Dinner at bluezoo highlight of Walt Disney World cuisine
September 6, 2019
We recently returned from a trip to Walt Disney World where we managed to avoid the traditional theme park fare of jumbo pretzels, hot dogs and packaged ice cream treats. In addition to traveling without any children and not trying to juggle the rules of a pre-paid dining plan, we timed the trip to spend our final day in the Epcot World Showcase sampling the international flavors of the annual Food & Wine Festival.
For those of you who have been to Epcot and wandered through the permanent exhibits from Japan, Morocco, Canada, England and Mexico (just to name a few) it’s easy to imagine the dishes and drinks for sale. If you haven’t been to the festival, you may not be aware of the pop-up destinations added around the lake to feature specific foods (like chocolate and cheese) and additional countries (Thailand and Ireland were popular).
The concept is simple – chefs create small sample plates of three or four representative dishes (think Belgian waffles, escargot or bratwurst) and offer paired pours of the country’s signature beers, wines and cocktails. You can imagine the array of aromas as you wander past the booths, debating which ones to select. Two favorites were the blood orange mimosa and fondue savoyarde; we skipped the teriyaki-glazed Spam.
On one of the days before our culinary world tour, we treated ourselves to an elegant dinner at celebrity chef Todd English’s restaurant, bluezoo (lowercase lettering is deliberate and carried through the menu, too). According to our server, Ray, the name of the restaurant came from English’s son, who described his first visit to an aquarium as seeing a “blue zoo.”
The decor certainly echoed the name, giving you a sense of being underwater as you enter through what feels like a waterfall into an abundantly blue-hued dining space, scattered with delicate lighting and soothing water features. Walking to your table takes you past the raw bar and the rotating spit roasting whole fish arranged upright as if they were “dancing” (which is what they’re called on the menu).
I’d already planned to order seafood and was intrigued by the one listed as “simply fish.” We had several fresh choices from local waters, and I selected the Florida tripletail. Its name comes from its elongated fins, almost as long as the tail fin, making it appear to have three. This relatively flat fish has thick skin that covers firm, white flesh, considered by many to be superior to grouper or snapper in flavor.
The chef plated the perfectly grilled filet over a bed of creamy corn purée alongside shaved zucchini curls and lamb’s lettuce (also called corn salad). The latter has spoon-shaped, deep-green, tangy leaves and gets its name from its similarity in appearance to a lamb’s tongue. The best part of the dish was the delicate sauce of warm crab meat, dijon mustard and chives. I’d never before thought to combine crab meat with a mustard sauce, but the tender texture of the crab was the perfect foil to the tangy Dijon and bright chives. From the presentation (see photo) to the complex yet balanced flavors, this was easily my favorite meal of the week. I’ve included my take on how to prepare this dish at home, but the best way to enjoy an authentic version is to visit Todd English’s bluezoo.
Pan Roasted Tripletail
2 6-oz tripletail filets*
1 T clarified butter
1 T olive oil
salt & pepper
Add butter and olive oil to a heavy skillet; heat over medium-high. Season both sides of the filets with salt and pepper. Add fish to the skillet and cook until golden. Turn and cook until tender and flakey. Serve on a puddle of corn purée with crab Dijon sauce and lamb’s lettuce salad. *Note - if desired, you may substitute grouper or snapper.
Crab & Dijon Mustard Sauce
1/2 C dry white wine
1 t Dijon mustard
1 t whole-grain mustard
1 C heavy cream
1 t snipped chives
1/2 C lump crabmeat
salt, to taste
In a small saucepan, combine the wine and mustards. Over medium-high, bring to a simmer; cook for about 3 minutes. Add the cream and cook until slightly reduced and thickened, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to very low and stir in chives. Gently fold in crabmeat and cook just until heated through, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with sea salt.
3 T butter
2 C fresh corn kernels
1 C heavy cream
salt & white pepper, to taste
Melt 2 T butter in a medium saucepan. Add the corn kernels and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the cream and continue cooking until reduced and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the bowl of a blender of food processor and purée until smooth. Stir in the remaining 1 T butter and season to taste.
Lamb’s Lettuce Salad
3 C lamb’s lettuce
4 T walnut or hazelnut oil
1 T lemon juice
1/4 t lemon zest
sea salt, to taste
Wash the lettuce thoroughly in several changes of water. Blot dry with paper towels. Place lettuce in a serving dish; set aside. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together oil, lemon juice and zest. Pour dressing over lettuce and toss to coat. Season to taste with sea salt.