Our Carnival Dream Adventure – Part 2

Disclosure: Carnival Cruise Lines sent us (my husband and I) on a 7 day cruise aboard the Carnival Dream at no cost to us. They also comped our steakhouse visit. (We did pay for the excursions on our own.) All opinions in this post are 100% my own. 

When my husband and I went on our very first cruise, we had no idea what to expect. We knew that the food was included in the cost of the cruise, so our hopes weren’t very high (because where else do you get the food included with your vacation?!). However, we were blown away with the food and the service that was included. Because of that, we never really considered booking any of the premium meal offerings, until this year.

While our steakhouse dinner was generously comped by Carnival, we actually made a reservation with the steakhouse before we found that out. We had heard so many wonderful things on cruising forums, so we figured on our third cruise…why not give it a try? We very rarely go out to eat at fancy restaurants, so we considered this to be an extra special treat.

We were beyond blown away. My husband and I agree that the steakhouse is a MUST for every cruise from now on. :-)

Our waiter first brought out an amuse bouche for us to enjoy after we placed our order. My husband got the most adorable little slider I’ve ever seen, and I had a small tomato soup.

CarnivalSteakhouseStarter

At the steakhouse, you get your choice of a starter, salad, entree and dessert. My husband isn’t much of a salad person, so they mentioned that he could have two starters instead.

Both my husband and I had their baked onion soup. I’m a sucker for onion soup, and this one was seriously the BEST onion soup I’ve ever had. It was rich, full of flavor, cheesy…all of the things an onion soup needs to be. My husband agreed…we loved it so much! I wish I knew how to make this soup at home. For my salad, I had a classic caesar salad, and my husband opted for the crab cake starter instead of the salad.  Both were also delicious!

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The entrees…whoa. These steaks were fantastic! I ordered the broiled filet mignon and my husband ordered the spice-rubbed prime ribeye steak. I tried a piece of my husband’s, and both steaks were perfectly cooked and delicious. My filet was so tender…I barely needed my knife to cut through it! For the sides, we both got wasabi horseradish potatoes and I had the sautéed mushrooms as well. They also offer sauces for the steaks, and we got a sampler of all three. We both said the wild mushroom was our favorite, although the bearnaise offered a wonderful richness and the three peppercorn was a nice, flavorful sauce as well.

CarnivalSteakhouseEntrees

Neither of us really had room for dessert, but um….who are we to refuse dessert? My husband ordered the cheesecake, and I ordered the chocolate sampler. When our waitress brought out the desserts, I had no idea how we were going to finish them. The cheesecake was insanely tall…I have no idea if they even use normal sized springform pans to make theirs…haha! I wish I held something in the picture next to the cheesecake to give you an idea of scale. Let’s just say it was a really tall cheesecake! The chocolate sampler that I had was just perfection. It’s a sampler of four desserts, each topped with ice cream or sorbet. One of the desserts was a banana pannacotta, which was perfect to have a bite of when dessert got to be a little too rich.

CarnivalDesserts

I can’t even begin to explain how wonderful this dinner was. It was probably the best dinner of my life, and I was thankful our room was on the same side of the boat as the restaurant, because we seriously went straight to our room and fell asleep. We were so blissfully full, and then swore we would never eat that much for a meal again on the rest of the cruise. (That ended up being a straight-up lie.)

We are absolutely making the steakhouse dinner a tradition for every cruise we go on from now on. We were completely blown away by the food and the impeccable service. Completely.

We actually went on the cruise with some of my husband’s family, and we decided to pay for his parents to dine in the steakhouse a few nights later as a gift to them. That’s how much we loved it…we just had to share the experience with someone, and they were equally impressed!

After the first night, we ended up eating dinner at the main dining room for the rest of the cruise. Since we were with some of his family, we liked using dinnertime as a time to catch-up and talk about how the cruise was going. We had the most unbelievable wait staff in the main dining room (A huge shout-out to our head server Zubin and his staff…they were probably the best main dining room staff we’ve ever had between all of the cruises we’ve been on!). And of course, the food was delicious. I pictured some of my favorites from the cruise below.

CarnivalFoodFaves

Left: Formal night lobster. Oh man…not only do you get lobster, but they also include jumbo tiger shrimp. It’s such a good, classic entree.

Top right: On the second day of the cruise, the steakhouse offered a cooking demonstration where they cooked and gave us recipes to make a few of the steakhouse favorites. We also got to sample whatever they cooked. Pictured is the mushroom cappuccino, which is what they serve on the first formal night of the cruise. We asked if it was served the night we went to the steakhouse (we remembered it from the last cruise’s cooking demonstration…it’s THAT good), but our server said it’s only on formal nights. So good!

Center right: Champagne sorbet. It’s not the easiest to photograph, but this is another steakhouse favorite offered on formal nights. Our maitre d’ mentioned it to us one night, and since we missed out on that too for our steakhouse dinner, she surprised us with some on the second formal night at our table! I loved it so much…I need to make this myself. :-) Wouldn’t that be fun for a celebration?

Bottom right: Warm Melting Chocolate Cake. Another classic…it’s the most popular dessert in the main dining room and for good reason. You just can’t beat the warm melting chocolate cake. I have a copycat recipe on the blog, which is crazy easy to make!

The wonderful staff on the cruise ship surprised us with a few treats during the cruise! We ended up meeting Allan, the Chef de Cuisine of the entire ship. I was shocked that he took a few minutes to talk to me and my husband’s family at dinner one night. He was such a friendly man (I would be so stressed in his shoes, but he seemed so calm and collected!), and we saw him once again on the Behind the Fun tour (which I’ll talk about in the next post).  Throughout the cruise, he generously sent some treats to our room, which we shared with my husband’s family. :-) We enjoyed so much food on this cruise!

Dessert Collage

Also, if that’s not enough, we did take advantage of the included room service a few times. I loved enjoying coffee and some fruit (you know, to balance things out haha) while sitting out on our balcony. It was the perfect way to start the day. :-)

All in all, the food on the Carnival Dream was just amazing. I won’t mention how much weight we gained after the cruise (even though we walked a ton), but it was SO worth it. Stay tuned for the next post, where I share some of the excursions and other fun we had on our Carnival cruise.

Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro & Eat Fit NOLA

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A couple of weeks ago, I was invited by Copeland’s PR Manager to check out Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro’s new Eat Fit NOLA menu. Since I’m a big fan of healthier eating, I was excited about sampling some of their offerings.

Since I’m from Louisiana, I’m used to food that is definitely full of flavor. However, what makes that flavor is usually going to break a diet. Unless of course, you order a side salad and a bland grilled chicken breast. Copeland’s and Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro are restaurants that I’m very familiar with for offering food full of flavor, but whenever my husband and I go, we know it’s going to be a splurge day. I mean, check out this last restaurant review I did for them. (OMG, right?!) You just can’t enjoy Copeland’s without breaking diet….until now.

Molly Kimball, a dietician with Ochsner Health Systems, along with her team, came up with Eat Fit NOLA. This is a partnership where local restaurants offer dishes that comply with certain dietary standards (highlighted below). Because they follow these standards, you know you will be enjoying food that is not only low in calories, but is also lower in sodium, fats and sugar. Copeland’s & Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro are among the first to roll out a new menu, featuring Eat Fit NOLA choices.

Entree Standards:

  • less than 600 calories
  • less than 800 mg sodium
  • less than 10% of calories from animal-based saturated fat
  • 0 grams trans fats
  • no white, refined starches
  • less than 5 grams (1 tsp.) of added sugar (honey, agave, sugar, etc.)

Kids Entree Standards:

  • less than 300 calories
  • less than 400 mg sodium
  • less than 10% of calories from saturated fat
  • less than 10% of calories from animal-based saturated fat
  • 0 grams trans fats
  • no white, refined starches
  • less than 5 grams (1 tsp.) of added sugar (honey, agave, sugar, etc.)

Yes, that’s right. There’s even kid menu options for Eat Fit NOLA…no more fried foods & french fries as your only choices for your kids. They can eat healthier just like the adults. :-)

Now, with these standards, I will admit that I was skeptical. I knew that it wouldn’t be too hard to meet caloric expectations (a ton of restaurants offer calorie friendly choices), but the other standards were much more complicated. I mean, a can of cajun seasoning is mostly salt! We love our salt down here. :-) However, in speaking to the chefs that developed this menu, they mentioned that they had to use multiple techniques to get the most flavor (naturally) out of the ingredients vs. just adding seasoning to the ingredients. They definitely didn’t want to sacrifice flavor in these dishes (since it’s a Louisiana based restaurant), and it’s evident that they put a good bit of research into developing these recipes for the Eat Fit NOLA menu.

Another thing I was skeptical about was portion size. I thought we’d end up with a dessert-sized plate for the entree. They were actually pretty generous, and served on normal sized plates!

One of the first things we tried was their Bistro Tacos (pictured above). The order came with two normal sized tacos on corn tortillas (just wanted to clarify that these are NOT mini tacos). You can choose any two proteins (out of chicken, shrimp, steak & fish), and we had the chicken and steak tacos. I loved the fruity salsa with the tacos…it was such a wonderful combination, and the meats were so flavorful.

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Next, we tried the Seabream with Herbed Lump Crabmeat. The fish filet on this was HUGE. I was shocked that all of this met the standards. The fish was so flavorful, and the vegetables below complimented the dish perfectly.

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I was excited about this dish, because I’m such a pasta gal. This is their Seared Salmon & Shiitake, which was served over a decent portion of whole wheat pasta. I usually don’t go for fish with pasta, but this was a wonderful dish!

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This is their Salmon Cobb Salad. This salad was HUGE. I was constantly surprised by the portions of fish. These were large pieces of fish, and it was a normal Cobb salad with hard boiled egg and bacon. It was delicious!

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Here was the huge shocker of the evening….a margarita made the Eat Fit NOLA menu. This is a Ginger Margarita, and I absolutely loved it. It had a hint of heat from the ginger, and tasted just like your typical margarita (you would never know this is a diet-friendly drink!). I was honestly shocked that this met the standards…I could have sipped on these all day. :-)

If you’d like to give this menu a try, this special menu is in every Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro nation-wide. Copeland’s (a different restaurant) also has their own Eat Fit NOLA menu, which features entrees like Garlic Shrimp Seabream, Tuscan Chicken Pasta, Fresh Fish & Crab Claws (over pasta) & they also have the Salmon Cobb Salad (pictured above)..to name a few. :-)

Also, every Wednesday in February is “Heart Healthy Hump Day”, which means 10% of the proceeds from those who order off of the Eat Fit NOLA menu goes to the American Heart Association!

If you’d like to try any of these great menu items, now is the time to go. This full menu is only available for a limited time. In May, the most popular dishes from the Eat Fit NOLA menu will become a part of the PERMANENT menu for Copeland’s and Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro, though. So, the Eat Fit NOLA movement is here to stay! :-)

Another thing I wanted to mention is the new Lagniappe card that both Copeland’s & Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro offers. If you’re a fan of these restaurants, this is something worth looking into. You pay $10 for a Lagniappe card & you automatically get $15 loaded on the card once you register it. Then, along with receiving information about deals/offers, you will also accumulate points for every dollar that you spend. 300 points = $25 reward. More information is available here.

FTC disclosure: My meal was covered by the restaurant, in exchange for an honest review. As always, the opinions expressed are 100% my own.

Review: Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro

A while back, I was contacted by a representative from a local franchise, Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro, about sampling their new menu. I was actually really hesitant, because this blog is mainly about recipes. What do I know about reviewing a restaurant on a blog? Not much, y’all. However, I decided that this might be pretty fun to do. I mean, I get to take pictures of already prepped food, which is spectacular and heck, this was something different. Why not give it a shot?

My husband and I met Jenny, their PR manager, at the restaurant, and I could tell that this wasn’t going to be the average dining experience. She told the water that we’d need a large table, because we would be sampling quite a few of their dishes. Whoa…

After talking for a few minutes, Jenny informed us of something that reminded me how small the world is. Jenny attended high school at my high school’s rivalry. Oh, and so did the waiter. That made for some fun jabs throughout the evening. 😛

We were offered something to drink, and I did say water at first, but was convinced to try a sweet wine beverage. I’m not a wine drinker, but Jenny insisted that this drink was fab…oh and it was. I also had a glass of moscato that night, and it wasn’t that bad either. Could I possibly LIKE wine? Hrm…

When it came time for appetizers, we let Jenny order for us, since she knew what was best there.
Appetizers Collage

From left: Spicy Bacon Tomato Flatbread, Seared Tuna tasting plate and Crab & Crawfish Bake.

These appetizers were so tasty. This was actually my first time ever having seared tuna, and I was surprised that the texture of the rare fish wasn’t off-putting. The seared tuna had almost a smoky teriyaki flavor, and it was just delightful. The flatbread was pretty simple, but the flavor in their marinara sauce was definitely there. And of course, last but NOT last was the crab and crawfish bake. Do you love cheese? Do you love seafood? Then, you will absolutely love the bake.

Entree Collage

From top left, going clockwise: Creole Shrimp & Grits, BBQ Shrimp Linguine, Cajun Crawfish Skillet Mac & Cheese and Stuffed Redfish.

It was really hard to say which dish I liked best. Every single entree here was just delicious. My husband absolutely loved the shrimp and grits, and I have to agree. The grits were the perfect texture. Just perfect. The crawfish mac and cheese definitely brought a smile to my face. If I lift a fork and it’s full of cheese strands, I know my day is officially made. :-) The stuffed redfish and BBQ Shrimp Linguine were also deilicious dishes…don’t get me wrong!

It was crazy how much leftovers we got to bring home…lunch the next day was absolutely awesome. I’m pretty sure my husband and I made a couple of coworkers jealous in the break room. :-)

Dessert Collage

From left: Waffle Hot Cake with strawberry topping, White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

The waffle hot cake is something I’ve never seen in a restaurant before. They basically put cake batter in a waffle iron and allow it to bake. Genius! This was pretty tasty, and after talking to the chef about how they make these, I’m totally trying this some time in the near future. The cheesecake was definitely delicious too.. Their cheesecake is unique since it has a pecan crust, which usually freaks me out (pecans are yucky to me), but it’s ground so finely that it’s almost like graham cracker crust. Just not as crispy, though, but still very tasty.

All in all, I would highly recommend Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro if you ever find yourself in Baton Rouge. There’s a wonderful variety available, and the atmosphere is pretty awesome. I know my husband and I will be doing a date night there in the very near future. Thanks so much to Jenny and the staff at Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro for inviting us out there to sample the new menu.

FTC disclosure: Our meal was covered by the restaurant, in exchange for an honest review. As always, the opinions expressed are my own.