Sunday, February 1, 2015

Saturday Night Wine Makers Dinner

We meet up with our fellow diners at the International Café at 6:45.  We are 12 guests tonight and we are surprised to see Bill and Cathy, along with Mike and Sue are in with us as well. 

Along with Karen, Alice, Roy and Sandra and another couple (sorry didn’t get their name) from Kamloops British Columbia.  Franco comes out and checks our names off the list and we are led as a group into the Symphony dining room to the beautiful table surrounded by bottles of wine.

You may recall that we did this dinner last sailing and loved it and Karen (who was at our table then too) asked if they would do the Steak Diane menu for this sailing.  So tonight the menu is different.  Franco goes around and hands out the menus to each of us.  Sadly my menu is poorly printed and it is impossible to read and I notice that the Captain is identified as Bob Oliver…. Hmmm I am not sure what happened to Captain Dino Sagani.

The Chef comes out and is introduced and says a few words to us.  Nicole, is Franco’s assistant tonight and she starts with pouring us bottled water. 

Franco then announces that the steaks is seared with a Grey Poupon mustard and to ensure that this is okay with everyone.  He goes around and asks us all how we like our steak. 

About a half hour has passed before we even get our first glass of wine.  Sadly this wine is not introduced or explained like he did last sailing where he explained the winery and the name. 

Franco tells us the name and opens the bottle and pours the first glass for Alice.  Right away Alice notices it is very dark in color and when she tastes it is very sweet.  When I get some I take a sip and I know this wine from previous cruises and yes it is not right, it tastes like a dessert wine and the color is almost a deep deep yellow.  

When they open the next bottle and keep pouring the remaining glasses we see that the colors are very very different.  Franco then takes a glass and agrees this wine is wrong and apologizes.  And our glasses are removed and new ones brought out and new wine poured. 

We sip and enjoy the wine and wait for the first course. 
The starter course is a tuna tar tar with cucumber and avocado.  It is delicious and done perfectly and looks beautiful.  Yummy.

It takes a while but our plates are cleared and the first course out.  Franco explains that it is a panko crusted prawn served on a bed of mixed greens with a lovely duo of seaweed and wasabi sauce.  I am not sure if it was supposed to be cold or hot, but mine was cold.  Franco may of said it was supposed to be cold, but I didn’t hear it.  I liked this dish too.  For those that don’t like seafood a special pasta is served that they rave about it.

While having our two courses our glasses are empty and we have to ask for more wine often.  It is definitely a slower moving night and because of this we are chatting more (helps we know each other too) and our glasses empty waiting for the next course.

A consomme is served and Franco explains this course to us.  Sadly mine was just warm not hot, but what I did have was very flavourful, but I didn’t finish it.

All this time Franco is busy getting the steaks started and attempting to cook 12 large steaks in one pan to the desired temperature.  The smell is amazing.

But because he is so busy with that we are left to our own devices.  Nicole the assistant needs to be directed by Franco for her next move.  The table seems to be falling apart waiting for our entrée, more wine, direction and service.

Finally our steaks are cooked and served to us, but the red wine has not been served.  Franco runs around trying to pour our wine so we can enjoy it with our entrée. 

The steak is HUGE and takes up half the plate, and it is delicious but my steak is way over done for my medium request.  Bernie asked for Medium Well but his is more medium so we switch plates.  I know that many at the table are commenting about their steaks not being done correctly.  But there is no sense saying anything cause the meal has already dragged out for so long.

While sitting at the table the band made up of wait staff circles the dining room playing songs.  Now this is lovely but my feeling is that they should maybe have them doing their “actual” job serving the diners.  I know we could of used their assistance at our table tonight.  Someone at the table comments that their waiter from the other night is in the bad and they experienced great service until he left to play in the band and then service dropped considerable as his assistant worked to do the job of two people.  Now don’t get me wrong, they sing beautifully and it is nice to see and hear but the dining service requires them and I think that unless they have no one in their section they probably should not be playing.

The plates are cleared and very few are able to finish their meal because of the size.    

Dessert is brought out and it is a stunning chocolate dish with a warm inside.  I wish I could describe it more but again I never heard an introduction of it.  Mind you our table by this time had fallen apart with too much wine and too much time.  But in the end, because we were with friends it made it fun, I can’t imagine how it would have been with strangers.  I think I may of walked out.

Nicole comes around asking about coffee and tea but I am so tired of sitting that I say nothing for me.  Franco comes around offering small bon bons and they were lovely.

Then to add to it Franco has to come around with each bill and to fill out each slip too and get our signature.   I think having the bills done ahead of time or having another waiter to do this (maybe one of the band members) could of freed Franco to do what he was meant to do here.

After about at 3.5 hour meal we get up and we leave feeling no pain and something tells me I am going to have a hangover.

Overall I am glad this was not our first time doing this dinner, but very saddened about this experience.  We were going to do it again next sailing, but we are wondering now if we should. 

I can’t blame one thing but a few things.  The menu is just too much for the head waiter to do.  One assistant is not enough, you definitely need two assistants and assistants that are able to be proactive, fill glasses, answer questions, opening wines without having direction from the head waiter.  Having someone else do the cooking and have Franco do the actual dinner hosting.  Franco shines as a host, he is personable, friendly and truly cares.  His knowledge of wine tonight was lost because he was just way too busy with everything else.  

It is with a heavy heart that I write this review, but I took some time to write this and hope that these comments can be used to make the experience even better for the next guest who does it.  Thank you for listening.

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