Saturday, November 30, 2013

It's Manna, Miss Anna: Fort Smith Home to Miss Anna's on Towson.

Miss Anna's on Towson.
A generation of Fort Smith diners enjoyed home grown dinners and great pies at Goodson’s at Cornerstone. Starting in 1986, the restaurant served up Kickin’ Chicken, pot roast burgers and other comfort foods six nights a week, along with some fantastic pies. A second location, Goodson’s on Towson, was opened and found equally as worthy.

But in 2011, the restaurant scene on the Western Wall was in an uproar, and for some crazy reason the Goodson folks decided they wanted to do something different. After 25 years, they sold off both restaurants and opened Goody’s, a yogurt shop, which honestly flummoxed a whole lot of people. Fortunately, someone stepped in. Or some place. Ted Cserna, who owns Ed Walker’s up the road from the Towson location, bought the place, borrowed some pies and both places have done well for it. And thus was born Miss Anna’s on Towson.

Click to make it larger!
Miss Anna's, by the way, is named after Ted's mom. It’s a lunchroom, yes, within a very non-descript brown building that shares a parking lot with a nightclub.  But it's open every day and it's consistently good.

Inside, the restaurant's tan walls are decked with historic photographs from Fort Smith, and the top of the walls are bordered with license plate advertisements.  The booths are brown, the tables are wooden, and there's not a whole lot else to say -- except about the dessert case.

And I'm certain there are some individuals that only know Miss Anna's (like Goodson's before) for the desserts -- cakes, cookies and pies and pies and pies.  Fruit, cream, meringue, chocolate, lattice, gluten-free, every sort of pie you can imagine has been spotted in that pie case.  My most recent visit, I counted amongst the offerings the following great circular delights:  sweet potato, pumpkin, pecan, chess, egg custard, apple, blueberry crisp, chocolate pile, Oreo, French silk, chocolate meringue, coconut meringue on coconut crust (gluten-free!), lemon custard, lemon meringue, peanut butter cup and coconut cream.

And that's just a late-autumn reckoning.
I've gone in late summer and encountered peach cream cheese, blueberry, blackberry, fresh apple... get the picture? Above the pie case is a cookie case with everything from peanut butter, M&M and chocolate chip to fudgy no-bakes and sprinkle-sugar cookies.  And there are always cakes on the counter -- chocolate, white confetti, lemon, spice, apple, German chocolate, carrot... and I understand ice cream is also available.

So, I've told you about the sweet stuff.  But I've never mentioned some of the other things -- such as the famed Kickin' Chicken, held over from the Goodson's days.  It's bits of hand-carved hand-battered and fried chicken dipped in a special sauce that's somewhere between Zaxby's Zauce and a bona-fide Buffalo sauce... and it's still a hit.

The chicken fried steak is good... as is the prime rib, which is only available on Friday nights.  I even like the burger.  And up until recently, I was getting into a pattern of ordering the Fajita Potato -- a potato stuffed with chicken fajita strips, tomato chunks, green onion, black olive, shredded cheese and sour cream.  That is, until now.

See, the nachos look lovely... but I don't do tortilla chips any more.  This last visit, with the thermometer dipping and sleet forming on my windshield, I wanted a hearty and warm meal that'd stick with me a while.  So I asked for the combination super nachos with French fries instead -- and thus was born...

SUPERFRIES.

That's right, I have now been credited with creating a dish at Miss Anna's -- and here it is:  hand cut fries, topped with three types of cheese (cheddar, mozzarella and queso), ground beef and chicken fajita strips, tomato chunks, green onions, black olives, sour cream and guacamole.  The only thing that could have made this any better (read: deadlier) woulda been chili -- and I just didn't think of that first.

Share it with someone, okay?

You want to visit? If you’re not familiar with the town and are coming in from elsewhere, best way to get there is to take I-540 to Zero Street, go west and then go with the curve when it curves onto Towson. It’s a few blocks down on the right. (479) 649-6300.

Two more things -- Miss Anna's has an active Facebook account, where you can see what's special tonight. And every Tuesday is FREE PIE TUESDAY. You're welcome!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cinnamon Rolls and More at Calico County.

Arkansas has its fair share of cinnamon rolls, but none may be quite as famous as those served by Calico County in Fort Smith. Let's celebrate the newly reopened restaurant off Rogers Avenue.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Legacy of Mary and Aldo Maestri.

An excerpt from the new book Classic Eateries of the Ozarks and Arkansas River Valleyby Kat Robinson (photography by Grav Weldon), published November 2013 by History Press.  For more information, click here.

The sign outside Mary Maestri's,
circa 2010. (News 5)
This restaurant has closed.

The oldest of the restaurants still serving the (northwest Arkansas) area is still with us, though it has moved from Tontitown to Springdale.

In 1904, there was a young Irish woman by the name of Mary Ritter who attended the Tontitown Grape Festival. There, she met Aldo Maestri. They fell in love, and soon, Mary moved in with the Maestri family, where she learned how to make pasta and sauces and all the good dishes Aldo loved.

An original Mary Maestri's menu. (Courtesy Mary Maestri's)
In 1923, the grape harvest failed, and the young couple turned to selling dinners out of their home instead. Aldo made wine, Mary made the food and word spread about the place way out in the country where you had to have reservations to come eat. Still, at seventy-five cents a person for all the pasta, chicken and bread you could eat, it was deemed
well worth it.

Margaret Franco worked
with Mary in the early days.
This hand-cranked pasta
roller was donated back to
the Maestri's by Franco's
family.
The Maestri family didn’t have a telephone, but they did have a friend with a plane. He would drop reservations he took by phone over their place, and the restaurant prospered madly. Mary served up so much chicken she had to eventually sign on with a processor in town; before then, she caught and cleaned the birds from the farm herself.

E. A. Maestri on the job. (Courtesy Mary Maestri's)
Mary and Aldo opened a larger restaurant in 1947 with their son, Edward, who was quite an innovator. He built machines that would roll and cut the pasta for Mary and figured out how to properly freeze meat sauce and spaghetti, and then he sold it to stores to sell to their customers. Remember, this was before the TV dinner, at a time when the only frozen foods in the grocery stores there were strawberries.

Daniel Maestri. (Twitter)
Aldo passed away in 1959, and in 1968, Ed took on the responsibilities of teaching the business to his twenty-two-year-old son, Daniel, with the help of his mother. But in 1977, Ed died suddenly. Mary passed three years later.

The second Mary Maestri's.
(foiaspringdale.blogspot.com)
Daniel built a bigger home and restaurant that year, since the old one was structurally unsound.

Kyle DeVito prepares meat at the second Mary Maestri's location.
(Photo by Andy Shupe, courtesy NWAOnline.com)
The 1980s and 1990s were tough times, but the restaurant managed to persevere.

May 13, 2010:  Mary Maestri's closed for non-payment of sales tax.
(Courtesy NWAOnline)


Fire destroys second location of Mary Maestri's on February 4, 2012.
(Courtesy ArkansasOnline.com)


Another view of the fire. (Courtesy NWAOnline.com)
In 2010, the Tontitown location was forced to close, but two years later, the eatery opened up in the former Front Porch Diner location in Springdale as Mary Maestri’s Italiano Grillroom and Aldo’s Wine and Coffee Bar. There, it is thriving.

Mary Maestri's at its Springdale location today. (Kat Robinson)

Inside Mary Maestri's. (Grav Weldon)

The famed Chicken Parmigiana.  (Grav Weldon)
Today, Daniel’s three sons are heavily involved in the business. A lot has been added to the menu, including steaks, sandwiches, seafood and spumoni. Mary Maestri’s no longer serves the bone-in chicken beside the spaghetti. Instead, it’s chicken parmigiana, with a fried chicken breast served under the sauce over noodles. But it’s still that same great sauce that brought travelers to the Maestri’s door more than eighty-five years ago.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Dining Aboard the Carnival Elation.

Roast lamb at the carving station on Lido Deck.
In 2011, I took upon myself a small task while traveling aboard the Carnival Triumph -- to photograph everything I ate while aboard ship.  Little did I know that the page I created on this blog would be the singular most visited page on this website.

I took a second cruise, this time aboard the Carnival Elation, the week of October 28 through November 2, 2013.  This time, I chronicled not just what I ate but what my friends consumed and what was offered throughout the ship.  I hope it's of value to you!

Do note:  There are ~230 images in this article... so it may take a little time to load them all.

Pastrami and Swiss on Rye from the sandwich station on Lido Deck.  On
boarding, most passengers are welcomed to the Lido Deck and Promenade
Deck to dine and relax while rooms are being prepared.  Elation arrives in port
at New Orleans between seven and eight on embarkation days.  All
passengers from the previous cruise disembark by late morning, and all new
passengers come aboard.  The ship sails at four in the afternoon.
Gluten-free bread made from grits.  I was surprised to
discover gluten-free offerings among the first food items I saw
on the ship.

Dill pickle spears, sandwich station, Lido Deck.

Creamy Coleslaw, salad bar, Lido Deck.

Potato salad, salad bar, Lido Deck.

Ratattouille, Hot Buffet, Lido Deck, Embarkation Day.

Sugar cookies, dessert bar, Lido Deck.

Marinated eggplant (Lido Deck)

Ham at carving station (Lido Deck).

Roasted chickens at carving station (Lido Deck).

A chef handles a custom dish in a wok at the Mongolian Grill.  I'm told the
Mongolian Grill will be replaced by the BlueIguana Cantina -- a build-your-
own burrito and taco shop (Lido Deck).

Grilled fish (healthy option) on the hot buffet (Lido Deck).

Penne ham on the hot buffet (Lido Deck).

Rosemary potatoes (Lido Deck).

Eggplant Mozzarella (Lido Deck).

Breadsticks (Lido Deck).

Cups on the Lido Deck.

Mango cheesecake on the dessert bar (Lido Deck).

Chocolate cake (Lido Deck).

Apple crumble (Lido Deck).

Pumpkin cupcake (Lido Deck).

Smoked salmon on bagel from the sandwich station.  This is essentially
the constructed form of ordering a double order of salmon and cream cheese
and a bagel from room service -- but grilled like a panini.

The Elation has a Taste Bar, which features flavors from
upcoming Fun Ship 2.0 upgrades.  This was a tortilla
soup and pulled pork combination that will be featured
at the BlueIguana Cantina.
Yay for the Taste Bar crew!

Soft drinks and juices can be purchased for consuming in the main dining
room, along with alcoholic beverages.  Hot or iced tea, water and coffee are
complimentary.  I was very ready for this hot cup of orange tea with dinner.

Lasagna Bolognese from the main dining room.  There are two dining rooms
aboard Elation -- the Inspiration and the Imagination.  My friends and I dined
in the latter on Your Time Dining. 

Cream of Garden Fresh Broccoli soup with aged white Cheddar.

Spinach and artichoke dip.
The dip is served with thin tortilla chips.

Smoked Hudson Valley Duck Breast, served on Thai glass noodle salad.
The noodles were great -- the grapefruit was a little odd but fresh.

Beef and barley soup with diced root vegetables.

Chicken a la grecque... a pesto-broiled chicken breast served atop pasta
in tomato sauce.

One of my favorites from the Triumph, the Cinnamon Pumpkin, Squash, Yam
and Cheddar Pie, was on the first night's menu.  Still a winner, too.
An inside view of the pie.

One of my dining companions loves escargot.  That'd be Grav Weldon, my
photographer.  He ordered and consumed four dishes of escargot.

Escargots Bourguignonne -- burgundy snails in garlic butter with an infusion
of chablis and pernod.  One of the benefits of dining aboard a cruise ship?
You can order however many of an item you wish to eat.  And Grav did eat
ALL FOUR DISHES of escargot.

Tender braised beef brisket in gravy served with roasted vegetables and
mashed potatoes.

The famed Chocolate Melting Cake, served with ice cream and a chocolate
wafer.

Orange sherbet.  Hand-scooped ice cream is available in the main dining
room, while soft serve varieties are offered 24 hours a day on the Lido Deck.
Main dining scoops include vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, butter pecan ice
creams and orange, pineapple and lime sherbets.

The cheese plate is offered as a finishing dish to all evening dining room
meals.  The cheeses include port salut, brie, gouda, swiss and Danish bleu
cheeses served with fresh seasonal fruits.

Black forest gateaux -- one of my favorites, chocolate cake and cherry cream.

The bucket may not be fancy, but champagne on ice with glasses is
a welcome gift.  It can be ordered when you get on the ship or before.  You
can even order it for someone else -- even if you're not on the cruise -- through
the Carnival.com website.

The problem with being aboard a cruise ship?  Lack of clocks.  I woke early
the first full day at sea and went wandering the ship.  Turns out I was up at 2:30
in the morning!  I looked around for a couple of hours, and here's what I found:
first off, the 24 hour pizza station.  While 24 hour in nature, the pizza chef
wasn't always right at the station when I came through.  But when he was,
pizzas were available.

The crew was already putting out breakfast.  Here are individual ramekins
of butter and strawberry butter.

Cling peaches.

Grapefruit halves.

The cereal line.  


Breakfast in the Imagination Dining Room.  I prefer the room service salmon
and bagel combination, but the first full day of sea I joined my companions
in the dining room for breakfast.  Here, a double order of corned beef hash,
turkey bacon and poached eggs.  While I am thankful that non-pork options
such as these are offered, the turkey bacon is the singular item aboardship
that I absolutely do not care for.

A poached egg.
The overall breakfast with toast, coffee and tomato juice.

While Grav and I don't drink, our companions do, and
this is a traditional strawberry daiquiri.
Fresh hot bread is offered at each lunch and dinner in the dining room,
usually baguettes like these, sometimes studded with caraway seeds.

Caribbean Pepper Pot soup.

This is a lunch portion, Mongolian Steak Salad.

The cheeseburger has been upgraded to an anytime dining choice.  The items
now available to put on your burger include sauteed onions and mushrooms,
bacon or guacamole and a choice of cheeses:  swiss, monterrey jack,
American or cheddar.  Burgers come with lettuce, pickle, onion and tomato
and choice of condiments.

I was surprised that the vegetable fajitas came already assembled.

Another view of the veggie fajitas.

Back on the Lido Deck:  Stuffed Cornbread.
Baked fish on the hot buffet (Lido Deck).

Cheese pizza from the 24 hour pizza station.

Key lime pies.

When we returned to our room, we discovered these chocolate covered
"tuxedo" strawberries waiting for us.

Our dapper maitre d' on formal night.

With 10,000 meals served each day on the ship, there's always fresh bread
and butter.  It's a small thing, but a wonderful thing, too.

The Didja Ever dish on formal night was spicy alligator fritters -- I
happened to catch the wrong side of the plate for this one.  That's a
fritter on the left side.  Kinda like hush puppies.
Grav got a better shot of the Alligator Fritters.

I was far more about the baked stuffed wild mushrooms with spinach, romano
cheese and herbs.  Served up similarly to the previous night's escargot,
these are tasty little morsels in a sea of CHEESE.

Strawberry bisque -- a chilled creamy strawberry soup with just a touch of
mint.  I love the chilled soups served on Carnival ships.

But I preferred this -- the delectable West Indian roasted pumpkin soup.
It has a chicken base and a delicious swig of cinnamon and cumin throughout.
This is comfort food.

Of course, being formal night, the food was more formal.  This is the prime
rib.  I asked for mine to stop mooing before it came to the table.  My
companions each asked for an even rarer chunk of meat.  The onion rings are
an unusual choice to go with the baked potato and slab of aged beef.

The star of the night, though, was the lobster tail atop roasted shrimp.  I was
going to abstain, but I was talked into it.  The group of four at the table next to
ours ordered and consumed 11 tails.

That's all fine and good, but this was my favorite of the night:  zucchini and
eggplant parmigiana.  Then again, I am always a sucker for any dish that
combines my favorite fruit (tomatoes) and vegetables.

Ah, hot chocolate.  The special machines that make the frothy, creamy hot
beverage are also available for guest use on the Lido Deck.  I think they must
use a higher mix-to-water ratio than the powdered mixes we get at home, but
that doesn't surprise me much.
My companions look forward to formal night just for this:
Bitter and Blanc.  It's a black and white bread pudding that's
rich and full of texture, which comes with its own custard.
I would love the recipe for this fantastic creation.

Did I mention that the wait staff dances?  There's a new dance every night.

The cherries jubilee are fired before they come to the table.  This cuts down
on fire risk.  But there's a distinct temperature difference.

On the second day when we returned from
Progresso, we went with our companions
(who are Platinum VIFP members) to the Past
Guests party.  This gathering is a chance for
other VIFP members to meet with drinks
and hor d'oerves.  The first drink offered is
Carnival's signature beverage, The Fun Ship --
a blend of rum, vodka, amaretto, apricot juice
and other various juices.  Grav and I discovered
this drink is available as a non-alcoholic
option.

A poached herbed tuna hor d'oerve.

Tomato-wrapped mozzarella.

A tiny ham sandwich.

This is a Yellowbird... a combination of rum,
Galliano, creme de banana, pineapple juice
and orange juice.  

Not all of the delights on the menu come with the cruise.  This Swedish Apple
Cake is one of the featured premium pastries at the coffee bar.

This is the nighttime view from one of the two outdoor decks at the back of
the Lido Deck.  The yellow-lit windows are the back of said deck; the chaise
lounges below are on the adults-only Serenity Deck, accessible through the
Cole Porter Club and Punchline Club.

These large soft chocolate chip cookies are also among the offerings.

Roast turkey on the Lido Deck.

Tiramisu, as presented on the Lido Deck.  This is my favorite Lido Deck
dessert offering.

Baked redfish (Lido Deck).

I discovered that most of the chefs and wait staff
aboard the Elation loved mugging for the camera.

Cheesecake (Lido Deck).

Black Cherry Crumble (Lido Deck).

Coconut cake (Lido Deck).

Turkey dressing (Lido Deck).

A whole sheet of cheesecake (Lido Deck).
Grav captured this shot of Lido chef Arnauhd when he
came out to speak to us on the back deck.  He's been a
chef for 32 years -- 11 of those years with Carnival.

American Navy Bean Soup in the Imagination Dining Room.

Fantasy of fresh tropical fruit and berries.

Caesar salad.

There are two versions of shrimp and fries on this evening's menu... one
is an appetizer served with plum sauce, the other is this. The panko-style
breading tastes a bit like Doritos.

A dish I first encountered on the Triumph: cured salmon
and candied tomatoes, served with cheese crackers.

Another view.  It's an interesting dish, and pretty to photograph.

I decided to try something from the everyday menu and went with the flat-
iron steak.  Served with root vegetables and mashed potatoes, this is a
fine hunk of meat.

See what I mean?

The grilled chicken served over fettuccine with mushroom
cream.  As you can see, the extra cheese is liberally applied.

Grav thought this jerked pork loin was incredible. That's a fried plantain
chip on top.  The coconut fried rice is also supposed to be extraordinary.

Seared fillet of redfish with yam and pumpkin hash and green beans.

This is the largest Chile Relleno I have ever seen.  It bore the appearance of
a battered and fried Chihuahua... it was huge!

And it was quite tasty.

And then there's the Indian Vegetarian -- which is a huge presentation of three
pots of curried vegetables, a couple of chutneys, raita and rice with a papadum.

Tiramisu is also served in the dining rooms in its more traditional form. One
of my dining companions said this was the best thing she'd ever put in her
mouth... though I may be taking a little liberty with that quote.

Still, there is something to be said for the perfection of warm apple pie
served with ice cream.  I've eaten my share of pie, and this was divine.

On the Lido Deck, there was this -- apple panetone.  I was shocked Grav
has never encountered this delight before.  Unlike the tall ones Giada
DeLaurentis shows off on Food Network, this was a traditional
version in a big flat disk.

A cross-cut shot of apple panetone.

Cinnamon rolls made from thinly rolled buttery pastry.

The peanut butter and jelly station.  The Triumph had this out all the time
at the sandwich station, even when said station was closed.  This one only
appeared when the hot buffet was open on the Elation.

Lido Deck breakfast food.  This one's sausages and onions.

Miniature breakfast quiche.

Another coffee bar creation -- a premium cupcake.  Wow.
I have been dreaming of this chilled creamy bing cherry soup ever since
I got off the boat.

Part of the everyday menu, the shrimp cocktail comes with a dollop of
cocktail sauce, lemon and vegetable garnishes.  I have seen someone sit
down and eat six of these in one sitting.

I was happily pleased by the Chicken Tenders in Thai Spices.  Just a touch
spicy... and perfect with that little curl of cucumber.

This is the dish my companions wait for the entire cruise.  The chateaubriand
with sauce Anglais is spoon-tender beef cooked to order, served with a
soft pile of sliced potatoes roasted in the jus from the beef tenderloin and
with a surprisingly wonderful spinach souffle.

And this is a potato.

Potatoes come to the table baked and unopened.  A steward will come with
all the necessary additions you'd like -- sour cream, cheese, chives, and
plenty of bacon.  Butter is of course already on the table.

From the everyday menu -- southern fried chicken with mashed potatoes,
gravy and the steamed vegetables of the day -- in this case, broccoli.  Eka,
my waitress for the night, also brought ketchup.
Couldn't you just put her in your pocket and take her
home?  She was precious.

The comfort food item of the day, bacon mac and cheese.  It's macaroni
tossed with aged cheddar cheese and bacon, topped with a grilled
chicken breast and more bacon.

And the blackened supreme of spring chicken, complete with the same
potatoes and spinach souffle as came with the chateaubriand.

Since we were dining on Halloween, different dishes were served for
dessert.  This was a pumpkin cheesecake.  A chocolate rum ball is under that
ghost fondant.

And this murder of a dish is a cinnamon and chili infused chocolate cake.
Other options included the chocolate melting cake and ice cream.

On the Lido Deck, Pasta Eggplant.

Several of the dishes on the main menu are separately interpreted in Lido
dining each evening.  Here, fried fish.

Blackened chicken.

Steak, medium rare.

And lamb roast at the carving station.
On the dessert bar, caramelized banana cake...

pumpkin cake...

and pumpkin pie.

Chocolate cookie cake (I am assuming chocolate cake with cookies rather
than a chocolate cookie-filled cake).

Cappuccino cream.  In the main dining rooms they offer a cappuccino pie
the same night.

From Lido's salad bar:  tomato pepper relish.  This is yummy.

Rice and tofu lemon pepper.

Grits capers and gramflour bread, gluten-free.

Marvelous cupcakes from the coffee bar.

Turkey and cheese panini from the sandwich station.

Carnival still does some midnight buffets on the Lido deck.  On Halloween.
there was a great Mexican fiesta buffet to celebrate Dios de la Mort.  Here's
the avocado salsa.
Pickled jalapeno peppers.



Mango pineapple salsa.

Fresh tomato salsa.

Sour cream "salsa."

Vegetable chimichangas -- these were excellent!
Corn salsa.
Crispy potato sopes with goat cheese and herb salad. I could
eat 20 of these.
Creamy enchiladas with salmon, tomatoes and green chiles.



Beef enchiladas.
Black bean and chicken tostada with salsa and romaine.



Flan.

White cake.

This would qualify as an "assorted
dessert" -- three layers of gelatin.
Two layers of chocolate and cherry
pudding.
A colossal strawberry stack cake.



Churros.

Tropical fruits.

Cheese.

The full Mexican buffet was something incredible to behold -- not just for
the variety of color and selection, but for the carved fruits.  Melons and
pumpkins were carved into all sorts of crazy things.

This one was my favorite -- a massive ceremonial head with headdress.

English trifle in a handy cup.

After the Mexican Fiesta at midnight, I decided to sleep in and instead get
room service.  My companion wanted cheesecake -- and this is what it
looked like.
Vegetable sticks and dip, room service.



Cookies from room service.

Tuna salad sandwich and potato salad.

On the fun day at sea coming back from Cozumel, a chocolate buffet was
advertised for lunch for the Lido Deck.  The first item I found was this:
sugar rocks.  Well, go big or go home, right?
Lemon cubes.



Chocolate Madelaines.

Chocolate truffles.

Strawberry cubes.

Sugared walnuts.

Chocolate orange peel.

Chocolate gateaux.

A trio of mousse in cups.

Delicate swans packed with scoops of ice cream -- this one is vanilla
with chocolate sauce.

And this one's vanilla with strawberries.

Chocolate sushi.

Somehow I missed out on the name of this pretty salad on the salad
bar.  I'm sure someone will let me know.

Apple pecan spinach salad.

Another apple pecan salad.

Cheese and onion rolls.

Onion foccacia.

Hot dogs are available for any breakfast and lunch.

Cookie bar.

Stuffed tomato.

Lunch on our sea day in the dining room -- antipasto plate with ham, salmon,
tomatoes and olives plus buffalo mozzarella.

Chilled orange sory with tapioca beads.


A typical dinner salad with blue cheese dressing.

This one's a real hit -- it's called Hay and Straw and it's egg fettuccine and
spinach fettuccine in a simple tomato and herb sauce.

The real winner at lunch?  Chinese pepper steak with a dumpling.

The delightful Apple Hollander.
We had a grand opportunity to tour the galley that night, a truly eye-opening experience.  A galley on a cruise ship is a sight to behold.  Everything's perfectly sterile and organized -- which it should be, having that many meals organized each day.  We didn't even get to Lido's kitchens, another entire floor to consider! The gigantic galley has two sides -- one for the Imagination Dining Room and one for the Inspiration Dining Room -- and includes everything from a complex pastry shop to a couple of wine cellars.

We had great tour guides...
Frank.  He's from Georgia.

Barbi.  She actually took our companions off and back
on the ship for their back-to-back cruises.  Sweet lady!

Trepan is the master pastry chef on board.
Govino is the marvelous executive chef.
Catalin showed us the galley and answered our questions.
We had a LOT of questions.
After the tour, we sat down with Catalin, the food services manager aboard ship, and asked about every question in the world.  Did you know that the Elation was one of the Carnival ships that met up with the Triumph in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico to supply food for those Triumph guests?  The crew of the Elation made sure to provide full service to its own guests and serve up hot meals that were ferried over to the Triumph.  That's saying a lot.

This is a virgin pina colada.  I am all
about an alcohol-free fun drink!

Our final night at sea started with soups.  Two of my companions chose
BOTH of the soups to start with -- including the gratinated onion soup,
which comes topped with a slice of fresh bread and both gruyere and
parmesan cheeses.
This lead to a lot of "pull" shots.  Grav loves these.

I chose to stick with the wild mushroom cream soup with fresh herbs.
I chose wisely.  I love this soup.

A Study in Sushi.  This is the only dish I had aboard the Elation that I
preferred on the Triumph. But the tuna was marvelous.

The penne mariscos -- shrimp, scallops and calamari in tomato sauce over
penne noodles. 

Vine ripe beefsteak tomatoes and fresh buffalo mozzarella.  

Try the veal.  The veal parmigiana with tomato sauce was served with sliced
zucchini and delicately gratin'd potatoes.  We all ordered this.

One more from the everyday menu -- the meatloaf, served with roasted
onions, seasonal vegetables, mashed potatoes and gravy.  A classic.

And finally, the bourbon and honey glazed roasted spring chicken. Just
look at that.  Isn't that gorgeous?

I remember when Baked Alaska was such an exotic and rare treat.  You don't
see it much these days, but the Carnival Elation has a wonderful version.
Strangely, it comes topped with chipped melon garnish.

I chose the simple beauty of Amaretto cake for the last night's fare.  This
rich and nutty chocolate cake is just... perfect.

Of course, the sweet fun was still going on up on Lido Deck -- with chocolate
orange cakes.

There were even a few slices of random cheesecake to enjoy.

One offering we missed in main dining, the crab cake, was also offered
at the hot buffet.

As the night waned and the hour got late, a line formed at the 24 hour pizza
station.  Here's a mushroom pizza...

and pepperoni, too.

The coffee bar still offered big soft cookies, like these chocolate chip ones

and soft white chocolate Macadamia ones, too.

A few more delights to share.  If you have a sweet tooth that can't be
satisfied anywhere else, there's candy in the provision shop.

That's also where you order anniversary and birthday cakes, if you didn't
order them before the cruise.

And in case you were wondering, this is the full selection found behind
The Drama Bar.
One more observation to share.  Everywhere we went on the Elation, we were greeted by name by the crew.  Moreso, the crew all seems to know each other and get along fantastically.  Elation is a Fantasy class ship, which is one of the smaller ships Carnival sails these days -- but its crew is tight-knit and friendly.  And they're fun.  Look for this guy in the Imagination Dining Room during the dance numbers -- he's the one doing the pole dancing.

That's my friend Terri posting with our
fabulous dancer.

Full disclosure:  I paid for this trip... and for that of my companion.  Carnival did provide me with internet time and with a tour of the ship's galley.  We were surprised with a fruit basket, champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries during the trip that were placed in our room on various occasions.  We were traveling with our friends who are Platinum status members, and were allowed to attend the Past Guest party as their guests.  This piece is not an endorsement of Carnival Cruise Lines or the Carnival Elation but an honest article about what was encountered aboard.  Any questions may be added to the comments below or sent to kat@tiedyetravels.com.