Veggie lovers, don’t despair! I know that Independence Day is a big day for people eating a lot (a lot) of meat. I mean, I’m making three posts today, and one is about barbecue spareribs, and the other is about people down at Coney Island literally stuffing their faces with hot dogs! But you don’t have to worry about all of those carnivores ruining your Fourth of July, too. Today also happens to be National Caesar Salad Day!
You wouldn’t think that such a light, iconic salad like the Caesar would be celebrated in the middle of the summer–much less on a day famous for barbecues and all kinds of grilled meats–but this national food holiday actually has some reason to it. Caesar salad was created on a particularly busy July 4th lunch hour in 1924. Italian-immigrant restaurateur Caesar Cardini ran out of most of the typical ingredients in his kitchen, and so rushed to create a salad using romaine lettuce, croutons, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, olive oil, eggs, and Worcestershire sauce. To entice patrons into eating the mishmash of ingredients in a salad, Cardini prepared it tableside. Surprisingly enough, all of the flavors married extremely well togther, and the Caesar salad was born!
The best part for vegetarians (not vegans, sorry folks, that Parmesan cheese and egg is here to stay!)? The anchovies you typically see in a Caesar dressing are not authentic to the original Caesar Cardini recipe. He claimed that the “fishy” taste you get in the salad is from the Worchestershire sauce, and didn’t use any anchovies in the making of this salad. So if you get an authentic original Caesar salad today, you won’t be eating any fish in your salad!
Where can you go to get your Caesar salad fix for today? Try Pietro’s in Midtown. They’re an old-school, red-blooded Italian restaurat–red for the authentic homemade marinara sauce served here. You can also be assured they make an old-style Caesar salad, served tableside, as it’s meant to be. It’s even gotten the distinction of being featured on The Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate,” hailed by Chef Alex Guarnaschelli as her favorite Caesar salad in the city. Try it out as a starter to a great home-style Italian meal today!
232 E 43rd St (between 3rd Ave & 2nd Ave)
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Old school Italian sums this place up. The caesar salad was awesome made right at the table by the waiter the old fashioned way. I’ve heard they have been rated best caesar salad in the city. The portions are ridiculously big – you’ll be taking a doggie bag home and eating leftovers for days. Everything tastes great and comes out very fast. The staff is courteous and knowledgeable and very attentive. Highly recommend this place for a good Italian meal on the East side of Manhattan.”–D.A.
“Most of the time, the patrons know by heart what it is they are going to have: start with the clams oreganato, smoky mozzarella and tomato salad, chopped salad (with or without anchovies), caesar. Move on to some shrimp fra diavolo, chicken scarpariello, chicken and veal parmesan (the veal parm is reputedly the best in the city), steak, and maybe a couple of orders of shells in gravy. You’ll be stuffed. But don’t forget to wash it down with a bottle of chianti or pinot grigio.”–Ali W.
Think all Caesar salads are made equal? Think again! Chef Laurent Manrique at the Millesime, a posh-sounding French establishment situated in the Carlton Hotel near Gramercy, has made a deconstructed Caesar salad that far exceeds Cardini’s original goals. Instead of receiving your salad as a mixed bowl of chopped romaine doused in Caesar dressing, Millesime serves the romaine hearts to you whole, wrapped not in cheap anchovies, but smoked black cod. Instead of lemon juice, Manrique uses lime, and just a hint of olive oil and Worcestershire sauce. Oh, I forgot the Parmesan cheese–did I mention the romaine hearts are stuffed with Parmesan cheese?? (I’ll go for anything stuffed with cheese, honestly.) The whole thing is put under the broiler, so you get a perfectly charred and warm Caesar salad–quite a different experience from the ignored prix fixe salads you’ll get at most restaurants! It even won New York Magazine’s Best Caesar Salad award in their 2011 Best of New York polls. So Pietro’s isn’t the only notable Caesar Salad out there! Always nice to have a choice of the best for a national food holiday 🙂
92 Madison Ave (between 28th St & 29th St)
“Eat, eat! There is marvelous bread with a butter cut with red wine and shallots. Mr. Manrique serves an outstanding appetizer of smoked herring placed on warm, glistening fingerling potatoes. He offers a silken grilled Caesar salad, with melting hearts of romaine wrapped with soft, smoky black cod, with a dusting of Parmesan and a squeeze of lime.”–The New York Times
“There’s some debate over who invented this outré take on the Tijuana-born classic: It was either Eric Ripert or his ami Laurent Manrique, depending on which Michelin-starred Frenchman you ask. We’ll credit it to Manrique, though, since we first encountered it at his new seafood brasserie, where hearts of romaine are grilled until soft, stuffed with Parmesan, browned under the broiler, and draped with silky slices of smoked sable. Not a Caesar as we might know it, but a deluxe interpretation.”–New York Magazine
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“What a hidden gem! I can’t believe more people don’t talk about this place. First, it’s probably the best French Bistro in the city. Far better than Balthazar and Pastis. And the Caesar salad alone is worth the trip. The best I have ever had- grilled romaine with black cod- just perfection.”–Ari H.
“This is a fabulous addition for the local NY business lunch scene–should be your next power spot to impress a client or seal a deal. The seating and room offers intimate conversation, the tables well spaced, and the food is to die for. The Caesar salad with smoked black cod is a nice riff on an old classic: grilled baby romaine lettuce, a wonderful balanced dressing, and thin slivers of cheese and fish.”–Richard B.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!