I guess you can color me guilty of having an agenda. I’ve been trying like hell to get to the bottom of the origin of the Cobb salad. Since it’s pretty much accepted canon that it was conceived by Bob Cobb at the Hollywood Brown Derby, all it was going to take was finding a Hollywood Brown Derby and I could have the historical, dare I say, iconic salad, right?
Albany had a Hollywood Brown Derby for a while, but when I went, they didn’t have a Cobb salad anywhere on the menu (they may have put one on right before they closed, but I found out too late). When we decided to go to Disney, one of the first things Cassie did was make reservations to eat at the Hollywood Brown Derby in Hollywood Studios without telling me. When she revealed this glorious tidbit, I was excited like a little kid, especially since she stressed that they indeed have a Cobb salad on the menu.
As part of the deluxe dining plan, one person could eat there and experience an appetizer, entree, and dessert with two meal credits. You get three meal credits per person and two snack credits per day on the plan, so it’s no big deal to save an extra credit if you carefully plan your breakfast (or lunch) and snacks. So basically, the meal was included in our vacation.
When we arrived, it took them a moment to get our table ready. I actually was busy making a phone call when Cassie was seated. When I got to the table, she told me the waiter said Tinkerbell left us some pixie dust since we were just married. Then he came over with a champagne toast on the house for seeing our “Happily ever after…” buttons.
After that was done, I felt like a celebration was in order. We just got married and I was just about to have a Cobb salad at a satellite of the place where it was conceived. So I plunked down $11.25 on the Citizens of Hollywood Martini Flight of the Stars.
They were pretty good, and, not unexpectedly, my favorite was the Honey Darling which is made with my favorite gin, Bombay Sapphire. For under $12 bucks, it was a pretty good treat.
Here are some pictures from the various sections of the menu for your edification.
I think by now we know which appetizer I ordered…
The Hollywood Brown Derby Famous Cobb Salad – with finely chopped greens, turkey breast, egg, bacon, tomatoes, crumbled bleu cheese, avocado, chives and Cobb dressing.
It was the most morally deflating dish I’ve ever been served. Just about everything that could be technically wrong actually was. The greens were chopped to the point of infinitesimal smallness; they were bruised beyond belief and tossed with a flavorless “Cobb” dressing. The egg was chalky and miserable. The bacon was cooked to oblivion, crumbled painfully small, and served ice cold. The tomato was your run-of-the-mill hothouse variety and had no flavor. The turkey breast was diced and had a spongy texture. The biggest travesty on the plate was the texture of the avocado pieces. I can’t fathom how you can get a piece of avocado to disintegrate on a fork, but they did. Everything was so cold, even the plate; it’s possible they have these already prepared in the refrigerator. The only redeeming bits on the plate were the blue cheese crumbles.
C’mon, Hollywood Brown Derby. Bob Cobb’s name is all over this. You can do better.
The remainder of the meal was much better.
For dinner, I had the spit-roasted American Bison over wilted locally grown winter greens, tossed in an herb-shallot vinaigrette, with roasted fingerling potatoes and a cocoa espresso barbecue sauce.
Actually, this dish was a technical masterpiece. The wilted greens were properly seasoned, and the potatoes were cooked until perfectly tender and creamy. The cocoa espresso barbecue sauce was delicious; tasting it was like tasting a tug of war between sweet and bitter – neither side won. The bison was prepared medium rare (not even a touch over), and it was delicate and rich. It was surprising that such a perfect dish came from the same kitchen as the Cobb salad.
For dessert, the Banana White Chocolate Toffee Tower (on Cocoa-Almond Cookie and Bananas Foster) sounded great.
There was a pretty strong background flavor from rum, which actually really made this a complex and interesting dessert. The tuile gave the dish some visual dimension and brought some crunch to a fairly soft dish.
The portion sizes were just right. Had some of the pride that went into the entrees and desserts been put into the Cobb salad, it would have been a perfect meal, which is actually a big surprise because this is in the middle of an amusement park.
I’m not ready to let the matter of the Cobb salad go, though…not by a long shot!