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A Taste of Excellence - Cookbook Review

Recipes from the Holland America Line

by Rudi Sodamin

(Rizzoli, 2006)

A Taste of Excellence cookbook features recipes from the Holland America Line

With celebrity chefs joining the rosters of many cruise lines, the open sea is the latest frontier for haute cuisine. Michel Roux is now affiliated with Celebrity Cruises, Georges Blanc is associated with Carnival Cruise Lines and Nobu Matsuhisa is partnered with Crystal Cruises. Yet while these chefs are raising the profile of fine dining at sea, A Taste of Excellence offers the insights of a galley veteran. Rudi Sodamin, master chef of the Holland America Line, has worked on ships for most of his career. His collection of signature recipes from the vessels' dining rooms is enhanced with inside facts about the challenges of cooking below deck as well as a look at the “brigade” — the team of 100 cooks who prepare meals for passengers every day.

Just as the galley turns out bountiful meals for ship goers from early morning until the wee hours, the recipes in A Taste of Excellence span from breakfast to salads, breads, appetizers, main courses, desserts and late-night snacks. In the spirit of world travel, the recipes embrace the global culinary scene. Fittingly, however, there is an emphasis on seafood and traditional Dutch delicacies. Main fish courses include maple glazed salmon and cedar-planked halibut with Béarnaise sauce. Seafood is also central in starters and salads like Mariner’s seafood cocktail, salad Niçoise with grilled salmon and honey vinaigrette and warm Maine lobster salad with asparagus and pink grapefruit. Specialties from Holland include Dutch apple pancakes with maple flavored honey, Dutch pea soup and Bitterballen — Dutch beef croquettes — with mustard. Cocktails and dessert are enduring highlights of dining on board, and they are well-represented here. Start with a “Glacier Drop” and finish your meal with warm Grand Marnier chocolate volcano cake. You may just capture the romance of dining at sea in your home.

Reviewed by Rachel Levin

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