If it seems like I am ignoring the meals on the Seabourn Quest, it’s only because our lunches off of it have been so magnificent. Last night we ate at the Patio Grill by the pool — Jer had barbecued shortribs and I had a great salad and grilled vegetables. This morning I had the breakfast I have everyday (except on those occasions when I am ambushed by an apricot croissant) — a bowl of Greek yogurt and honey and a some fabulous fruit.
But the lunches in port, dear heaven!! They have all been outstanding and today’s was truly exceptional. We are anchored by the island of Lipari, a tiny dot of a place off the coast of Sicily. It is beyond beautiful — the water is an absurdly clear blue green and the ancient castle and elaborate churches are perched on the side of the cliffs overlooking the sea. Winding streets are full of flowering trees, pots of flowers, shops and trattorias. It is color splashed on color, vibrant and shimmering in the heat.
We wandered around the castle and the shops until lunchtime — the island is famous for its capers and some local almond biscuits called nacatuli, so we hunted those down. We bought A LOT of capers — I feel a column coming on — and the biscuits are a treat — tender pastry filled with almond paste (not unlike a provencal calisson d’Aix, which I love.) Also found a terrific dress shop owned by a Swiss lawyer who divides her time between her practice and the island. Since this is a food blog, after all, I’ll spare you a description of my purchases there (but they are lovely!)
For lunch, we had gotten a recommendation for the best pizza in town and as we are pretty well fished out after yesterday, pizza sounded good. And it WAS good, in fact, excellent, but the pizza was the least interesting part of our meal.
We started with eggplant parmigiana and caponata (yes, it’s an eggplant theme, and it doesn’t end there.) The eggplant parm was as good as it gets but the caponata was one of the best things I have ever had in my life. The sweet and sour eggplant dish is a Sicilian specialty so I expected it to be good, but this was beyond my imagination. Jerry tasted it before I did and went nuts and he is not one to rave about eggplant anything. And he was right. The sweet and sour flavor was not in a sauce or a glaze, it was almost infused right into the eggplant. There was a little red pepper and a sliced green olive visible, but otherwise the dish was all eggplant, big, succulent chunks of deep purple eggplant. It was absolutely drop-dead better than any caponata I have ever had, and I myself have never made any half so good. Wish I could take a picture of the taste! I won’t rest until I figure out how to make it!!
While I was moaning over my plate of caponata, Jer had a grilled octopus. A whole, grilled baby octopus, sitting on the plate. The logo at the Trattoria d’Oro is an octopus chef (in a toque) waving around a bunch of ingredients and cooking a pizza so it must be something of a specialty. In any case it was gorgeous and he was happy (Jer, not the octopus, who presumably was not.)
By the time the pizza arrived it was something of an anticlimax. But it was still delicious, as only good Italian pizza can be. This one had a pesto of (if I understood the chef correctly) capers, onion, garlic, herbs and tomatoes, with mozzarella and, surprise — melanzane fritte — chunks of fried eggplant scattered over the whole thing! It was fantastic, even though I was as full as I could be.
Thought we might sink the tender on the way back to the ship but it got us back intact. And now, as is becoming our custom, we are settled in for a post-lunch (and post-blogging) nap. Sweet caponata dreams!