Avid Cruiser Feature Video: Dining On The American Queen

Regina Charboneau. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Natchez Chef Regina Charboneau brings her family recipes to the table on the American Queen. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

Dining has been one of the highlights during our time here on the American Queen. Some of my favorite dishes so far have been shrimp and grits, braised short ribs, poached eggs on andouille hash, and of course, pecan pie a la mode.

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And for the few of you who may know that I am a stickler for maintaining my weight on a cruise, after 12 days on board, I am happy report that I have actually lost a pound, thanks to the reasonably sized portions served and my trotting off to use the gym 30 minutes each day.

Captain's Braised Beef Short Ribs. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Captain’s Braised Beef Short Ribs, featuring an osso bucco cut of meat served over horse-radish mashed potatoes and topped with carmelized onions. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

I am not alone in my appreciation for the quality of the cuisine. Time and again on this voyage of magnificent fall splendor, I’ve spoken with other guests who have praised the dining. A lot of the credit for the cuisine on board goes to Regina Charboneau. She’s the culinary director and chef de cuisine for the American Queen Steamboat Company.

Regina has written for magazines, appeared on television and operated her own restaurants. She is a chef extraordinaire in my book, and she brings to the table food that is not only delicious but also fitting for a voyage on North America’s mightiest river.

Born in Natchez, Mississippi, a place that her family has called home for seven generations, Regina loves the Mississippi River. “The influence of the river and using the best ingredients that are local and regional makes sense for the American Queen,” she said when we interviewed her on board last week.

She told us that the foods and natural ingredients along the river provide a lot of inspiration for her dishes. “When you’re feeding 400 people, you want the dishes to come out well and be presented well, and luckily there are a lot of braised meats and good soups from the river that really translate well from the kitchen to the dining room,” she says. “The river gives me so many natural ingredients to work with.”

Regina attended cooking school in Paris, France, and ran her own restaurant in San Francisco. Her style could be characterized as Southern cooking with a French influence. “I take dishes that were traditionally fried, like catfish, and pan sear it,” she says. “I think it’s fun to take dishes that were traditionally heavy and lighten them up.”

One of Regina’s favorite dishes on the American Queen is the pan-seared catfish on a smoked tomato coulis with black-eyed peas. “It’s Southern, but it’s not fried and it’s not heavy,” she says. © Image Courtesy of Regina Charboneau

Each evening, diners will find a selection of appetizers, soup, salad and four entrees, including a vegetarian option. For the less daring, the menu also includes a selection of “always available” steaks, chicken and more. One evening, I enjoyed the 4-ounce filet with baked potato from the always available menu.

Breakfast and lunch feature buffets and menus in the attractive two-deck J.M White Dining room. A free of charge alternative dining venue, the Front Porch of America also serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. At the Front Porch of America, I appreciated finding complimentary Starbucks coffee and Tazo teas, soft drinks and juices and something to snack on 24/7, including home-baked cookies and fresh fruits, hot dogs, chips, popcorn and more.

Now, time to head to the gym for 30 minutes. I hear that pecan pie is on the menu again, a la mode. Better make that 45 minutes in the gym. Bon Appetit!

Poached Eggs on Andouille Hash. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle
One of my favorites for breakfast: Poached Eggs on Andouille Hash. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Mushroom Ragout on Savory Grits. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Mushroom Ragout on Savory Grits. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Quail in a Pepper Crust with Apple Smoked Bacon. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Quail in a Pepper Crust with Apple Smoked Bacon. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Beer and wine included with dinner. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Beer and wine are included with dinner at no extra charge. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

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  • hello avid cruiser,

    I am thinking of splashing out on a premium suite on my next seabourn cruise. Tell me this, if you were going to go on a world cruise would you book a wintergarden suite or a signature suite?

    And if so does this include butler service? If the suite does what can my butler do for me?

    • I prefer midships, so Wintergarden would be best for me. The front of a small ship, like Sojourn, Odyssey or Quest, can be bumpy in rough seas. Plus, it’s nice to be a few steps away from the hub of the ship. To my knowledge, Seabourn does not have butler service.


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