Sherman's Food Adventures

Sun King Steakhouse (Carnival Freedom)

Similar to other cruise lines, Carnival has a free app that has all of the necessary info such as the day's schedule (where you can bookmark activities and a reminder will sound on your phone).  Another great feature is the available food when you check the app including menus for the main dining rooms.  Therefore, you have a good sense of where to eat for dinner without waiting for that day's menu to come out.  That was a good thing as we had originally booked Sun King Steakhouse online several months prior on the last night at sea.  One check of the Posh menu for that night and yes, it looked like we made a good decision.

Since it was an extra $35.00 per person surcharge (including 15% gratuity), we were treated to a more intimate dining room complete with a dedicated kitchen.  Furthermore, the bread and butter was more deluxe featuring brioche and focaccia accompanied by butter, tapenade and tomato confit.  I really enjoyed the latter as it was lightly tomatoey with a slight tang.  Beyond that, we were started off with an Amuse Bouche which was a chili chicken atop a thin slice of fingerling potato and topped with cheese.  It was nice savory bite that wasn't as spicy as it sounded.

For our appies, I had 2 including the Trio of Escargots which included brioche baked, garlic & parsley butter braised and vermouth & escargots veloute.  As like the main dining room, the snails were beautifully prepared being buttery and tender.  I especially enjoyed the veloute as it was silky and aromatic.  The brioche was nice, but rather heavy, so I ended up picking the snails out individually.  My next appie was the Lobster Bisque with vintage cognac, fleuron and fresh cream.  The bisque itself was silky, thick and chock full of aromatics from the lobster shells.  As much as the chunks of lobster meat was tender with a sweet bounce, it was too cold for the soup and brought the temperature down.

Viv's 2 appies included the Ahi Tuna Tartare consisting of sashimi-grade yellow fin tuna belly.  The tuna was lightly dressed where the natural sweetness was highlighted.  There was bits of orange and avocado mixed in for some acidity and creaminess.  I thought there could've been touch more tang, but it was fine nonetheless.  The fish itself was buttery and tender.  Her next appie was the Grilled Portobello Mushroom marinated in EVOO and aged balsamic vinegar.  As much as the tender slices of mushroom were impactful and flavorful, it was a bit too sour for Viv's liking.  A less aggressive approach to the marinade process would've been more successful.

My daughter continued the trend with 2 appies for herself starting with the Baked Onion Soup.  This came out scorching hot (which was a good thing) topped with the usual crouton and melted cheese.  Often, French onion soup can be rather salty due to the over-aggressive seasoning or reduction of the liquid.  This version was none of that.  Rather, it was sweet and rich from the caramelized onions.  On top, there was plenty of cheese to make it hearty.  Her next dish was the good ol' Caesar Salad featuring whole leaves and fresh-made dressing with anchovies.  This was good as the romaine hearts were crisp and fresh while the dressing exuded a noted anchovy flavor.

As for my son, he had the Beef Carpaccio topped with shaved parmesan and cheese marinated mache lettuce.  Thinly-sliced, the beef was fresh and melted-in-his-mouth.  There was barely any chewing required.  Although the capers and cheese provided some salt and tang, there needed to be even more seasoning as the dish was rather bland.  For his next appie, he had the Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail marinated in a garlic and green onion oil.  With this, the cocktail sauce was not even really necessary.  I personally thought that the marinade combined with the cocktail sauce didn't really go.  I would've preferred it just plain with the sauce on the side.  With that being said, the prawns were fantastic having a meaty snap.

For my main, I went for the 18 oz. Grilled Prime Cowboy Ribeye prepared medium-rare.  This was indeed cooked to my specifications and well-rested.  As a result, the meat was juicy and tender.  I got the 3 peppercorn sauce on the side and it was creamy with a light spice.  For my side, I went for the Yukon Gold Mash with wasabi.  It was buttery and really creamy with a notable hint of wasabi.  My daughter decided on the 9 oz. Broiled Filet Mignon also prepared medium-rare.  Since it was such a thick cut, the center was more rare than medium-rare.  That was fine as the meat was moist, well-charred and super tender.  Also well-rested, there was no blood on the plate.  The side of wild mushroom red-wine demi was silky and rich.  For her side, she had the creamed spinach that was not overcooked.

My son opted for the 14 oz. Broiled Prime NY Strip Loin prepared medium-rare (as a family, we do not eat steak cooked more than this).  Again, this was charred nicely and well-rested.  Most of the steak was super-tender, flavorful and buttery.  Some portions had some sinew which was not edible.  For his side, he went for the baked potato complete with butter, sour cream, chives and bacon.  Viv went for some Surf & Turf with half Maine lobster tail and a petite filet mignon.  Both items were perfectly prepared.  The lobster was moist exhibiting a buttery snap while the filet mignon was much like the other steak being charred and medium-rare.  She got the Bearnaise sauce on the side which was creamy, buttery and lightly acidic.

For dessert, I had barely any room in my stomach for the Cheesecake with hazelnut biscuit.  This classic baked New York style cheesecake was rich, creamy and actually somewhat light.  Hence, it didn't eat completely like a NY-style cheesecake, but had the attributes.   I found the sweetness to be restrained while the cheesiness to be ample.  For Viv, she had the Caramelized Washington Apples baked in a puff pastry dome.  This was a visually beautiful tart-like dessert to look at.  It was packed full of tender and sweet apple slices on top of a flaky shell except for the bottom where it was compacted.  It was a little on the sweet side though.

For the kids, they shared the Chocolate Sampler consisting of bittersweet chocolate cake topped with chocolate ice cream, banana panna cotta topped with date and yogurt sherbert and tiramisu & chocolate marquise topped with banana ice cream.  These were rich and not as sweet as they appeared, especially the bittersweet cake.  The tiramisu was creamy and full of boozy essence.  Overall, the meal at Sun King was good and naturally the service was top notch.  Of course the selection of steaks was better than the main dining room and better quality.  However, as mentioned in my other posts, I thought the steaks in the main dining room were just as good.  Therefore, one could probably be content with that the whole cruise.  But if you want to indulge and be pampered even more so, go ahead and make a reservation at Sun King.

Carnival Freedom Posh Dining Room Night #6

Our 6th dinner in the Posh main dining room was going to be our last as we had reservations for the steak house on the final night.  I have to say that overall, we have been impressed with the overall food quality and execution.  Sure, there were a few duds and some things could've been prepared better, but as a whole, considering the price I paid for the cruise, the food was more than acceptable.  Furthermore, the service we received was prompt, warm and attentive.  I would say it was on par with all of the other cruises we've taken on the other major lines.

It also happened to be the 2nd and final "cruise elegant" night, so the menu was more focused.  I started off with the Stuffed Mushrooms sporting spinach, romano cheese and fine herbs.  This was a considerable amount for an appie where the tender mushrooms were overflowing with filling.  Overall, this was a pleasant and aromatic dish, but lacking in seasoning.  My daughter went for her favorite being the New England Clam Chowder featuring potatoes and little necks.  Although this was more starchy than creamy, it was still thick and hearty.  There was a light brininess as well as equal parts savory and sweet.  The little necks were in abundance and super tender.

Viv ended up with the Chesapeake Crab Cake and it was consisted mostly of tender chunks of crab.  They were fluffy with some bounce texture while the rest of the cake was creamy and mildly seasoned.  The one fatal flaw was the exterior wasn't seared enough and/or coated with enough breading.  Hence, it was soft and mushy without any real textural contrast nor aromatic caramelization.

For our mains, I had the Teriyaki Salmon Filet with sesame rice cake and veggies.  This was quite good as the salmon was nicely seared while still flaky and moist on the inside.  There was enough tangy teriyaki glaze on the outside to flavor both the salmon and the accompanying rice cake.  Made with seasoned sushi rice, the rice cake was the perfect compliment to the teriyaki sauce as it was chewy and hearty.  Viv tried the Grilled Jumbo Shrimp with marinara sauce and mustard potatoes.  Despite sporting delicious and perfectly cooked shrimp (with a meaty sweet snap), the dish was confusing.  The individual components didn't seem to mesh very well with each other.

My daughter had the Fusili with mushroom cream and aged parmesan which looked more like a mushroom soup with pasta.  Overlooking the visuals, it did taste quite good though.  The lightly truffled mushroom cream was mildly seasoned, yet full of delicious earthiness.  Although sitting in too much sauce, the pasta remained somewhat al dente.  For my son, he decided on the Duo of Filet Mignon and Short Rib with string beans and a red wine sauce.  Fortunately, the short rib this time was tender and moist unlike the previous night.  As with all steaks so far, the filet mignon was a perfect medium-rare and super tender.  The red wine sauce was flavorful with a nicely reduced wine essence.

For dessert, I had the Grand Marnier Souffle with orange creme Anglaise.  I thought the anglaise was overly sweet where it took away from the souffle's inherent flavour.  I found it too eggy and dense though, hence it didn't rise enough.  Despite this, I enjoyed eating the parts without the anglaise as it was quite tasty and just sweet enough.  For Viv, she had the Amaretto Cake with almond chocolate cake served in a cup.  This was a light-tasting and aromatic dessert.  I thought it lacked impact as it wasn't even that sweet.  I can see how it would be appealing due to that fact as well.  We thought that the desserts, along with the savory dishes were some of the weakest as a meal so far.  Too bad as this was our last meal in the main dining room.

Carnival Freedom Posh Dining Room Night #5

Our last port for our 7-day Carnival Cruise aboard the Freedom was on the island of Roatan, Honduras.  Again, we weren't that well versed with the place and resorted to google for information.  Turns out that the mainland is fairly impoverished, so venturing out on your own is not advised.  As for the Roatan, the same rule doesn't necessarily apply.  However, we were a bit lazy and decided to make it a beach day instead.  Only a 10-minute walk from the ship, Mahogany Bay was a great place to just lounge around and enjoy the nice weather.  Upon our return, it was our 5th dinner of the cruise in the Posh main dining room.

On every menu, there was a featured item that was labelled "food you always wanted to try, but haven't yet dared".  Seems like I had been ordering that every night (but I've had it all before!).  This time around, it was Escagots Bourguignonne.  These were textbook being tender with a bite, while not chewy.  They were bathed in a good dose of butter and garlic.  Loved soaking up the sinful sauce with bread.  My son had the Fried Shrimp with roasted red pepper remoulade.  When they described them as shrimp, it was spot on as they were tiny.  But that made it almost like popcorn shrimp.  They were crispy with a cold-water crunch.  The dip wasn't really all that spicy, it was creamy with a tang.

I also tried the Roasted Pumpkin Soup which was thick and creamy.  Normally, I'm not a huge fan of anything pumpkin due to the intense aroma.  This soup was balanced with just a touch of pumpkin essence.  It ate more like a roasted acorn squash soup which was nicely accented by all-spice and nutmeg.  The croutons on top soaked up all of the soup and were not longer crunchy, but that didn't matter much.  Lastly, Viv had the Chicken Pastelitos filled with chicken, peppers and onions.  The puffed pastry on the outside was buttery and flaky while the filling was moist and tender.  We thought it tasted mostly of peppers as there was plenty of them.

For my main, I had the Penne Maricos with shrimp, calamari, scallops, mussels and salmon in a lobster cream sauce.  I only had a bit because my son took it from me (as his dish wasn't very good).  I did get to sample it and the lobster cream was mildly seasoned being aromatic and sweet.  The seafood was pretty on point except for 2 of the scallops as they were a bit rubbery.  The pasta was just past al dente.  My son originally ordered the Braised Short Rib with potato and pea gratin and green beans.  However, it was pretty tough and dry.  Not sure if this was a one-off with the piece he got, but it wasn't very good.  The red wine sauce was tasty though being meaty with depth.

I ended up eating the extra dish we had ordered being the Pescado Asado Cubierto con Tostones.  It was essentially a lightly fried basa fillet covered in a mixture of plantain and breadcrumbs.   This was on point with flaky and moist fish that was well-seasoned and aromatic from the coating.  On top we found a mixture of black beans and corn which added texture and a bit of sweetness and earthiness to the dish.  My daughter decided on the Beef Lasagna with a thick layer of melted mozzarella on top and a tomato basil sauce.  This ate and looked more like a meatloaf than a lasagna, so it was texturally rather odd.  However, the meat was tender and lean while the sauce was tangy and bright.

Viv probably had the best dish of the night being the Chicken Milanese with charred lemon and green beans.  It consisted of a breaded and fried piece of chicken which was pretty good.  The meat was tender and moist while the breading was firmly crunchy.   Flavours were pretty subtle where the charred lemon was necessary to bring brightness to the dish.

Onto dessert, we had the Chocolate Panna Cotta with warm chocolate sauce.  This was a no sugar added dessert, but it ate quite well.  The panna cotta itself was a little stiff, but still silky and chocolaty. I'm not sure if it actually needed more chocolate sauce (which was good) as it didn't vary up the flavours much.  It would done well with a berry sauce with a contrasting tang.  We also got the Buttered Popcorn Pot de Creme.  This was interesting with the nutty popcorn aroma complimented by salted caramel.  Yes, this was fancy caramel corn atop a semi-sweet and silky custard.  As you can see, this was a decent meal with a few misses.  We were still enjoying our eats so far, no one can be perfect.

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.