Welcome to our list of favorite dining destinations in New York's Hudson Valley and Adirondack regions. We visit restaurants, wineries, barbecues, and a smattering of off the beaten path culinary destinations like maple sugar shacks and fromageries. My friends and I have been dining out together weekly for over twenty years. The locations we write about are our favorite destinations. We are not claiming they are the best, just our favorites. The posts are not "reviews" in the classic sense. - we offer only our picks, not pans. We will leave the criticism to others. We are a happy blog. We much prefer a good bistro to "haute cuisine", especially if they also have a nice bar. We prefer a crock of cassoulet and a bottle of Beaujolais to just about anything else. If you enjoy simple home style rustic cooking with a decent (but not too expensive) bottle of wine, then pull up a chair and join us.



This Month's "Well Said!"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

Ferran Andria

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

In praise of the (long lost) "Tossed Salad"

And why I hate those portion control dressing cups. 

It has never been the purpose of this blog to use it as a forum to complain. I never write about a restaurant experience that we did not enjoy, at least on balance. My topic today is not inspired by any particular restaurant, but rather from what I see as a collective trend in (too) many restaurants. It started slowly in less expensive venues - fast food establishments, then "casual dining" restaurants. Now it seems to be spreading to more expensive dining rooms, where prices hardly justify allowing for this to happen. The dining public's preferences are being totally ignored, patrons are being forced to fend for themselves with plates sent from the kitchen unfinished, all for the sake of a few pennies of labor costs.  I am, of course, talking about serving salads with portion control cups of salad dressing "on the side". 

I would like to go on record here - I hate those cups. I dislike everything about using them.
Salads are meant to be dressed - in the kitchen (or perhaps table-side if you are having a Caesar salad in an "upscale" restaurant.) To dress a salad properly you need to toss it in a bowl with the appropriate dressing. You cannot toss it on your salad plate. It needs to be tossed in a salad bowl for the dressing to properly coat the salad greens, to find all of the nooks and crannies in the salad fixings. You cannot do that yourself with a one or two ounce cup of dressing, a plate of greens, and your knife and fork. It just doesn't work.  
I perfectly understand why restaurant owners go down this portion control path. The first is self evident - portion control. You just can't trust those servers to use a one ounce ladle and dress a salad. They will double dip or get the soup ladle mixed up with the salad dressing ladle and there goes your food margins! 
The second  reason I hear all of the time is speed. Some restaurants will prep their salads in advance and chill them. They also prep their dressing in advance and chill them. They save "lots of time". 
The third reason is labor costs. Restaurants would need to dedicate personnel time to salad prep during meal service. That costs money.
Here's my response.
Portion Control - Have a staff meeting with a quart of (house made) salad dressing, a bowl of greens and a one ounce ladle. (Bring a 4 oz. soup ladle to use as reference for the slow ones.) Have them dress (and toss) a salad with one ounce of dressing. Dress a second salad with three or even four ounces of dressing. Pass it around and have everyone taste both. They will quickly see that salads drowned in four ounces of dressing taste like salad dressing and drowned something.  Customers will prefer a properly dressed salad.
Speed - Most full service restaurants schedule ninety minutes for a seating. If you are doing that then adding a minute to make a proper salad is inconsequential to the meal plan. If you are running a Denny's and you have a forty minute table turnover, please continue doing what you are doing because you are never going to see me anyway. If you are running a full service restaurant and you are striving for the look and feel of a Denny's please keep serving ice cold plates of pre-plated wilted greens with those gawd awful portion control cups of dressing. (Full disclosure, I've never actually eaten in a Denny's so they might actually do a table side Caesar salad service. But I doubt it, and you get my point.)
Labor Costs - How long does it take to make a salad? Think about it. 
And then there's this - portion control cups cost $50 per case. You will save that!

Last week I paid $12 for a pre-dinner salad that came on an ice cold plate (obviously pre-plated) with a 1 1/2 ounce cup of dressing. That should not happen. That should especially not happen at $12. 
So there. I've had my rant. Anyone agree with me? or not? Tell me in the comments section! 
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Ideas? Recommendations? Email me at NorthCountryJoe@gmail.com

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