Bella vs Rathbun's Blue Plate Kitchen: Clash Of The Caesar's

Our weekly dish duel this time features a cagey newcomer and an old veteran working on new tricks...

Think what we'd be missing out on if Caesar had never came, saw or conquered. Those who grew up in the 80s would have waited in lines at the Orange Justinian stand, for one.

It's difficult to imagine a world without the Caesar salad, that simple combination of Romaine, stale bread and Parmesan, tossed with, amongst other things, coddled egg and Worcestershire sauce, yet known for slices of anchovy. Of course, many argue the briny preserved fish were not part of the original recipe. Others blend one anchovy into the dressing as a nod to the ingredient that should (or should not) be included.

Yeah, and the salad wasn't really named for the Ides of March guy, either. So be it--no one really follows the traditional recipe, as we find out in this week's toque to toque face off.

Bella actually lists a classic construction on their menu. I opted, however, for the "loaded Caesar"--gussied with roasted peppers, Kalamata olives and the dreaded salty fish--to counter the "south of the border Caesar" served at Rathbun's Blue Plate Kitchen.

Unfortunately,  Bella's creation was only half-cocked...sorry. The olives and anchovies acted as huge, pungent, briny explosives, creating havoc with the rest of it. Chunks of roasted pepper contributed only strange, soapy bumps. And all of these things ganged up on the dressing, essentially wiping it from the face of the earth.

Made it hard to discern, anyway.

Rathbun's tricked out Caesar, on the other hand, is a masterpiece. The dressing provided an intense, sharp backdrop, while the parched corn and mellow pepitas rallied around the taste buds. The flavors and textures swing back and forth, but always within the confines set by that difficult dressing. Doesn't matter that other items on restaurant's menu fail to measure up, really, considering this is one hell of a salad.

Scoring at home? Bella started with a lot of color, but turned in a sluggish match. Rathbun's Blue Plate Kitchen stayed true to the theme and kept both balance and composure throughout each bite. So, Rathbun's deals Bella a devastating knock-out blow. Let's call it the third round, as the latter pits some pretty good ingredients into the mix.

Still, an easy victory.

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