Good Eats on Harmony of the Seas!

Harmony of the Seas is a huge ship, but I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. One of the things that comes with that size is a plethora of eating options. You can always stick to the included choices, like the main dining rooms or Windjamer buffet, but where’s the fun in that? We’ve come to enjoy trying some of the specialty options on ships, and this trip would be no exception. After evaluating our options before the cruise, we ended up booking two ahead of time, and spontaneously stopped at another for lunch the last day on board. So where all did we eat? Were we happy with our choices? Read on!

First stop, Wonderland! While I was excited to try something new, I admit to being a little concerned about my food options. I’m a very picky eater, and extremely picky when it comes to anything seafood. Picky like I generally don’t eat any. Our trip to Norway this past March was the first time I’d really eaten any fish in over 20 years, and while I did enjoy that, the items I was seeing on the Wonderland menu had me a bit concerned. Once again, the concerns were unfounded, as everything I had was excellent, even the seafood!

Once you’re seated, your waiter brings you menus, which is to say a picture frame with an empty menu and a paint brush. After dipping your brush in the “paint” (water), you slowly drag it across the blank paper, which in turn reveals your menu:

Once it’s fully visible, your waiter explains the process to you and begins to ask you questions around food preference. Once he or she has all the information they need, they tell you that they’ll use that to pick out items from the menu they think you will like the most. In my case, that was a lot of “trust me, I promise you’ll enjoy this”, and he wasn’t wrong! List of items we ate prior to dessert:

  • Buffalo Chicken Eggs
  • Shrimp Kataifi
  • Crispy Crab Cones
  • Sashimi of Red and White Tuna
  • Liquid Lobster
  • Terroir Beef
  • Berkshire Pork Belly

The only thing I didn’t eat, much to Jen’s delight, was the Sashimi. I’m definitely not a raw fish fan, so I let her have all of that, which she really enjoyed. Honestly, everything I listed above was amazing. My favorites were probably the buffalo chicken eggs and pork belly, but I’d eat it all again. Also, the presentation on a couple of things is pretty cool too, starting with buffalo chicken eggs:

Another nice thing about the food, you don’t end up stuffed before dessert. The only portions that were big were the pork and beef, but everything before it consisted of small enough portions to not fill us up.

After all of that was cleared away, the real fun began. Our waiter brought us two desserts:

  • Forbidden apple: Raspberry cremeux, brown butter crumble, yogurt ice cream
  • The World: Peanut butter ganache, Valrhona chocolate mousse, salted caramel ice cream

The first one was fine, presented as a sliced apple with filling inside, but was easily overshadowed by The World:

The video doesn’t even come close to doing it justice, but yes, that’s hot caramel being poured over the chocolate, which then melts around the peanut butter ganache. Awesome presentation, amazing taste. Frankly, I could have gone back every night for that alone!

We had an awesome time at Wonderland, enjoyed everything we ate, and had outstanding service start to finish. The only gripe, if you can call it that, is that we were never really given a chance to request a specific item or two off the menu, but that’s a pretty small issue and didn’t detract from the experience. If you get the chance, I’d highly recommend giving this place a try!

Next up, Izumi! We love a good Japanese steakhouse, and weren’t going to miss the opportunity to try one on Harmony. Going in to this, my gold standard for ship-board restaurants of this style was Teppanyaki aboard the Norwegian Escape, as we absolutely loved our meal there two years ago. Great food, great service, what more can you ask for?

From start to finish, the service in Izumi was excellent. Our waiter did an awesome job keeping up with the table, was fun to talk to, and even took slow-mo video of people while the chef was tossing food in our direction. The chef was excellent as well, putting on a fun show for us while cooking everything up perfectly. I went with the filet mignon, as I usually do, and every bite tasted amazing. Unlike many of the Japanese steakhouses in the US, they didn’t have what many refer to as Japanese ketchup (aka Yum Yum sauce), which was a bit disconcerting to me at first, as I admittedly love that stuff. No matter, once I started eating, I completely forgot about that due to how good everything tasted!

We left quite happy with this choice as well, another I’d highly recommend trying if you’re sailing Harmony!

Finally, Johnny Rockets! We’d eaten here on the Oasis last year, and while I love a good greasy burger, we’d gone in to this cruise not really planning to eat here this trip, mainly due to our schedule. That changed, however, when we realized that Boardwalk Balcony rooms include a credit for 4 meals here, so we figured why not! We did find it hard to carve out time with all of the stuff we had going on, but finally managed to squeeze it in for lunch on our last sea day. The downside of a conference at sea with set session schedules is that you suddenly have around 1000 agents heading to lunch at the same time, so we hurried over as soon as our general session got out and managed to get a table before the crowd hit!

My only gripe is that service here can be hit or miss. Our server was very friendly, but just seemed overworked a bit, so things like refills were a bit slow, but still, it’s Johnny Rockets at sea, and having a Rocket Double sitting in front of me, along with some tasty bacon cheese fries kept a smile on my face 🙂

We did indulge in shakes as well. We were originally going to split one, but were kindly reminded by our server that Crown and Anchor members have BOGO shake credits on their SeaPass cards, so why not get two! I was pretty glad we ended up finding time to get here, I do love a good Rocket Double, and it was a nice change of pace from the MDR’s lunch food, which is all we’d had time for up to that point.

That about covers our specialty restaurant adventures on the Harmony of the Seas. As you can tell, we have no regrets on any of it! Royal Caribbean’s food rarely disappoints!

 

Crons in the Capital – Day 3

For our final day in DC, Bayley and I started off by heading over to Arlington National Cemetery. Taking the DC Metro on the weekend is a very different experience than I expected. There are a lot fewer people riding it, and as a result (I assume), fewer trains running, which was really only an issue when we left the cemetery, thankfully.

On arriving, we slowly headed up a main road towards JFK’s grave site, taking time to read some of the headstones along the way, including that of Marine Staff Sergeant William Windrich, awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in the Korean War. That link’s an amazing read and well worth the time.

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After visiting the grave sites of the Kennedy family, we headed towards the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. After a bit of a hike, as the hills and heat were a bit tiring, we arrived to see that they were just finishing up a changing of the guard, and as the crowd filed out, we found spots almost dead center to watch the guard walk and pay our respects. As we stood there, with most of the crowd being silent and respectful, one of the most maddening things I’ve ever seen took place. In this picture, you’ll notice the guard is off the mat:

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He came off of the mat to rather loudly remind the crowd that a level of silence and respect needed to be maintained (example of how they handle it here). So why did he have to do that? Well, because someone to my right was on his cell phone. Even after the guard resumed his walk, this person continued talking on it, at which point someone working there came over and demanded he get off his phone. He didn’t, he just walked up the stairs and over to the far side of the building behind us. Amazing lack of respect shown there. Regardless, we stayed for a few minutes watching the guard’s precision movements across the mat before heading back down the hill on a different path to see more of the grounds.

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We headed back to the Metro station, only to realize that due to the limited service, we’d have to wait ~25 minutes for a train, which while annoying did give us some time to rest in the shade. Our next planned stop was the National Archives once the train did finally arrive.

After reaching the Archives stop, we decided to get some lunch. We found what looked like a cool little burger place in the area, Plan B Burger Bar, and headed in. The place was dead, but frankly the whole area was. They had plenty of staff on hand, and while the food was pretty good, the service was horrible. Our server, who for most of our visit only had our table, was MIA most of the time. She got another table shortly before we finished, so it ended up taking almost 20 minutes to just get the bill and pay it. All this while three other employees were up at the main entrance chatting with each other at the hostess stand, and other employees were just wandering around trying to look busy. As far as the food itself, I really did like my burger, having selected the bacon cheese burger, sans onions, on a pretzel roll:

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The fries were okay, but I wish I’d gone with the tots. Oh well, live and learn, although not sure I’d go back after the service issues. I understand stuff like that when restaurants are busy, but not when there are only two tables of people in the entire place.

Our lunch over, we headed over to the National Archives building, expecting some semblance of a crowd, but we were in luck! There was no line outside, and we got through security pretty quickly. We really only had one goal in coming here, and that was to see the documents contained within the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom.  We had no wait to get in there either, although it was a bit crowded inside the rotunda itself. No biggie, we got to see and read all of the documents. No pictures of it, obviously, since photography and video aren’t allowed in there.

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After finishing up there, we headed back to the hotel to rest up and wait for Jen. Once she was done with her meetings, we hopped back on the Metro and headed for the White House, as we all wanted to walk around that area while we were in town.

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After making a full loop around to check out both sides of it, as well as take in the amazing architecture of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, we headed up the road to Elephant and Castle for dinner. I wasn’t super hungry, so I just got the Jalapeno Mac & Cheese, sans jalapeno. Twas delicious, and the service was much better than what we experienced at lunch.

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That pretty much did it for us, as we were all tired from a busy week, and wanted to get some sleep before our long day driving to Baltimore for a ship inspection and driving home to Charlotte after that. It was nice to spend some time in DC and visit a few things we haven’t been to in a number of years!

Good Eats in DC – Scion Restaurant

Last weekend we made a completely unscheduled overnight trip up to DC. Bayley’s two weeks working at Woodward had come to an end, and both of her options for a ride home fell through, so early Saturday afternoon we hopped in the car and headed up to DC to get her. We decided to take our dog Indy with us, so before leaving Jen did a quick search to see if she could find a restaurant in the area that was dog-friendly (the search was literally “dog friendly restaurants in Washington DC“). The first hit in the results took her to BringFido, which led her to Scion Restaurant in the Dupont Circle area. It wasn’t all that close to our hotel, but we liked what we saw on the menu and decided to stop there for dinner as soon as we got to the city, so on the way up I used OpenTable to make a reservation for 7:45pm, noting that we had a dog with us.

When we arrived, parking was a bit of a hassle, but after hunting a bit we finally located a space on the street a few blocks away and walked over to the restaurant. When we got there, I stayed outside with Indy while Jen went to check in. While they had our reservation, the note that I put in OpenTable about having a dog with us apparently didn’t get transmitted to them, and as a result they weren’t quite ready to seat anyone with a dog since the end sections of the patio where they allow dogs weren’t set up. No matter, with a very friendly attitude they jumped right on it and set up the corner that had an awning over it and seated us quickly. Definitely a good start to the evening!

After being seated, we ordered our food and drinks. I decided to try something on draft, and chose the Sun King Wee Mac Scottish-style ale. I’m not a huge beer guy, so I don’t often call out what I drink, but this was one of the best beers I’ve had in quite a while. For my dinner, I ordered the Scion burger (sans onions and pickles) and Jen got the LBJ Mac and Cheese. I should also mention that when they brought our water out, they brought a plastic bowl full of water out for Indy, too, and kept it refilled while we were there. Nice touch!

While waiting on our food, it started raining pretty good, so we ended up switching tables in that same little corner area to avoid water runoff. I think due to water running in on the ground, Indy got a little wet (but not a big deal), but we stayed dry the whole time, even with the downpour it turned in to. Once the food arrived, we dug in. My burger was excellent, as were the garlic fries, which were some of the best garlic fries I’ve had. Jen’s mac and cheese was really good too, although she realized something we already knew from past experiences, that she’s not really a fan of lobster meat. Oops 🙂

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Overall we really liked everything we had, and the service was outstanding the entire time. Our experience that night led us to come back for brunch the next day with Bayley and her boyfriend. Thankfully it wasn’t raining this time, but the food and service were just as good. It was noticeably busier, but they had space for us in the opposite corner of the patio, so even at noon, we were seated right away. While I was tempted to get the Scion burger again, I ended up going with the cinnamon vanilla french toast. In a word: wow. It was absolutely delicious, and one of the only times that I’ve eaten french toast without any syrup. The vanilla drizzle was more than enough to top it, and I enjoyed every bite. Jen got the New Orleans Benedict (See the above ‘brunch’ link for a description), and while she enjoyed most of it, she wasn’t a big fan of the Cajun Hollandaise sauce that was on it. Bayley went with a side of mac and cheese and breakfast potatoes, both of which were delicious, and her boyfriend had the Scion burger.

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As mentioned throughout this post, both meals were absolutely delicious, and the service was outstanding. The Dupont Circle neighborhood that the restaurant is in is pretty cool, even if it was a pain to find parking (all parking garages we found were closed both times). We wish we could have spent more time in the area, but being on a compressed schedule that had us arriving in DC around 8pm Saturday and leaving right after brunch on Sunday, we simply didn’t have any time. Hopefully we’ll get some time to drive back up late in the summer before Bayley goes back to college. If we do, we’ll definitely be stopping at Scion again!

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