An Exclusive Chefs Table Showcase – P & O Cruises (Pacific Dawn)

So much to tell you about, I really don’t know where to start!

Firstly, we have just enjoyed our first short cruise, a mini break. Wow! After having always cruised on longer holidays, this one was a superb, refreshing, clear the mind sort of cruise. Oh and did I mention the theme was Food & Wine…aaah wonderful!

Ive decided to start with the Exclusive Chefs table dinner we attended. Limited to 14 lucky cruisers, my first mission onboard the ship was to book. First names down, nailed it!Yes there is a cover charge, yes it is over $100 per person, BUT! the charge does include the matching wines, superb food, with everything fully explained by your wonderful hosts.

On this occasion, we were fortunate to have our culinary creative Chef, Prue Daly who started out with the purchase of a unique inverted bakery in Deagon Qld. Prue had partnered with Peter Gross who was representing Black Pearl Epicure, Brisbane, and last but definitely not least, Tim Davidson representing Wirra Wirra Wines, South Australia.Located near the entry of the Waterfront restaurant, a wonderful wall of wine, provided the backdrop for this highly anticipated evening.

Our hosts were not only engaging, extremely informative, but also very entertaining. The three personalities blended well and provided the guests with an outstanding evening. A mention here to the staff, both back and front of house. Their skills and assistance were above and beyond expectation, for that, I give you a big thank you!Lets get down to the business at hand, indulging in this delicious degustation feast.

Our starter dish consisted of oysters, au naturel. Simple, yet eye catching presentation, they did pair wonderfully with Wirra Wirra’s Hiding Champion Sauvignon Blanc. Prue offered a little tip here, try one of the oysters after pouring a little bit of the Sauvignon Blanc over it. She was right! This completely changed the taste of the oyster compared to the first one. Try it sometime, with this particular wine, it really was a superb little experiment.

The pale straw colour of the wine, with the odd glimpse of green, added to a bouquet bursting with lime, passion fruit, grapefruit and gooseberry, created a wonderful mix, which saw lime juice, enliven the mouth, finishing eventually with the grassy lemon and fruity palate. Yes, I’ve spend a bit of time describing this wine, as you will find it paired with a couple more dishes on this menu.

We moved onto the Chicken Pate and Goats curd. Hiding beneath the thick layer of melted butter, which, as Prue advised, was entirely your choice of eating or moving aside to indulge in the mouthwatering pate lurking underneath. The butter was to provide an interesting touch to presentation. Most certainly did that, with its bright colour and smooth finish.

The light, creamy texture of the goats curd, provided a fresh, clean flavour to match the delicious pate. Team this with the Hiding Champion Sauvignon Blanc, and we have another winning dish.Beautifully soft Gorgonzola Gnocchi followed, delivering a wow factor to the taste buds and teaming exceptionally well with the Scrubby Rise Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon, hinting at mulberry, dried herbs and raspberry. A bold wine, enhanced by the delicious creamy, cheese enriched gnocchi. Another superb match, perfectly showcasing the produce of all our hosts.

Time to cleanse the palate. Exactly what this Green Bean, Cow Feta, Hazelnut and Fennel Salad was designed to do. Would have to say, this delightfully simple dish, served its purpose well. Enticing cow feta, followed by the soft fennel salad and finished with a crunch of green bean and hazelnut, was just superb. Match this with the zesty lime of the Hiding Champion Sauvignon Blanc and again we race past the winners post!

Palates now cleansed, we moved on to the main dish of the evening. A wonderfully superb Peppered Lamb rack , resting on a Wild Mushroom and Leek Risotto. The intense, ripe tannins of the blended Church Block Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz Merlot, boldly marched on the palate, providing an extra zest to the succulent peppered lamb and superbly blended softness of the risotto.

How did we finish? Well by now everyone was overflowing with an overwhelming amount of good food & wine, as well as great company. Wth much laughter, hilarity and camaraderie, we moved on to the final dish.Time for the sweet, savoury finish. The visually appealing Berry Cheesecake tasted as good as it looked! Simply delicious! Paired with the deep golden sweetness of the Margan Botrytis Semillon, the burst of berries from the creamy cheesecake was certainly an awesome finish to what can only be described as a superb meal and evening.

But wait there’s more! Black Pearl Epicure supplied some vastly different cheese blends to end the meal. Cream and a dash of sharpness were really the final taste sensations of the evening.

Thank you to our engaging hosts who provided us all with a superb evening of insider knowledge, wining, dining and hilarious entertainment. Support all of their businesses, and don’t forget to book yourself in to this awesome opportunity on your next cruise.

We received a copy of Prue’s the Grass Tree Kitchen Cookbook, autographed by all three hosts, a special copy of the menu and a wonderful group photo to keep the memory alive.

Oh for those of us celebrating our special day, a surprise little plate!

Make sure you treat yourself! Not only are you creating an enriching memory, these experiences are great for the soul!

Isle of Pines, New Caledonia

Another stop on some cruises, is the Isle of Pines. When you first see this island, the number of pine trees spread across the island, does make it seem appropriately named. Pine trees give the impression of a very spiky hairdo, as their tops pierce the sky above,

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Tenders are used to transport passengers to the island where locals greet you with twisted plant headgear for each passenger. Here you may find a few available taxis, if you would like a look around the island.

Water surrounding the island, is beautifully clear, providing ideal snorkelling areas.

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For the best snorkelling, closest to the wharf, take a stroll down the road, past the markets, to the rock. Here, you have a relatively sheltered area, with some fantastic fish to see, especially up close to the Rock. Keep in mind it is taboo to climb onto the Rock. As always it is important to respect other cultures and beliefs when in their country.

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There are a few market stalls, enough to purchase your trinkets without having to much choice. They certainly help to give you a leisurely stroll back to the wharf. AUD are accepted here as well as local currency.

Enjoy the snorkelling- you never know who may be watching !

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Lifou -New Caledonia

As your ship cruises into the bay, you will spot the lonely white church atop the point of the island. Shortly you will hear the anchor drop as the ship starts the process of disembarking passengers to head over to this uplifted limestone island.

Pretty. This is the word I have most often heard people use to describe Lifou. (Lifu). Tenders transport passengers across to the island. The wharf is over a beautiful beach area where snorkelling is popular. Here there are some colourful fish, and if you are in the right place at the right time, you could swim with large turtles who inhabit the bay.

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The village directly off the wharf, contains a cluster of thatched native huts. Vibrant markets full of locally made and other trinkets, take up a large partially enclosed area. Hair braiding, local foods and other activities are also on offer.

From the dock area you can walk to different areas close by. Keep in mind that although you will see mini buses etc as you land, these are pre booked for tours and your chance of finding a driver to take you around the island would be slim, if at all. The church and snorkelling bay on the other side of the point are a relatively close walk, not flat however with some uphill walking involved.

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As with any of the island stops, there are a variety of tours which can be prebooked. This is the only stop where we have prebooked a tour, to the Vanilla Farm. This one was definitely worth booking and hence a post with write up on the tour will be published in the next couple of days.

We did speak with a family at the wharf, prior to boarding the ship, who were very disappointed after having booked a swim with the turtles, which was not cheap. Unfortunately on this day, they never saw a turtle on their tour. However three large turtles appeared close to the wharf, casually feeding as they cruised around the bay. Somewhat bitter sweet for this family who did get to see turtles, without needing to pay.

Keep an eye out for this whale like point topped with a church, on your cruise, it means you are about to drop anchor at Lifou.

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Mystery Island, Vanuatu

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Straight up I will admit a soft spot for this beautiful uninhabited island. There is something about cruising into the area and seeing this tiny little island for the first time, which helps realign your perspective on life. The sun combines with the aqua blue sea closely surrounding the island, to create gorgeous sparkling diamonds, dancing across the top of the water.

Yes uninhabited, also taboo to stay on the island overnight, however there is an airfield running the length of the island. Perhaps not the most upmarket airport terminal around, but most certainly very cute!

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Ni Vanuatu travel by boat from nearby islands to sell their crafts and provide entertainment to cruise ship visitors. Permanent market huts are set up on the island to cater towards the visitors. Kindy children sit in their groups beneath the big shady tree branches, singing songs, while their curious eyes follow the ship passengers. You can tell when someone has stopped to listen, the volume of the singing increases, as the children throw all their enthusiasm into the songs. A delightful sound as you traverse the island.

Photo opportunities with ‘cannibals’ are provided. I must admit a giggle at this cannibal who was having a heated discussion on his mobile phone during our stopover.

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Our second visit to the island was Christmas Day last year. To spend Christmas Day snorkelling these beautiful waters was an incredibly relaxing experience. One of the hardest decisions for the day, do we walk round the island on the whiter than white sand, or wander down the middle, along the grass airfield. Sand tracks meandering through the shady trees thriving on the island, provide another option for exploring.

A word of warning should you choose the airfield option, this airfield us in regular use, you may need to duck for cover as a plane comes in for landing. Even on Christmas morning, two flights arrived and departed, somewhat unexpected on an island like this.

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Definitely a place for snorkelling, you will no doubt find the beckoning of the gorgeous aqua sea, very difficult to resist. A nice quiet area is located down the opposite end of the island to where you land. Fewer people make the five-ten minute trek down there, preferring to stay close to the landing dock. Leaving you to enjoy a peaceful uninterrupted snorkel. You may even find yourself in middle of a school of darting fish.

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Be sure to take a cruise stopping off at Mystery Island, you won’t regret your decision.