Cruising with Celebrity Pop-Up Restaurants
By Julie Landry Laviolette
A gentleman in a crisp white jacket extends his hand in assistance as you board the vessel. You make your way into the yacht’s lounge, past the buttery-soft white couches to the bar, and glimpse through panoramic windows a gloriously crimson-tinged South Florida sky. Upstairs in the dining room, the celebrity chef du jour prepares an artisanal, multi-course meal to complement the flute of bubbly now nestled in your hand.
Now you, too, can sail extravagantly into the sunset.
Celebrity Pop-Up restaurants are being paired with delicious views of decadent mansions, swaying palm trees and scenic waters in a new endeavor being introduced by Fort Lauderdale-based Windridge Yacht Charters. The company, which has offered private yacht charters since 1976, is now steering a new course.
Windridge plans a rotating series of special voyages that will include celebrity pop-up restaurants for the night, weekend brunch sailings, wine-tasting cruises, and more.
It’s all part of Windridge’s recent merger with Entertainment Cruises, the largest harbor cruise company in the United States. Windridge’s South Florida fleet includes the 170-foot Lady Windridge, which can accommodate 432 passengers and is the largest yacht rental available in the Fort Lauderdale and Miami area. The fleet also includes the 131-foot Windridge K, with room for up to 149 cruisers. The vessels have docking locations across South Florida, including Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, Palm Beach and Miami.
On a recent trial celebrity pop-up restaurant on the Lady Windridge, Executive Chef Julian Baker of Toscana Divino in Miami trotted out a selection of refined Tuscan classics with a contemporary twist.
In the second-level dining room, white tablecloth-covered booths lined the walls, where diners enjoyed a spectacular view as the yacht glided along the Intracoastal waterway through the “Venice of America,” as Fort Lauderdale is known. We filled our plates from an artfully-arranged antipasto table of cured meats, focaccia bread and buratta caprese – heirloom tomatoes dotted with creamy buratta cheese.
But that was merely a prelude.
After our wine glasses were topped off by a passing waiter – yes, please – we stood in anticipation of the delights hidden under silver-domed trays on circular tables throughout the room. Delicate potato gnocchi with a beef ragu and porcini mushrooms. Handcrafted tortelli filled with organic bufala and ricotta cheeses in a sage butter reduction. Baked sea bass with tomato and fennel.
And that view.
Of course, the crowning achievement came with the stroll over to an alcove near the ship’s bow, where smiling servers dispensed cappuccino over a bounty of sweet treats. A whispery light meringue of strawberry, white chocolate crumb and almond cream. An exquisite tiramisu, and a sweet-and-savory biscotti of walnut sable biscuit topped with ricotta and honey.
Up one level to the third deck, a DJ spun tunes in one corner of a spacious dance floor. Outside on the deck, a warm breeze ruffled my hair as I leaned on the railing, taking in the gleaming white vessels dotting the water, the Mediterranean-style manors, and the lush, tropical greenery as we returned to the dock.
It’s good to be queen. Even for a day.
For updates and information on Windridge’s special sailings, visit www.windridgeyachts.com.