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.
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."
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."
Salad Most Likely To Be Described As Such With Air-Quotes
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.
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.
With duck confit, Hudson Valley foie gras, and brandied crisp drizzled with lavender-blackberry coulis.
Most Tropical Salad
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.
Dragonfly at Hotel Zaza
Dragonfly's salad, with scallop ceviche.
Salad Most Befitting the Coming Harvest
Go Fish Ocean Club
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Tucked into little Bugles-shaped parmesan crisp horns (Derry assures us these weren't actually Bugles), the salad features shrimp tempura and crispy pancetta.
The Salad of the Future
Truluck's Seafood Steak & Crab House
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.
Landmark Restaurant at the Melrose
Guajillo-braised karabuda (pork cheek), pork jus, white anchovy dressing and a parmesan crouton.