Eat, cruise, photograph – and take the consequences!

Njord, Viking River Cruise

Food and travel go together like a spoon in a mouth.  For some it’s the problem of ‘where can I find my usual foods?’ or ‘what does this word mean’ on a menu:  for most of us travel-a-holics  food is how we get to know a place – through their food.  And, for me, how to restrain myself? But lets face it, when I eat and  cruise I have to take the consequences.

Despite all the walking I did during my European river cruise off-the-boat excursions I returned home with some extra baggage on my body. Evidently, my on-board-eating and the energy-in versus energy-out-ratio were out of sync!

Striding out in Wurzburg

Let me explain how it happened:  (these are not excuses!)

  • I’m an early riser, and photographer, so with the sun rising at around 530am I was often on deck at the same time – every morning at 6am the galley delivered fresh, still warm from the oven, delicious little pastries ­­ – and I had one or two to go with my mochachino.
  • Breakfast was available 7am to 9am. The young man making omelettes made about one hundred a day to order. Add fruit, yoghurt, cereals, porridge, eggs (anyway we wanted them) mushrooms, bacon, tomato, cheese, eggs, croissants, breads, rolls, meats and roll-mops – just to name some of the delights we were presented with.
  • Morning and afternoon tea times saw us with more freshly baked goodies appearing at the coffee station which is available 24 hrs.
  • Lunch was available in the restaurant or in the forward indoor/outdoor lounge. I mostly choose the upstairs area so I could continue photographing the scenery and birds. There we lined up to get our choices ( mains, soup, dessert, salads, etc.) while of course in the restaurant we had the very friendly, really efficient, wait-staff ( most who were from the Philippines)
  • Dinner, (for which our group always dressed for – not formal, merely changing our clothes to make the evening even more ‘special’) was always 3 courses plus cheese and coffee to finish. So, three courses each with three choices meant as from the first day, means 99% of us were being offered more temptation than we experienced at home. I failed the temptation test.

For those of us with special food requirements the Chef and his staff, and especially the Maître d’, were great.  When booking the trip we had a form to fill in which asked about our food needs.  I am allergic to alcohol and let the Maître d’ know that even if the chef said the “alcohol is burnt off” I didn’t want anything that had had alcohol near it. To make sure this happened, he bought me the evening menu at breakfast daily; I chose my meal and he not only ensured the kitchen prepared an alcohol-free version of the dish but delivered it to me himself.  I believe he delivered gluten-free and other ‘different’ meals to guests too.

For me, it was a relief to have Mr Zoran Gajanovic, Maître d’, Njord, Viking ensuring my meals were safe for me. Thank you Zoran!

The river cruise I led this year was through Fifty plus Travel in New Zealand so visit their website if you would like to experience river cruising (the fastest growing tourism activity in the world!)

NOTE: around the world, most dishes with alcohol in them are not usually mentioned on menus – especially in sauces and jus – and for those of us who cannot tolerate alcohol (or have religious prohibitions) means we have to be constantly be vigilant.  See this chart about the percentage of alcohol left after various cooking methods.  I have blogged about this topic a couple of years ago. Chef Liz, author of The Sober Kitchen has a helpful chart which tells how to substitute alcohol in recipes. See it here:  I have just ordered her book, which I have often borrowed from the library.

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More global food and travel issues (and recipes J) are in Lonely Planet’s new book Food Lover’s Guide to the World  which is due out in October 2012. So, take your taste buds on a tour around the world and cook up your next great culinary adventure. It hascontributions from celebrity food-lovers, including chef Fergus Henderson (co-founder of St John restaurant, London), chef, restaurateur and food writer Mark Hix, Dan Hunter (chef at the Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld, Victoria), Tessa Kiros (author of Limoncello and Linen Water), chef Atul Kochhar (Benares restaurant, London), Eric Ripert (head chef at Le Bernardin, New York) and Ruth Rogers (River Café, London) and,

* Best places to find local dishes in cities great & small.

* Cultural tips and how-to-eat etiquette.

* Introductions by Mark Bittman, lead food writer for The New York Times Magazine; and James Oseland, Editor-in-Chief of Saveur magazine.

* More than 50 authentic recipes to prepare at home.

Does alcohol boil away during cooking or is it a myth?

food at wharepuke

  • Is it safe for people for people with alcoholism to eat food cooked in alcohol?
  • What about those wanting to limit their intake because of loosing weight, or driving?
  • What about those with religious prohibitions?

Is there any alcohol left in food cooked with alcohol?

Despite the old wives tales – and old chefs too, many who are top chefs – it’s repeatedly said ‘burn the alcohol off’ on TV cooking shows or in recipe books) in fact alcohol is NOT removed in ANY cooking process!

If this a surprise to you – it was to me too – and to the USA team studying it.

As someone with an allergy to alcohol this concerns me. Often, at top restaurants I have found that although there is  alcohol in a recipe, they often or usually, don’t put it on the menu! Desserts are the worst, but even soup or jus (gravy/sauce) is not safe from the addition of a slurp, slosh or little tipple of alcohol.

This is a real concern for those with religious, moral, health, or any other reasons for wanting, or needing, no alcohol residue in their food.

So, check this out . . . it is a study conducted by the US Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Data Laboratory which calculated the percentage of alcohol remaining in a dish – based on various cooking methods

Does Alcohol Really Boil Away or Burn Off in Cooking?

Q How long does it take for alcohol to burn off during cooking? Is this time the same for all forms of alcohol? Boil? Simmer? How about in baking?

A Yours may be the question of the year. We thought it was pretty cut and dried. We were wrong. And it has taken a while for us to accept what we’ve found out.


The US Department of Agriculture made this handy chart to compare how much alcohol content is retained in certain foods using various cooking times and methods.


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