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Eden vs Central 214: Salad Smackdown

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It is that time of year when we begin to waver on our resolutions. Oh, we still push ourselves to actually visit the gym we have been dutifully paying for the past eighteen months. Diet books fly off the shelf as we survey the damage done by the excess of office parties and garish holiday meals. But all we really do is substitute an occasional salad for the massive haunch of beef.

As for salad, long gone are the days of the luxurious table-side productions of Caesars with its fresh ingredients of raw egg and anchovies. The garde-manger relent to the more notorious bottled, fat-laced, chemical infused versions of the fine dressings that are actually quite simple to create and that made it a pleasure to rake through interesting greens.

However, we are witnessing a resurgence of sorts.

Now, growing up in Dallas, I was never one to forgo my two side veggies of mashed potatoes and green beans for the salad at Black Eyed Pea. But today, I am meandering around town to locate a salad to satisfy my omnivore sensibilities and give relief to seasonal excess. I am ready to perform penance. I am ready for the salad days of January.

Eden's chef's salad comes with a cup of soup, so that's pretty strong out of the starting gate. On my visit they plied me with a Mexican Corn Chowder that was filled with fresh cut corn and cream.

Oops.

The salad was more forgiving, and was a visual feast of various greens such as radicchio, butter leaf and red curly tipped romaine, with a large helping fresh ham and turkey nestled between thin slices of Swiss and cheddar cheeses. The salad was really set off with a large slice of a watermelon radish, enoki mushrooms and several types of tomatoes--and, of course, the obligatory hard boiled egg. The creamy artichoke dressing was properly placed on the side. An amazing sight for sure.

I had even higher expectations from the "celebrity" chef at Central 214, located in the boutique Hotel Palomar.

Well, maybe not higher. I've seen the silly antics of chef Blythe Beck on her reality program, and I was skeptical going in. Almost embarrassed. I sat at the bar and ordered my salad. Daniel the bartender brought me the ample bowl of baby arugula tossed with extremely powerful red onion, thick slices of pancetta, turkey and smoked gouda. The salad was already coated in a small amount of a Kalamata olive-Champagne dressing. Visually unexciting and a bit of a disappointment--and points off for the rubber-band slices of pancetta.

When looking back at my attempts to behave, I cannot help thinking how appealing Eden's prime rib looked at the next table. Maybe I will actually go to the gym this year and pass on the salad.

And this week the win goes to Eden for a great salad, and the cheesecake I also took home.

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