Saturday, April 18, 2009

Emeril's Degustation

Universal Studios
Orlando, FL

I'm going to try and make it through this entire review without once saying "BAM!" or "Kick it up a notch". This is going to be rough.

So, once a year for the past, oh, 8 years I've been making my way down to Orlando for a big old SPIE conference. Well, technically, one year, when I left from Seattle to go to this SPIE conference I flew to Miami instead of Orlando completely unaware that (a) I flew to the wrong city, and (b) that Florida was large. This isn't the time or place for that story, so I'll leave the details to the inquisitive reader's imagination.

Anyway, while we're down at this conference we get to grub pretty hard because (a) it's all on Duke, and (b) we're all pigs. For the past 8 years we've been going to Emeril's at Universal Studios and everyone gets this thing called Degustation, which is supposed to be "a careful, appreciative tasting of various foods", but I just call it Hard Grubbin. This is the story of that meal. Note that I had no choice as to what was brought out - there were 5 courses, and no one had a choice in anything - they just brought, and we just grubbed.

First was an appetizer - shredded pork on a crustini with balsamic reduction. The waiter comes out and serves us this with the explanation "This is a gift from the chef, a little taste of what is to come." In other words: massive tease. The shredded pork was delightful in a nice vinegar sauce (the way us North Carolinians know it should be), and the crustini was crunchy and I lapped up the remaining balsamic reduction with my tongue.

Up next was the fish appetizer. Prawns with a large scallop on top of sweet potatoes and with some sort of cream sauce to sweeten the deal. The prawns were pretty standard, the scallop was nicely done and succulent, but the king of this dish was totally the sweet potatoes. Man. That Emeril certainly kicked it... err. he certainly cooked this meal... properly. Whew. That was close.

You can also see my TurboDog brown ale in the back there. One of several I had before, during, and after this meal. Yeah, it's a decent beer, but $8 for a beer? And Duke doesn't pay for beer. Seriously? $8? What did that beer cost you Emeril, like 60 cents wholesale? Just because I'm grubbin doesn't make me a sap! But I guess Emeril knows that's a lie, because I ordered more $8 beers. I almost asked the waiter for a PBR, but (a) I can't imagne they have PBR, and (b) they probably cost $8 too.

Up next we got into the serious stuff. First was another fish course - at this point I may have had one too many Turbodogs, because I have no recollection of what kind of fish this is. This could be a well disguised octopus for all I remember. I do remember the leeks on top were nicely done, and the secret fish was served over risotto, which I never had before. I gotta say risotto is good.

After the fish was the main meal - lamb served over collard greens with peruvian purple mashed potatoes in a lamb reduction sauce. Yeah, that's right. Lamb. In a lamb sauce. Now, I know I'm the world's worst vegetarian, but lamb is like just barely one step above veal in terms of "hard to eat because god damn it those things are really fucking cute." Look at this:


Now don't get me wrong anyone, eat whatever you want. I don't care. But God damn it why can't lambs look like baby aliens from Aliens or something? I just watched that Simpson's where Lisa becomes a vegetarian, too. And why did she go vegetarian? Because of the God damned lambs. In any case, I ate the shit out of that piece of lamb up there. But I did it all for the grubbin. And I feel guilty about it now.

Finally, and actually the highlight of the meal, flan with custard, fresh cream, and fresh strawberries with coconut shavings. The pic will do the talking here.

So, how was Emeril's? What's the Hard Grubbin summary review? To be honest, I gotta give this a Hard Grubbin straight up "meh". First of all, $8 for a beer? Seriously? What is this prohibition and you snuck the beer into Downtown Disney inside Mickey Mouse's ass? I know how much beer costs, Emeril. How the hell am I ever going to have 39 of your beers on a tab? That would be like 320 dollars. Maybe I'm just spoiled here in NC where I don't spend more than $5 on a beer. But in that case I'm spoiled. Screw it. Second, although the food was really good, it wasn't great. Like, I haven't been telling people about Emeril's since I've been back home because nothing really took me by the nuts and said "Pete, you must tell people about how this food grabbed your nuts." Yeah, the sweet potatoes were good, and dessert kicked ass, but the highlights of my meal were the pork crustini and flan, which were nice, but I got 3 courses in between and all I had to really rant about was the sweet potatoes. The lamb wasn't even all that great, and I had to bend my morals to devour that. If I'm bending my moral compass you gotta make that shit count. Third, the price. So for $55 dollars you get these four courses plus a crustini thing that's like 1/2 a bite. For a lot of people that might sound like a good deal, but this is Hard Grubbin. You guys know better. I definitely wasn't stuffed after my meal, and how much Pio Pio would $55 buy you? Fourth, and finally, if you go to this place, you have to listen to your head waiter say shit like "This is a pan-seared lamb with southern cooked collard greens served over a bed of authentic Peruvian purple potato mash with lamb reduction sauce and snivel snivel, douche douche". Peruvian purple potato mash? That's what my $55 dollars went to? You flew in potatoes from Peru so they would be purple? Damn it.

In short, if someone else is paying for dinner, I'd check this place out. Otherwise, I'm sure you can grub hard in Orlando on food that's just as good, and for less.

BAM. (i couldn't help it)

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