Kat’s Kibbles and Bits in The Med

When I needed Serenity; to deck 15 I would go — Adults Only.  Trust me when I tell you it was much needed by me, just to get away from it all and “oo sahh” did wonders for my soul. I had the pleasure of meeting Debbie Flood of Los Angeles, daughter of the legendary  MLB center fielder, Curt Flood, who grew up in Oakland and we have a ballpark named in his honor.

Five of us: Robbie, Yvonne, Jessie and Gail had the much sought after reservations for the acclaimed CHEF’S TABLE. There were 9 other unfamiliar cruisers at our table 4 of which appeared to be Trump supporters since they did not raise their glasses to the “No Trump” toast.  Lol. Oh and did those South Carolinians get a rise hearing about my 86 cruises since 1986 and my monthly around the world stops as My friends join me in making Kat Tracks wherever we go.

If you ever get an opportunity to dine at the Chef’s Table do not pass it up. It is one memorable culinary experience.  An extraordinary gastronomical experience like no other.  Unlike  the Carnival Breeze with the table for 12 between the 2 galleys, The Vista has a private glass enclosed dining room with place settings for 16.  We started with champagne and appetizers that included a frozen Greek yogurt pop with salmon shavings on one side and lemon and lime zest on the other. It literally melted in your mouth.   We had 8 courses .  My favorites being: Betkshire Pork Belly, Shrimps; the Slow Cooked Crispy Lamb; and the Olive Oil Poached Seabass with asparagus and white miso.

Stay tuned for more of my KIBBLES AND BITS on our very interesting Black Marseille Tour.

Amazing Amalfi Coast

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Our drivers Sergio and Ivo met 60 of us at the ship with 4 vehicles and we were soon on our way.  DeeDee and Nikki had been jokingly inquiring about Guido once we hit Italy so they were surprised when I asked Ivo where Guido and Carmine were.  Lol  yes real life mafia names.  Wait til they meet  Mauritzio in Rome, a true Godfather.  I’ve been blessed with the best connections wherever I go in the world and I tell you my Italian family really takes excellent care of me and my groups.  As we passed Mt Vesuvius and made our way to Positano, it became evident to all that the views of one of the most spectacular coastlines in the world were more than breathtaking   When I stepped into La Tagliata Restaurant, I was blown away with the setup of the dining room.  Pepe, who runs the restaurant is the son of Dora the master chef.  He greeted me with nothing but love.  I have been bringing groups here for the last 7 years and he assured me, this group was in for a treat.  We were served so many courses I lost count— from the anti pasta to the platters of desserts.  I might add that  red wine, white wine and bottled water were free flowing.  After our bountiful meal, the hired  vocalist treated us to her repertoire of Italian standards and got our participation in Volare and Tbats Amore’. Oh and she passed out plenty of tambourines and things. It appeared everyone was having a great time.  Befiore it was over, Chef Dora (Mama Mia is what I call her) came out waving her linen napkin and to say Grazie!  To all.  Shortly thereafter, 54 were on their way to Pompeii while me and my 5 were headed  back to the ship.

We had 8p dinner reservations at Ji Ji Asian Kitchen and man was it a feast.   I highly recommend this Specialty Restaurant.  The 6 of us chose to share: 4 appetizers, 5 mains, 4 sides and a few desserts for a mere $15pp.  Unfreakinbelievable !   Yvonne and I had to rush to our rooms to change and get a blanket then down 1 level to the IMAX theater b/c we had a date with Denzel Washington.  OMG! Our brotha played his part. My friends, MAGNIFICENT 7  is off the richter.

 

 

 

If It’s All White, It’s Alright

It was one awesome evening for the group as they continued on in a sophisticated mode at our private function.   We had a date in the Limelight Lounge complete with open bar and the most delectable appetizers. We hired DJ Blendz straight outta Chi Town and he did his thing on the turntable. Our most impressive dance couple, Rick and Lisa Boseman kept the dance floor poppin with impromptu lessons on Biker Shuffle, Wifey, Just Fine, The Wobble, and Blurred Lines just to name a few. Later on after dinner Robbie Bell and I hot footed it over to the Punchline Comedy Club with the 40 something crew: DeeDee, Yvonne, Nikki, Robin and Nicole where more drama was going on in the audience before showtime than the actual showtime.  I must tell you someday how I have replaced  “Bye Felicia” with “Bye Priscilla’s Cousin”.  It has been one wild time.  I was so happy to see Lorraine, Heather and the 3 Michele’s stop by and they gave me the short version of their 3 days in Morocco before the cruise.   Tomorrow will be one of my highlights on this Mediterranean itinerary. Stay tuned.

It’s All About The Cruisin’

We had an 11am photo shoot and it was not an easy task getting 97 together in order to capture my vision. Some did not make it on time, too much party last night.  Big up to Gail Jackson Brooks for her expertise in photography and the unknown middle school teacher sent from above that said, “What do you need”? I can get folks organized for you”.. I could not have been more proud with the group turning out with my suggested color coordination. There were several groups running around this big beautiful ship  with their tee shirts on but NONE could compare to the way The Sophisticated Ladies and Gents were shining, truly sophisticated.  Yes, they had it going on.

Briana Moore was instrumental in arranging the bid whist games in the Library.  Ray Mosely, Jo Ann Barbosa, Debra Taylor Johnson, Patricia Nicholson got the Boston Tea Party off to a great start with yours truly just filling in where needed.  You know I aint bidding unless I have a road map in my hand.

I enjoyed lunch at the SEAFOOD SHACK on the back of the ship with 3 lovelies: daughter DeeDee, Nikki Britto and my Road Dawg of 20 years, my fellow foodie,  the incomparable Robbie Bell of Miami.  DeeDee and Nikki raved so about the Lobster Roll; we just had to sample.  The crab cake sliders and the clam chowder was on hit.  And I later found out from Mama Yvonne that the oysters on the half shell were pretty darn good as well.

Some 8 hrs later we all dressed to impress for The Vista’s ELEGANT NIGHT.  Everyone looked like they stepped out of VOGUE and GQ.  The dinner menu did not disappoint with Maine Lobster Tail, huge tender cuts of Prime Rib, Fried Oysters, Caesar Salad, Cream of Mushroom soup, etc.  When the waiters did their dance, they had some of the sexiest moves I’ve ever seen coming from waiters.  They were like Chippendale dancers — real hot stuff.

Tomorrow, we dock in Palermo, port city of Sicily —-home of the Godfather.  I will stay on board… Been there, done that, don’t have to do it again.  However, the newbies are anxious.  Stay tuned!

Barcelona Now, Maldives 2018

After our 6 hr flight from NY we finally made it to The W Barcelona.  In my opinion it’s a very sexy hotel and I love it.  Some had been here for a few days and already made their connections and introductions, noting the best restaurants around and my wine-Auxs making their way to the annual wine festival held here.     As you can probably tell, I’m at a point in life where I say just give me all the down time and relaxation I can be given and I’m one happy sista.     You know, like my time in Fiji. I want more of that.  Tomorrow we board Carnival’s newest and biggest ship, THE VISTA.   That 4 month old baby is big and pretty with the most to do on board.  Our stops will be Sicily, Naples, Rome, Florence, Marseille, and Palma — all very exciting but having spent so much time in most of these ports the past 6 years, my focus will be on the ship, however I can never get tired of one of the world’s most spectacular coastlines —The Amalfi Coast outside of Naples and our private  tour and feast at a very special restaurant in Positano. This year we are shutting it down —-we have the entire restaurant .  I also look forward to returning to Marseille for a special treat. Stay tuned.

Just to get you excited for 2018…. When asked where would I like to go that I have never been and surprisingly my newest team member, my lovely daughter DeeDee has the same response:  THE MALDIVES.  Yes, over water bungalows set in the Indian Ocean, pricey as all get out but you know how I give it to you…the absolute BEST EXPERIENCE at an affordable price. You dont have to be a baller to do what ballers do when you do it the KATTRAX way with plenty of time to pay.    This my friends will be all about “RELAXING” in the lap of sheer LUXURY.   Interested in THE MALDIVES 2018.? Inbox me at rivoli98@yahoo.com.  Not on this blog site.  In case you didn’t know everybody sees what you write here.  Your comments are most welcome but let your private messages to me  be that…private.   Peace and blessings, Kat

The Culmination To Our Culinary Tour

As our time was winding down, everyone was trying to get in the last bit of what was on their personal agenda.  Kattrax gave them a well rounded itinerary and they still had time to do their own thing.  Shout out to Luchan Baker and Janice Manuel (Bay Area transplants here in NOLA part time) on hand to offer their helpful hints and suggestions  to the group. So happy to have y’all hangin with us. Big up to Jess Peters, NOLA resident who worked closely with me on this project. I can’t thank you enough.  What a guy!!

The Whitney Plantation, about an hour   away, was high on everybody’s list and all thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon, even though it’s  a very emotional experience.  12 Years of Slavery and other slave movies have been filmed here.  The Plantation Tour is definitely a “must see and do” when visiting NOLA.

Jean Perignon and I had to check out the Praline Connection, located on Frenchmen Street for lunch.  They have some of the best, freshly prepared soul food around.   The collard greens, red beans, and fried chicken were all seasoned to perfection and their bread pudding gets my vote for the best I tasted here.  We got boxes of Pralines to take home and they have more varieties than you can shake a stick at.

Our strategically located hotel in the French Quarter (Vieux Carre’) gave participants the ease of moving about and being walking distance to most of what we were doing without worrying about ridiculous parking rates and congested streets in the Quarter; this location only made the best sense… Bourbon Street, Canal Street, Deanies, Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse, Mr. B’s Bistro, Court of Two Sisters,  Brennan’s, Cafe du Monde, etc. all steps away from our wonderful HOTEL MONTELEONE. Other places in the city are a short Uber ride away so when coming make sure you download the Uber app.

If you missed this tour and want to join the next one; follow my blog for upcoming details or else you will miss it again.  Keep in mind, there will be a cap on the number of participants.

Next up: CRUISING ANTARCTICA – Feb 16- March 4th…..Our 7th Continent!

Saturday Jazz Brunch..Yummy!

We walked a few blocks to the COURT OF TWO SISTERS for our scrumptious all you can eat  brunch. It was ever so wonderfully, delightfully delicious. I started with sliced beef that was so tender it practically melted in my mouth. Moving down the line, a cup of gumbo, some soft bacon, a couple bbq ribs, red beans and rice and the softest, fluffiest homemade buttermilk biscuit you can imagine. I swear I haven’t tasted such a heavenly delight since I was a kid.

Lucille loves their Turtle Soup with Sherry and since I have never been a fan of turtle; was hesitant to give it a try but then there was Darlene seated not far from me . Ooh-ing and ahh-ing over it so I gave it a shot.  Much to my surprise…..I could really dig it. It was nice.  KATTRAX included a Mimosa  or Bloody Mary for everybody and all loved that little treat.  I went back for the Apple Cobbler and grabbed another fluffy biscuit on my way. Damn, those biscuits were off the richter!!

As usual, I made my early departure, left them enjoying to the max.  I finalized the bill and made my way back to the comfort of my hotel.  The Carousel Bar is off the lobby and no matter the time of day or night, it’s always poppin.  It attracts folks that aren’t even guests here hoping to get a ride on the carousel.     This hotel is quite the Kat’s Meow, a Grand legend and I love it.

So, everyone is on their own now to enjoy the city…..some will do the Whitney Plantation tour or City Tour tomorrow.  This is the beginning of the Mardi Gras Celebration and there will be a parade tonight plus some Zulu parties, all leading up to February 13th.      As for me, I’m chillin like a west coast villain ….I’m off til we fly home Monday. I had my charbroiled oysters yesterday at DRAGOS,  will hit NEYOW’S CREOLE CAFE tonight and DEANIES SEAFOOD tomorrow.

Will I do this again?  Absolutely!  Maybe in June, maybe in August. Stay tuned for details.

 

 

NEW ORLEANS 101

I must say Kat, PhD (Professor of Hot Destinations, tied it all in on this Friday in the Crescent City.  New Orleans is steeped in and so rich in Culture, Cuisine, History and Music.  Our day started at the NEW ORLEANS SCHOOL OF COOKING, a short 7 mins walk from our hotel. The menu was Crawfish Etouffe (translated smothered), Shrimp and Artichoke Soup, King Cake Bread Pudding, and Pralines.  We learned a few ways to make the infamous roux, the trinity, and that you can etouffe anything among so many other helpful cooking hints.  Everything was so very tasty. My favorite was the soup. Our instructor for the day was a 75 yo retired school teacher who kept the class lively with her humor. After the class I picked up a few items in the General Store; Joe’s Stuff (a creole seasoning), Cajun Power Garlic Sauce and some Slap Ya Mama Pepper Sauce.  Joe’s Stuff was on the tables and everybody was on it.

Next up was the FREE PEOPLE OF COLOR MUSEUM. Sitting at the corner of Esplanade and N. Rocheblave St. Is housed some of the most interesting historical facts. Our guide, Kim, a 28 yo historian who is working on her PhD in a single word is AWESOME.  The museum takes visitors through the history of the F.P.C. beginning in 1708 with the arrival of Frenchman, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville with 2 enslaved Africans named George and Marie.  Bienville brought men and women from Senegal and Gambia to sell as slaves, and those people brought with them okra and rice as well as local customs, f.p.c. who made up 60% of the city before the Louisiana Purchase, left an indelible fingerprint on music, cuisine and architecture.

As late as 1840, these French speaking mixed race people made up 20% of the city’s population.  They were largely the freed Descendants of enslaved women and their white owners or refugees from the Haitian slave revolts. Although they did not have all the rights of their white counterparts, many F.P.C. prospered in 19th century New Orleans.  As of the 1850s Free People of Color owned more than 2 million dollars worth of property, mostly in the Faubourg Treme and Marigny. Some even owned slaves. By 1855 nearly 85% of black creoles were classified as doctors, clerks, teachers and skilled workers. They also thrived in trades like carpentry, masonry, and cigar making.  Much of the ironwork on the balconies of French Quarter properties and in the old cemeteries is the work of those skilled artisans.

Owners, Beverly and Dr Dwight McKenna have amassed a number of paintings, artifacts and furniture in the museum —-even a 100 lb ball and chain from slavery times. Amongst the many documents is a reminder that these people were early civil Rights Activists. There is a petition signed by 1000 local free men of color and delivered to President Lincoln requesting the right to vote, over 100 years before the Voting Rights Act.  In the petition which is so powerfully and beautifully worded, they say we pay taxes on 15 million dollars of property, we’ve fought in all your military battles, we are business people, we are educated but yet still 2nd class citizens.  This museum visit was an emotionally charged experience  I urge all visitors to this city to pay a visit.

Later in the evening we had a date at the Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro on the lively Frenchmen Street.  Kattrax had reserved seating in this very intimate jazz venue for the 2nd set.  We were treated to the stylings of Dr Michael White, a jazz clarinetist, bandleader, composer, jazz historian and musical instructor.  He is instrumental in keeping alive the New Orleans jazz tradition.  It rounded out a very full day in a most spectacular way.

 

 

 

NICE AND EASY IN THE BIG EASY!

Greetings Travelers!  For the last almost 7 months I’ve reposted blogs from our previous tours around the world. I’ve just about covered them all.  So I won’t bore you with being repetitious.  For the time being there are quite a few places Americans can not enter. 2021 is going to be better for all of us. We are still scheduled for Australia, Paris, Morocco, South Africa, Negril, South Africa, Egypt and The Maldives.

In the meantime I’ve been busy in Kat’s Kitchen – Tastes from around the world.  I’ve perfected Vietnamese Spicy Green Onion & garlic,  2 types of shrimp fried rice ( Vietnamese and Chinese). I’ve created my own Southern Jamaican Oxtails, South African Baked Salmon,  Jamaican Brown Stew Chicken and my Spicy Shrimp Dip (aka crack) keeps on getting more addictive.  “I can’t get you to those places right now but my cuisine will make you think you’re there.

There may be another New Orleans trip in the horizon.  We can go there  The next few blogs will be REPOSTED from our 2018 trip there and did we let the GOOD TIMES ROLL? Yes, we did!

Last week it was freezing here but today we were greeted with Pleasant shirt sleeve weather. Our airport pick up by Luxe Transportation was on hit.  The service and the vehicle set the stage for Kattrax perfectly.  13 of 23 flew nonstop from Oakland. Tony Jackson and Jean Eason kept it lively on the flight….clowning of course.   After arriving we connected with the Sacramento folks; Della Casey and Herman and Mary Walton at baggage claim. Our courteous and experienced driver, Antoinette was there waiting for us and soon we were on our way

Upon arriving at the legendary HOTEL MONTELEONE in the French Quarter we had a small private reception on the mezzanine in the Queen Anne’s Parlor where I distributed key packets.  Of course it was like a mini reunion with so many from past tours happy to see their friends:  Nicole Robinson-Hamilton of Tennessee, Lucille Johnson, Audrey Kay, Darlene Daevu, Debra Sledge, Sonya Lucas-Harris, Luchan Baker, Janice Manuel, Mary Jacobs of North Carolina, Sandra Phillips, Georgene Roberts, Sue Allison, Lateshia Irving of Monterey and new comers; Sonya Coleman, Sharon Longworth of Gainesville and Tara Nichols of North Carolina.  After settling in, Sandra and I headed down to the Carousel Bar where we ran into Jean.  It seats 26 and revolves slowly.  Me and my best friend, Tonic Water could easily survive but I doubt if me and my old pals Grey Goose Cosmo  or a couple glasses of champagne could manage this and still maintain decent composure.

My dear friend,  Jess Peters;  Wine Broker and Cigar aficionado and New Orleans resident worked closely with me on this project and it has been a real pleasure.  He met us in the lobby at 540p and we walked 5 mins to the world famous Brennan’s Restaurant, sophisticated creole cuisine since 1946.  Everything was to my satisfaction from the place settings, the plating and presentation, to the food and service.  I chose the seafood file’ gumbo, the braised shortribs with wilted kale, pickled green tomato in red wine sauce and for dessert; the praline Leidenheimer bread pudding with rye whiskey anglaise and chantilly cream.  Here in New Orleans everyone has their own variation of bread pudding so I’m sure we’ll sample a few while here.  There are so many wonderful restaurants and dining experiences here; 4 Days is just not enough to get it all in.  I’ve got to get to Dragos for my delightful charbroiled oysters. No, not raw on the half shell but charbroiled.  I can’t get down with the raw no matter how much horseradish or Tabasco there is.   Another must will be Deanie’s  Seafood Restaurant and then I will be on a mission to find the best fried catfish in town.  As we enjoyed our meal,  one of our servers gave us a bit of history on the restaurant and the building which has been standing since 1791.  We also learned the story of the $75,000 dress in the display case in our private room. Overall, a very nice dining experience was had at Brennan’s and it did not disappoint.

Shout out to my mentor, Rev Eltyna McCree who worked tirelessly on flight and hotel contracts.  Merci  beaucoup! We are here to “laissez les bon temps rouler”  Let the good times roll.

Tomorrow we visit the NEW ORLEANS SCHOOL OF COOKING where our lunch will be what we prepare.  On the menu will be:  Crawfish Etouffee, Shrimp and Artichoke Soup, Bread Pudding, Pralines.  I look forward to another wonderful meal.

A Soulful, Soul Food Sunday in Marseille

My breakfast began with my cereal, no sugar.  There was a Sunday Marche’ directly in front of our hotel. I strolled along, checking out the wares of the  various vendors and then finally sat on a wooden bench and did some “people watching” occasionally looking at KISMET, the Superyacht which still remained docked in full view.

Later,  lunch was with one of my favorite couples; Mike and Patricia Nicholson, who I call the “globetrotting Nicholsons” and who have been traveling with me since the early 2000’s.  They shared memories of past trips with, “Kat do you remember when you said this or what about so and so that went to Montreux in 2015, or the Italy trip or the Dubai trip”. It was a nice afternoon of reminiscing and I was ready for a nap before the group gathered to take the short 10 minute walk uphill to Martin’s where he was preparing a table for us.

Upon our arrival, as our host escorted us up his winding staircase, we were also met with the fragrant aromas that had drifted down from his kitchen.  He put on the finishing touches of the meal while a few assisted him in setting up the selections of wine or found a hammock (Kat, NOT ham hock) to relax in on the patio  Martin said, “Kat, they gotta wait to eat ham hocks when they get home. I said I was hanging hammocks not ham hocks”. LOL.     Finally, dinner was about to be served and our most gracious host had everybody join hands as he led us in a soul stirring vocal rendition of blessing the food.  The menu consisted of: West African Black eyed peas with okra and shrimp from Togo, Pesto Peas, Steamed white rice cooked with coconut milk,  rotisserie chicken and a green salad with a vinaigrette balsamic dressing with soy sauce and shallots.  As we broke bread,  he definitely had shown  us what he was workin’ with. This was a wonderful culinary experience, everything was seasoned purr-fectly.  What a purr-fect way to end a purr-fect Kattrax week in marvelous Marseille.