Going Green With Dallas's Top Chefs At the 18th Annual Caesar Salad Competition
There's a salad around there somewhere, trust us.
Photos by Patrick Michels
Chefs from 10 of the top kitchens in Dallas vied for top honors in the Sunday night's Caesar salad competition, vying for diners' votes with salads dressed up with merguez sausage, scallop ceviche or brisket tacos, or restyled as carrot-wrapped salad sticks, romaine gazpacho topped with Caesar sorbet, or stuffed inside Bugles-shaped parmesan crisps.
The showroom full of fabulous merchandise up for auction included... a new car!
By the time the silent auction closed, the cooks' "tossed salad" jokes wore out, and the diners' votes were tallied, it was JW Foster, from Pyramid at the Fairmont Hotel, who claimed the night's top honors. His salad, accompanied by a miniature brisket taco, won over the crowd with its vegetables picked from the Fairmont's rooftop garden.
Daniel Nemec at Kirby's Steakhouse took second place, and Eric Dreyer at Fearing's finished third, as Teresa Gubbins writes in her recap of the competition. (For another look at the scene, check out Nathan Hunsinger's Morning News video from the dinner.)
After the jump, though, we hand out our own awards to each of the night's entries--which is an awful lot like being right there in the Sheraton ballroom, only without tasting the salads, schmoozing your table-mates or drunkenly bidding on the custom Toyota Venza parked in the foyer.
Rosewood Mansion At Turtle Creek
The Mansion's offering is how you make a meal out of salad-tasting night: big chunks of house-made merguez--"lots of garlic, lots of oregano," Brandt says--topped with a cilantro-lime relish. On the Dude Food scale, we'd peg this salad beyond "Brutus," closer to "That tall guy it the Romans needed 15 arrows to take out at the end of Gladiator."
Salad? What salad?
Pyramid Restaurant & Bar at the Fairmont Hotel
Foster's winning salad with cayenne-spiced croutons came accompanied by a mesquite-smoked brisket taco topped with roasted tomato and fresh jalapeño salsa and chipotle-lime aioli. Vegetables came from the Fairmont's rooftop garden, so, as Foster put it, "this whole meal came from less than two miles away."
After the salad, the brisket taco assembly commences, with Foster (right) carving the meat.
The brisket taco dressed up with locally grown vegetables.
The gutsiest salad concoction of the night was Bombaci's shrimp-in-a-cup--more properly, shrimp al ajillo set in a romaine-anchovy gazpacho, topped with a dollop of Caesar dressing sorbet and grana padano wafer.
Well played, Mr. Bombaci, well played.
Miller prepared a traditional Caesar with a focus on quality ingredients, she said, with white anchovy dressing and paired with poached lobster with Meyer lemon butter.
Local's parmesan block.
Cooking up the lobster
With duck confit, Hudson Valley foie gras, and brandied crisp drizzled with lavender-blackberry coulis.
Cooks build the salads at the Kirby's assembly line
Kirby's was ready with an antidote for guests who'd OD'd on greenery: huge piles of chocoate.
Dreyer's salad featured smoked red chili Caesar dressing topped with deep red pomegranate seeds, along with Big Island hearts of palm and tamale-battered shrimp.
Eric Dreyer, left, looks on as his salad is mixed.
Dragonfly at Hotel Zaza
Dragonfly's salad, with scallop ceviche.
Plating salads fast, and keeping lines short, was key to winning diners' hearts and minds.
Salad Most Befitting the Coming Harvest
Go Fish Ocean Club
Tucked into little Bugles-shaped parmesan crisp horns (Derry assures us these weren't actually Bugles), the salad features shrimp tempura and crispy pancetta.
Derry delivers one of her salad-horns.
Wubbena's salad bundles are what Dippin' Dots meant to boring old hard-scoop ice cream, with white anchovy and shredded parmesan inside a romaine bundle wrapped in carrot. A great way to load up on Caesar dressing fast, accompanied by blue crab potato salad and a pulled duck sandwich.
Wubbena, top-right, helps move things along.
Landmark Restaurant at the Melrose
Guajillo-braised karabuda (pork cheek), pork jus, white anchovy dressing and a parmesan crouton.
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