Executive Chef Mike Römhild is constantly striving to bring the taste and flavor of the local destination onboard the Seven Seas Mariner. As part of this goal Mike has been researching recipes to create a signature Destination Dish each day reflecting the culinary delights of the upcoming port. Aiding and abetting Mike in his plans, I have been enlisted to help with the selection of menu items and – and – the procurement of ingredients. Normally the ship’s Provisions Master is responsible for filling the Chef’s shopping list; but when it comes to specialty items – sometimes you need to bring in an expert. That’s where I come in!
Yesterday the ship was in Manta, Ecuador; a place where years ago I discovered a wonderful secret salsa. Sailing on the Royal Princess my friend Pam Austin and I were looking for somewhere to eat in this very industrial fishing town. We were told to try the Manta Yacht Club. We must have walked past the place three times because no where did it look like there was a “yacht club.” Finally someone said that we standing in front of it! We knocked. In the middle of the large wooden gate a small door slid open just big enough for a face to appear. “What do you want?” I felt like saying, “Joe sent us,” but instead explained we were from the ship, someone had directed us there and we wanted to eat. We showed the disembodied face our ID and he must have thought us harmless as we were admitted – but only for lunch! Our meal was wonderful; served on an open terrace we had fresh fish, cold beer and the most delicious salsa either of us had ever had. I asked how it was made; the basic ingredient was a special chile that looked like a small pumpkin but the secret was – yellow mustard! Though we took some back and tried in vain to replicate the recipe we never made anything like our “Manta Picante.”
Knowing this secret sauce exists, I told Mike. Intrigued he wanted me to get some. Fine – no problem – how much? He said, “About two gallons!” When I showed up yesterday asking in the small kitchen for two gallons of salsa you can imagine the look on their faces. I told them money was no object as I realized making me this amount of salsa would probably preclude them from doing anything else all morning. Later that afternoon I picked up the containers containing the freshest, most tasty and fragrant salsa you can imagine. The price tag: $18. As the Destination Dish for the evening our Manta Picante was the perfect accent to Ecuadorian potato soup with cheese and grilled fish fillet. For guests who may not be nervy enough to eat ashore, we were successful in really bringing an authentic taste onboard. Contact me if you’d like the recipe.