Tuesday, April 3, 2012

It’s Full Steam Ahead For American Queen

After sitting idle for nearly five years, the American Queen steamboat had a successful “cruise” last week on the Mississippi River as it ran through its first set of builder’s trials and the paddle wheel achieved 17 revolutions per minute with plenty of steam in reserve.

The Great American Steamboat Company’s American Queen stretched her legs on the Mississippi River along New Orleans’ French Quarter for three hours before conducting berthing trials in front of the famed Café Du Monde on the Riverwalk. As someone who lived in Louisiana, I’m accustomed to the good food served there and one of my favorite things to do in New Orleans is eat. And one of my very favorite morning rituals when in the city is a cup of café au lait and a plate of beignets at Café Du Monde. When I read that the American Queen was berthed alongside one of my favorite eateries, I got to wondering about the food they will serve.

It looks like Great American Steamboat Company’s got that covered in the person of their Culinary Director, Chef Regina Charboneau. While the crew prepares to welcome the first guests on board, Chef Charboneau is putting the finishing touches on the American Queen’s menus. A native of historical Natchez, Mississippi, one of the steamboat’s stops on Mississippi River voyages, Charboneau will often be onboard overseeing the multiple dining venues, sharing stories of the region’s rich culinary history and holding court with chef friends from New Orleans and other port cities.

Drawing inspiration from America’s heartland, Chef Charboneau’s dishes will take advantage of the bountiful Mississippi River region, which offers an abundance of ingredients to work with including sustainable fish and seafood, farm-raised quail, free-range chicken, artisan cheeses, wild pecans, rice, honey, and stone-ground grits. We hope she doesn’t forget our favorite crawfish.

American Queen Menu highlights include:

· Andouille Hash; savory sausage hash topped with poached egg and sharp cheddar served with corn cake
· Bananas Foster Stuffed French Toast; cream cheese stuffed French toast topped with sautéed bananas, brown sugar and cinnamon
· Crabmeat Beignet; petite beignet topped with crabmeat in a classic Mornay sauce
· Salmon Salad; seared salmon on seasonal greens laced with bacon-molasses vinaigrette
· Grilled Catfish or Shrimp Poboy; shredded lettuce, tomato and jalapeno tartar sauce
· Peppered Brisket of Beef; tender brisket in savory gravy with cracked black pepper served with mash potatoes and creamed spinach
· Pompano En Papillote; local pompano topped with julienne of spinach, sweet red peppers and carrots, lump crab meat, caper-lemon butter encased in parchment paper
· Classic Bread Pudding with whiskey sauce
The largest steamboat ever built will offer multiple onboard dining options with the centerpiece being the opulent J.M. White Dining Room, destined to be a favorite of culinary enthusiasts. Diners can indulge in classic favorites any time at The Front Porch of America which offers 24-hour dining or delight in grilled fare paired with spectacular views at the alfresco River Grill. Classic cocktails, enjoyed by such authors as Mark Twain and Tennessee Williams, have been painstakingly researched by Chef Charboneau’s team of mixologists to deliver authentic libations in the main Lounge and Engine Room Bar. Regina’s Jazz Brunch will be a highlight of each voyage and her elegant Southern Tea will be offered every afternoon at 4 PM.

The Chef With Mississippi River Water in Her Veins
Chef Regina Charboneau is a seventh generation Natchezian with a passion for Southern hospitality. Her illustrious career has taken her from a “camp cook” in the bush of Alaska earning money for Paris culinary school to becoming the first woman hired by Club Corporation of America as an executive chef at the Tower Club in Anchorage. A fixture in the San Francisco culinary scene for many years her restaurants included the theater district favorite Regina’s at the Regis, Chi Chi Beignet and Biscuits and Blues nightclub along with Regina’s Sonoma in the wine country. During this time, Regina was the Chef de Cuisine for Uncommon Journeys two vintage rail cars, The Los Angeles and The Houston.

In mid 2000 Regina came full-circle to her hometown of Natchez to be a part of the prestigious Monmouth Plantation. Regina and her husband then purchased and restored historic Twin Oaks, circa 1832 where they reside. She is the author of “Regina’s Table at Twin Oaks” cookbook and a contributor to The Atlantic Monthly.

Authentic Steamboating
Steeped in history, nostalgia, and tradition, the American Queen will once again offer an All-American hospitality experience from its elegant staterooms to its palatial public spaces. A variety of voyage lengths, ranging from three nights to ten nights, and fares offer exceptional value and convenience, with little or no flying required. A pre- or post-cruise luxury hotel stay, all bottled water and soft drinks, wine and beer at dinner, and complimentary shore adventures are included in each port of call. For additional information and reservations, visit the Great American Steamboat Company website.

Image Courtesy of the Great American Steamboat Company

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a dream boat. Is there anything more relaxing than cruising down the Mississippi and feeling like you're living a page out of a history book?

I ended up on a free Atlantic cruise for our honeymoon when I got married a few years ago. I doubt there will be any contests for the American Queen soon, if Majestic America Line launches anything new or major soon it may spur a contest! A google search should help show other contests running now. Some may require you to pay airfare or taxes, but all in all a free cruise is still a steal! I know of one company running a contest now, not for something as fancy as the American Queen, but it can be found here: http://www.patlive.com/facebook/contest/springcruise/