November 8, 2010 by bethanjthomas
This morning I landed at a miserably cold and wet Heathrow after spending a week in Florida with work. I travelled through three cities and devoured nineteen meals with enthusiasm.
I had pre-conceived notions of what to expect from American cuisine – deep fried, super-sized portions of protein heavy plates and I was definitely right to some degree….
You certainly get more bang for your buck in the US, and each meal I ate almost became a gargantuan struggle to finish towards the end. They were indulgent, wholesome dishes which almost overflowed onto the table.
By far my favourite meal of the week was found in ‘Downtown Disney’ in Orlando. The name of this part of Orlando certainly kept my expectations low, as I have never associated Disney with amazing food but instead over priced Coca Cola sold in Micky Mouse cups. However, I’m more than willing to admit that I was wrong.
Back in the day, Walt Disney bought a huge river boat for his wife, no one is really sure why, but it sat in Disney World for years as a visitor attraction and has now been converted into an enormous restaurant specialising in crab (http://www.fultonscrabhouse.com/). Fulton’s is a site for sore eyes, out of place in between the T-Rex centre and Legoland, but as you walk down the gang plank and enter the perfectly preserved nautical interior, a huge fridge full of crab claws confronts you. Enormous hunks of snow crab, Alaska king crab claws, blue crab and more.
Now, I’ve always loved crab but its a pain to eat…tiny forks, hard shells, sticky fingers. It’s a lot of effort for only a little meat. But not in the land of the free, Fultons is one of five restaurants in the US which sells individual crab claws which are cut and crushed leaving you free to avoid all the other spindly, annoying parts of the beast. With one simple twist of the claw, the enormous fleshy mass of claw came free and could be dipped on melted butter or enjoyed alone.
It was crab eating for the lazy, and I liked it. We started with snow crab claws which were made famous by the ‘Deadliest Catch’, where men would risk their lives off the coast of Alaska to harvest as many crabs as possible. Our snow crab came from Florida so was less dramatic, but it is seasonal so I was lucky with my timing! According to my dinner companions, the fisher men in Florida simply pull the claws off the crabs and put them back into the sea where they re-grow and can be plucked again one year later. The thought of poor wee claw-less crabs made me feel guilty for a little while.
But then the main course came. A huge plate of Alaska King Crab Claws with Filet Mignon and asparagus. The claws were insanely large – larger than my two inch thick steak.
Clumps of hair sprouted from the claw itself which reminded me of the hairy crabs that come into season in early summer in Shanghai. But these were beefy Alaskan crabs, the Sarah Palin of crab claws. Cleanly cut in two parts to allow you to eat them in one huge lump, I couldn’t get over the skill of the crab butchers in the kitchen. Why on earth have we never managed to develop this skill in the UK?
The sweet, firm crab meat combined with the rich, soft rare steak perfectly, and I avoided dipping it in butter as is the American way. My asparagus was dripping with enough butter to complement the meat and I could feel my cholesterol rising as the meal continued.
This wasn’t helped by the deep fried portobello mushrooms that we ordered to accompany our crab fest.
But, oh my goodness, whoever decided to put that funghi in the deep fat fryer should be awarded in some way. The batter was light and crisp and the beefy mushroom was juicy and succulent to eat.
It can’t have had a positive impact on my BMI, but the meal was the most memorable that I had, and it embodied all that is good about American cuisine – it was quality, quantity and customer focussed. The same can’t be said of the Wendy’s ‘Baconator’ that I enjoyed the next day, but I’ll save that for another time…