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Opinion: Accept it, the fried turkey leg is Orlando's true signature dish

Gobble gobble



Last Thursday, the wizards at Visit Orlando announced Orlando’s Signature Dish.

Yes, folks, this is the dish that will “forever be associated with Orlando” (their words, from the presentation); a dish we’ll be known for the world over; a dish every self-respecting restaurant in the City Beautiful should rightly serve. So, without any further ado, Orlando’s Signature Dish or, rather, Orlando’s Signature Honey-Based Dessert is …

Honey nougat glacé! Wait, what?

Now, I’m sure chef Catherine Delrieu’s winning dish – an Italian meringue with honey, nougat, and fruit confit on a red berry sorbet (left) – is a fine dessert, but “honey nougat glacé” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, now does it? Nor can you see mom-and-pop restos around the city readily slinging it, à la Key lime pie. Nor is it a dish that evolved organically here in Central Florida.

If there is a food that evolved organically in our midst, and one that immediately comes to mind for both tourists and locals alike, it’s the much-disparaged turkey leg.

In her State of the County address, Mayor Jacobs asked the crowd, “Would y’all agree with me that we can do better than fried turkey legs ... that we must do better than fried turkey legs?”

Look, Philly could do better than a cheesesteak; London could do better than fish and chips; Belgium could do better than waffles; but those are the dishes so prevalent that visitors began to associate the food with the city. And let’s face it, Orlando wouldn’t be Orlando without the theme parks. Disney, in particular, kick-started our thriving and diverse food scene, meaning arguably, that food scene was spawned, by the 1.5 million turkey legs they sell each year.

Even James Beard Award-winning chef Art Smith, who happened to be one of the judges in the signature dish competition, told us this summer that the turkey leg should be Orlando’s Signature Dish. “I think sheer volume wins out,” Smith said.

So I say, let’s accept it, folks. Let’s wholeheartedly embrace the turkey leg as our signature dish. Let’s appropriate it from the schlocky purlieu of theme parks and give it the proper gastronomic attention it deserves.

Let’s roast it. Sear it. Citrus-marinate it. Let’s Korean-fry it. Hell, let’s honey-glaze it and make the fleshy appendage a common sight from food trucks to fast-casual eateries to fine dining establishments across the city.

In the meantime, if you’d like to sink your teeth into Delrieu’s honey nougat glacé – Orlando’s Signature Dish – the dessert will be available at Mon Petit Cheri Cafe in Winter Park.

Gobble gobble.