Regent Seven Seas Cruises is giving passengers more than 200 new and delicious reasons to feel less guilty about bypassing the fitness centre and jogging track while on holiday.
As reported by Cruise Passenger in May, the luxury-class line is making notable and nutritious changes to its fare from bow to stern.
It’s out with a separate vegan menu and in with scores of gourmet plant-based dishes integrated into the daily menus of the main dining room and beyond by November 1 – which just happens to be World Vegan Day.
Captaining the culinary creations is Regent Food and Beverage Vice President Bernhard Klotz. His project team includes world-renowned chef and author Christophe Berg, a 15-year vegan who recently served in a similar consulting capacity for Oceania Cruises.
Executing their vegetarian-rooted vision will be the galley crews of Regent’s four-vessel fleet – five when the Seven Seas Splendor arrives in February
So what’s the difference between plant-based dishes and vegan diets? Both are generally based on personal health, animal welfare and environmental concerns. But those eating plant-based dishes are free to eat dairy, as well as poultry, red meat, fish and animal bi-products. Vegans, vehemently, aren’t.
Dino Schwager, a nine-year executive chef with Regent Seven Seas told me during a recent Alaskan cruise aboard Seven Seas Mariner: “Plant-based is a movement, like a political movement. This is a new cuisine, a completely new niche.”
Ok, after all that mouth-watering preamble, what does it taste like?
Although the fleet’s galleys are still months away from being fully stocked for the new recipes, the affable German chef personally made this travel writer a three-course meal as close to being leaf-worthy as possible.
And as a avowed meat eater, I was a little pensive. I’d read that some who had tried plant-based food felt sluggish and lacked energy.
I needn’t have worried.
Joining us for the exclusive, almost-to-spec chef’s tasting menu was a third avid non-vegetarian at the table, Vladimir Cavic, the ship’s food and beverage director.
First up was the gorgeously plated “Warm White and Green Asparagus,” currently served every 14th day in the Mariner’s exquisite Compass Rose and the line’s other main dining rooms.
Accompanied by portabella and oyster mushrooms, Parisienne potatoes and sherry vinegar dressing, the dish appears perfectly plant-based.
But apparently, during the making of this dish, butter was used when boiling the asparagus, sautéing the fungi and soaking the spuds. The new menu calls for the butter to be replaced with a plant-based margarine.
The main dish already tastes fresh and light, especially with a dressing too delicate to dare overpower the perfectly prepared produce. Exchanging butter for plant-based margarine, “a simple change,” according to Chef, will not only appeal to contemporary palates and lifestyles, but also “celebrate the vegetables.”
I found the dish light, yet satisfying – on par with similar fare from Regent, which means well above average.
Next came the “Assorted Greens and Shaved Fennel,” a lovely salad course option that blends California and Hawaiian cuisines with orange segments and roasted macadamia nut dressing.
“What on the plate isn’t plant-based?” Schwager was asked. Chef replied with a devilish smile, “Nothing! This can be served exactly as-is.”
The third course, the “Caramelised Apple Tart,” is a dish that will require longer preparation by the dedicated dessert crew.
“The apple stays the same, caramelised in the oven with the vinegar,” Schwager said.
It was love at first bite for this fan.
“The goat cheese will be replaced by a plant-based cheese, made with cashew. Like switching out butter with plant-based margarine, that’s a simple step. It’s the changes to the puff pastry that’s not easy.”
Plant-based pastry dough, at least on Regent ships, will be put in the freezer to set, then rolled thinly before cutting.
“This has to be done fast,” Chef said. “The dough is so sensitive, if you make it and don’t roll it, it doesn’t work. And you have to roll it between two baking sheets.”
Based on the best the executive chef and his galley’s dessert station could do in advance of receiving proper training and plant-based ingredients, we can safely state that passengers are in for a real – and healthier – treat.
Highs: Regent Seven Seas adding so many plant-based dishes to its regular menus is a big win for passengers on diets eliminating or limiting animals and animal bi-products. Corporate move also will appeal to meat eaters considering healthier choices from a luxury cruise line known for serving top-notch cuisine.
Lows: This mate felt no such effects after the almost-to-spec sneak peek, but some people claim feeling sluggish when switching to a plant-based diet, but this could mean they are undereating, especially on proteins, or opting for vegan junk food that lacks proper nutrition. Also, because cashews are a favourite substitute for dairy products in cheeses, sufferers of tree nut allergies might need to be more on their guard.
Best Suited To: The obvious in addition to the typical passenger who eats about 30 percent more during the first two or three days of a cruise, then goes back on a normal level while simultaneously seeking healthier options.