Jane Archer boards new ship Silver Moon to sample Sea And Land Taste – the line’s culture and food initiative
Ever wondered why Greeks eat so many potatoes? Or how lamb kleftiko got its name? Granted they are not the most burning questions of the day, but they are the sort of nuggets you pick up on a SALT cruise with Silversea and are just the thing to get any dinner party conversation going with a swing.
SALT, an acronym for Sea and Land Taste, is a new culture-and-food initiative that has come to life on Silversea’s new ship Silver Moon. The brainchild of chief commercial officer Barbara Muckermann, it is aimed at getting passengers to connect to other cultures though food by touching, tasting and talking. Here’s why everyone should have a pinch of SALT.
Listen and learn: Every SALT cruise has food experts or chefs on board to talk about the local tastes and flavours they remember growing up, or that they have come across in their travels. Alongside the talks, a chef prepares some local dishes – naturally a few samples have been made in advance to taste – and a sommelier is on hand with matching wines from the region.
On our cruise in Greece, Silversea chef trainer David Bilsland started off talking about koutoukia, where Greeks like to socialise over hearty homemade food and wine, and morphed into why the Greeks eat potatoes. It seems that when they kicked the Ottomans out in the early 1800s, the country was bankrupt and people were starving so the president tried to get farmers to plant potatoes as they are easy to grow and nutritious. The suspicious farmers weren’t having any of it, so the canny guy put piles of spuds under armed guard, reckoning farmers would think they were valuable. The ploy worked. The guards looked away as farmers pinched the spuds and these days the potato is king in Greece.
Food writer Yasmin Khan was on stage next day, revealing her favourite recipes as she told of her travels through the Eastern Mediterranean; the people she met and how over the centuries invading forces had added their own twist to local dishes by adding different foodstuffs and spices. “Nothing improves local cuisine more than an occupation,” she tells us.
Dine locally on board…: The SALT Kitchen, a new restaurant on Silver Moon, serves food and wine typical of the places being visited. On our cruise, that meant a different selection of dishes and wines from the Eastern Mediterranean every day. In all, more than 60 different wines are being served complementary (as are all drinks apart from the connoisseur selection on Silversea) and they will be replaced with wines from Asia when Silver Moon heads East – Covid permitting – for the winter.
…and ashore: Food-themed excursions that give passengers a chance to meet local chefs or food experts on their home turf while tasting dishes typical of the region are an important part of SALT.
A tour in Limassol, Cyprus, with wine expert Florentia Kythreotou is geared around tasting local reds, whites and Commandaria, a sweet dessert wine said to date back to Homer. It ends with a mezze feast at Ambelothea Tavern in Omodos village. Some 10 courses later – everything from salads to grilled pork, all washed down with local wine of course – we stagger back the coach and race back to the port, where Silver Moon is waiting to leave.
Roll-up, roll-up: The sleeves, that is, because hands-on cooking classes in the SALT Lab are a big part of the whole experience. Not that they are about improving your kitchen skills per se; rather it’s about preparing local dishes while learning their origin.
We’re making lamb kleftiko, while Bilsland explains that the dish is named after the klephts, aka Greek freedom fighters under the Ottoman occupation, who stole lambs that they cooked in pots in the ground.
Mine is pretty good, which is more than I can say for my dakos – a sort of bruschetta made with bread that has been baked twice to make it hard and is softened with water before use. It’s a method dating back hundreds of years as it stops bread going stale; the secret to bringing it back to life, I discover, is not to add too much water!
The SALT Lab has nine cooking stations where passengers can work alone or in pairs. There are one or two classes a day, all complimentary and lasting about an hour.