced fleetwide in the future.

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