Everyone agrees – wine and food just naturally taste better onboard a yacht! And wine pairings, along with winemaker dinners, are a big part of our business.
We work with several local Paso Robles Wineries. The first step in creating a menu for one of their events is to carefully review the actual winemaker’s tasting notes for the varietals they’ve selected. These notes are like a guide sheet. They highlight specific characteristics of the wine (bouquet, body, acidity, finish, etc.) and provide a place for me to begin. My goal is to match the best possible food selection to the wine so that the wine is complemented but not overwhelmed. In the case of dinners, the food and wine must come together in harmony as the meal progresses and complement each other throughout.
With the limited space and refrigeration storage in the galley, our menu selections can be challenging. Their success depends on detailed planning, exact timing, and spot-on execution during service. These three factors are extremely important in creating gourmet food onboard. We do not have the benefit – or luxury – of the space, equipment, and extra staff that are available in a restaurant setting. Our operation requires super organization, focus, attention to detail, and team work. If any one of these is missing, our customer’s experience can be affected.
The sample menu shown is for a five-course pairing we offer onboard, typically serving 30 to 36 guests cruising the bay for three hours. As you read over it, keep in mind that the food preparation for this menu all takes place in 66 square feet. That’s five different courses during the cruise, one course served every half hour. How do we do it?
Most of the courses are prepped and partially cooked earlier in the day. Just like in a restaurant, they are finished at service time.
When serving Abalone, I have two large sauté pans on the range. I start cooking eight servings in one pan while the other is heating up. Abalone cooks very fast. While plating up the first batch, the next is being sautéed. This process is duplicated (often four times) until everyone is served. When the guests have finished the course, the dishes are collected, returned to the galley, washed, and made ready for the next course.
With a salad or cold plate selection, we arrange the plates on every bit of counter space available, creating more space by placing a chopping board over the sinks to accommodate more plates. And then we literally work right out of the refrigerator to plate up.
Casseroles and braised dishes are prepared earlier and refrigerated. While serving other courses, they are returned to the oven to heat for service. The timing of this is critical due to the lack of oven space and the time necessary for reheating.
While all this is going on, the wine is flowing and our guests are enjoying each course, anticipating the next one. Everyone is making merry – even us. We appear relaxed, able to handle each course easily. No undue fuss. No hint of the tightrope we are walking in the galley and the tasks we are juggling behind the scenes. We have a mental commitment and mindset to make each person’s experience special, because we know that great food and wine served onboard a yacht by a professional team is special. It’s not like your everyday restaurant experience. That’s why we strive to make our wine pairings and dinners happen with no hint of stress or pressure.
But the food work in the galley is just one part of the incredible dance that’s taking place onboard. Guest service has its own set of challenges, enough for another blog. In the meantime: “Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez.” (Let the good times roll)