You may be surprised to find a Mumbai-born chef cooking German fare on a European river cruise but that's exactly who's presiding over the kitchen on Scenic Ruby. Executive chef Walter Tryfun leads a culinary staff of 11 that turns out hundreds of tasty meals daily, from sun-up until after-dark, in the ship's small galley.
The kitchen takes great pains to accommodate special dietary needs, starting from day one when individuals are invited to discuss their concerns with the culinary team. Following the consultation, special menus are prepared daily throughout the cruise and choices are labeled and highlighted; special diets, covering issues ranging from shellfish, gluten and lactose allergies to vegan requirements, are requested by between 5 and 10 percent of the passengers on each cruise.
Crystal Dining Room: Most meals are served in the Crystal Dining Room, a long contemporary-style space with windows along the sides and a rectangular buffet, used at breakfast and lunchtime, in the middle. Dining is always open-seating with breakfast served from 7 to 9 a.m., and lunch starting between 12:30 and 1:30 p.m., depending on the day's itinerary and sailing schedule. Dinner usually starts at 7 p.m.
* May require additional fees
Breakfast and lunch are mainly buffets with the option of ordering hot dishes from the menu.
Breakfast buffets are a typical hearty European breakfast spread: yogurt, fruit, meats, cheeses, eggs, cereals, smoked fish, pickled herring, baked beans, breads, pastries and more. The kitchen also offers an intriguing selection of smoothies for both breakfast and lunch, including carrot, grape and watermelon.
Lunch features an array of salads -- lettuce, bean, mushroom, tomato, egg, etc. -- with lots of veggies, nuts, seeds and other toppings, along with two daily soups, three main courses, and regional fare such as sausage and sauerkraut, a Swiss-style noodle casserole, roasted pork loin, grilled fish and spaetzel. There's even an Asian option such as fried Thai noodles. For dessert? Ice cream, cobblers, fruit, mousse and, always, a cheese plate.
Alternate choices, including Caesar salad, salmon steak, chicken breast and steak filet with baked potato, may be ordered during any lunch or dinner. And there are vegan/vegetarian options at all meals.
Dinner typically is a four-course affair with a starter, soup, main course and dessert. Each menu includes suggestions for the chef's "Treat of the Day" and a "Healthy Choice."
One "treat" dinner menu included a bacon onion tart with a chervil sauce, cream of garlic soup, veal strips with buttered snow peas and potato rosti, and creme brulee with red wine plums.
And here's an example of a four-course healthy menu: roasted heirloom beets with horseradish and apple vinaigrette; fennel essence with saffron, cherry tomatoes and mustard cress; and a main course filet of cod with seasonal vegetables and steamed rice, plus a choice of ice cream, fruit or cheese for dessert.
Selected wines, all complimentary, accompany each meal and diners may order other vintages, beer or soft drinks as well.
Portobello's: To mix things up, all passengers are invited once per cruise to this Italian-themed fine dining restaurant on the Diamond Deck, behind the bar in the forward part of the main lounge. The menu for our leisurely portobello meal included such dishes as cream of rocket soup with tomato foam, seared sea bass with Italian salsa and thyme potatoes or, the table favorite, braised beef in Barolo jus with green pea mash and seasonal vegetables, all complemented with Italian wines and an after-dinner grappa. Dessert choices included classic tiramisu, panna cotta and an Italian cheese plate. The dinner was designed to be leisurely and romantic -- and it was. F
Table La Rive: Once each cruise, passengers on the 300-level Diamond Deck are invited to an elegant dinner at Table La Rive, an executive chef's showcase presented at a special table for 10 in the Crystal Dining Room. The six-course gourmet meal is paired with six specially selected wines. Our menu included terrine of foie gras with red onion jam, salmon tartare and potato truffle cake; pumpkin soup; arborio risotto with mushrooms and a lobster medallion; slow-roasted filet mignon with red wine jus and bernaise sauce; Roquefort cheese with pumpkin jam and roasted walnuts; and, for dessert, a raspberry mille-feuille creme anglaise. Passengers left feeling pampered and special.
River Cafe: Grab-and-go treats including sandwiches, ice cream, cheesecake or other desserts are available at the casual River Cafe snack station, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Located behind the bar, it serves light meals, snacks, beverages and desserts.
Sun Deck Barbecue: Weather permitting, passengers are treated to an old-fashioned barbecue on the Sun Deck once per week, starring everything from seafood to hamburgers and ribs or even a German-themed lunch. Winds kept us indoors.
Room Service: On our sailing, late-night room service selection was limited to a club sandwich. Though it was nicely made, some passengers were disappointed by the lack of choices and griped that delivery took way too long. But morning coffee, tea or breakfast service, delivered by personal butlers, was a passenger-pleaser.