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Pick 'em: Blue Iguana, Guy's Burgers

Choosing where to eat out is not always easy for us.

One of us likes — no, loves — Mexican food. She would have it every day. Every meal. It must have started the day, many moons ago, that her husband said she was his “little chiquita.” She’s even bilingual, sort of, because her Spanish vocabulary includes all the Freedom-Iguanaimportant words…enchiladas, tacos, tortillas, carne, huevos, salsa, tequila…you get the idea.

Her better half is, well, kind of meat-and-potatoes. Or hamburgers and French fries. Calories aren’t among the things he counts in life as critical. His major concession is “Diet” Coke. It’s not that he doesn’t like Mexican, but how many times a week (or day) can you enjoy rice and beans?

The Carnival Freedom made it easy…as simple as pushing “9” on the elevator for the Lido Deck.

On the right, you have Blue Iguana. She was in her element. Freshly made tortillas for lunch (or breakfast) waiting to be stuffed with Mexican sausages, heuvos or chiles. Top it off with a choice of 10 sales ranging from wimpy-mild to screaming hot. Burritos or tacos with a huge assortment of fillings of meat, cheese, guacamole, veggies and sauces. Seldom a line-up. Always fresh. Always hot.

On the left, mere steps away, you have Guy’s Burger Joint. Her husband never watches the Food Network but he knows Guy Fieri is the cook with bleach-blond electric hair and a Freedom-Fierishape that is, if not admirable at least acceptable. Not everybody needs a six-pack, right? His customers build their own burgers and, like Blue Iguana…always fresh, always hot. You don’t have to eat junk food to only live once, but since you only live once, junk food is okay…and, anyway, who’s going to tell Fieri to his face that his food is junk?

So, with our plates of personal preferences and with no cuisine compromising, we sat together and enjoyed what, for each, was the perfect meal. Can it get any better!

Today at portsandbows.com: Cruise news and views you can use

Caribbean Princess
7 nights
October 4, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Princess Cays, Roatan
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57

Many Faces of Riviera's Godmother

ON THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA — So how does a Greek girl from the Southern United States become the Godmother for life of a cruise ship that will visit, among other places, her ancestral home?

She becomes Cat Cora.

There is likely a whole segment of the population that doesn't know who Cat Cora is. That is changing with each extension of her brand. The latest one is becoming Godmother of the Oceania Riviera, which for a few weeks will be the newest cruise ship in the world. It will be a special cruise ship — mid-sized, upper deluxe and created for the love of food — for longer than that.

In other words, people who know the world of Cat Cora.

For those who do not, she is indeed the girl of Greek lineage who grew up in Mississippi learning how to cook from not just her mother but her father Spiro and her godfather, both of whom were southern restaurateurs. After achieving degrees in physiology and nutrition, she launched what was to become a spectacular career in the food industry.

First (and still only) female Iron Chef. A protege of the late Julia Child, who was even more famous. Graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. On television, a Food Network regular for more than a decade and, most recently, as co-host of Around the World in 80 Plates, a reality TV show based on Amazing Race but for "foodies." Author of three best-selling cookbooks and a children's book to comfort kids and parents alike when travel takes them apart.

She apprenticed under three-star Michelin chefs from France, Georges Blanc and Roger Verge.

"I sent letters to ten three-star Michelin chefs — that's the highest ranking in the world — and told them I would work for free," she says. "I received eight rejection letters in a row. Then I had offers from both Georges Blanc and Roger Verge. I said yes to both. Can you believe a girl with a funny accent, a five-foot-two young chef from Mississippi, would even think that would work?"

Her credits also include her admirable founding of Chefs For Humanity.

"I was always taught to give back and this is my labor of live," says the 44-year-old mother of four. "There was no organization like Doctors Without Borders. We're only the only chef-driven organization that does this. We started after the tsunami in Indonesia seven years ago [and later fed  three to five thousand people a day after Hurricane Katrina] and today we continue to do not only domestic but global work, working with the World Food Program and a lot of other partners."

Her friendship with Julia Child was instrumental in what she would become.

"I really wanted to go because I wanted to be a great chef," says Cora. "If you have a passion for something, anything, the rest of it will come. I keep my feet planted. I remember why I started, for my love of food. After I got my college degree, I said: 'Now I'm going to pursue my first love.' People are eating healthier now. That brings my worlds together."

All of the accolades and credits led her to the Riviera. It is the newest Oceania property of a fleet linked to fine food in an industry that traditionally focuses on food. In its main concourse hangs her picture, for the traditional title that is part of virtually every cruise ship.

It's a title Cat Cora will wear for the life of the Riviera.

Celebrity Equinox
10 nights
June 22, 2012
Rome (return): Messina, Piraeus, Kusadasi, Rhodes, Santorini, Mykonos, Naples
Inside: $899
Cost per day: $90

Oceans of Food on the Silhouette

At the risk of sounding re-dunn-dant, one of the things I like best about cruising is the food. So go ahead and ask me what I think of spending 11 nights on a ship that’s all about The Food Network, when six of them are consecutive how-much-water-is-in-the-Atlantic nights.

What’s to think?

This cruise, aboard Celebrity’s yet-to-be launched Silhouette, is a world-class no-brainer for anybody who likes eating (me), cooking (me) and sailing (me). It happens that I’m married to somebody who will indulge me on two of the three…well, he can poach eggs. It also happens that I love The Food Network — doesn’t everybody? — and I love getting good value for my hard-earned money.

Here’s what you get for approximately $200 a night, depending on whether you take an inside cabin or a balcony. No, none of the cabins come with kitchens, even on the Silhouette, likely to be the newest cruise ship on the seas at that time.

That time is October, when it will make its maiden Transatlantic voyage. I should mention that the price — available only through The Food Network — also includes your gratuities and participation in a bunch of Food Network events, like a Mediterranean BBQ with Anne Burrell, and if you don’t know who Anne is you’ve been spending too much time watching Mash re-runs.

The celebrity chef who hosts Worsts Cooks in America and Secrets of a Restaurant Chef specializes in all dishes from countries that start with Italy. That’s where she learned her craft, not to mention cooking with intense flavors, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that this cruise begins in Rome. Her apprenticeship in Tuscany, among other places, led to executive chef positions at exclusive restaurants in big cities, most of which are a long way from Cazenovia, the upstate town where she was born.

There’s more about this cruise to lick…I mean, like.

Five cooking classes and two wine seminars. Can there be a better way to spend six days on the Atlantic Ocean? Two more cooking demonstrations by Anne and, if you’re into signature collecting, she’ll sign autographs. Access to an exclusive hospitality lounge, with food from TFN chefs. Turndown treats at night guaranteed to put foil-wrapped chocolates to shame. You may notice the common thread…or common pasta noodle.

Never will I be caught saying food is a 4-letter word!

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