22 September 2006

Crouton or not Crouton?

About five years ago I began a quest for the perfect Caesar salad. I vowed to try a Caesar in every place I could. I tried them all over Hometown, I tried them interstate. In the interest of full investigation, I even tried the one at McDonalds (not suprisingly, it was the most revolting Caesar I ever had). The best one I had was, unfortunately, about a thousand k's away from where I lived.

I became pretty picky about Caesars. Now, I'm not too much of a purist. I can cope if they use iceburg lettuce instead of cos. I've been known to add chicken or even prawns to my order. I'm happy if the anchovies are in the sauce, I'm happy if they're in strips (but the Parmesan must be real, shaved Parmesan). What I'm looking for is good quality ingredients, in good proportions, with a good flavour. And at least a vague resemblance to the original.

But a couple of years ago I noticed something, which became a disturbing trend quickly sweeping across my hometown and, as I discovered, across the country. Instead of croutons, people were now serving a slice or two of fried bread on the side of the plate. One place even actually just served toast on the side. Toast, I tell you! From the toaster!

What's the difference, you may ask? If it's fried bread, can't you just poke it with the fork a few times so it breaks up, and mix it in?

Not so well. You wind up with uneven chunks, and a hell of a lot of crumbs. It just doesn't taste the same as real croutons. Croutons, as far as I'm concerned, should be little cubes of fried (or baked) bread, slightly oily with the Caesar sauce oozing into them. A couple of slices of toast just don't cut it for me.

Nowadays, it seems impossible to get a Caesar with real croutons. This sliced bread thing seems the current hip way to serve a caesar all over the country.

So what are the Caesars like in your neck of the woods? Is this a worldwide trend?

And have any other foods changed their presentation, nay, their very structure, so radically and so ubiquitously?


Stinkypaw said...

I've never heard of toast in a caesar before! I tend not to eat Caesar in restaurant much, because we make a pretty mean one at home, so our standards are high ;-)

Like you I like the parmesan shavings, bacon bits (the real thing, not the thing that you buy in bulk that looks & smells like pet food!), and we make our croutons by using bagette bread, good olive oil, some rosemary, parsley, oregano, pepper (bake that for a few mintes, until crispy brown), add the vinaigrette and voilĂ ! I used to make the vinaigrette (from scratch) but we've found a really good, extra garlic, one which does the trick, so we use that instead.

Thinking about it, yuck on the toast and/or fried bread!!! And I think I would return it if ever I got iceberg salad for a Caesar!

...call me Caesar snob, I don't care!

Emily said...

I truly enjoyed your contribution to FTN's comment-fest!

As for serving caesar with fried bread or toast - now that really IS an abomination!

ArtfulDodger said...

I am also a lover of a good ceaser salad. We don't have any problems with the croutons around here, but we do with the anchovies! if they even offer them, they are an OPTION and you have to ask for them. What is the world coming to!??

hasarder said...

Stinkypaw - in the interest of my quest then, it appears I have to come over to your house for dinner :). Your croutons sound perfect!
(I only said that about the iceberg because I once had a Caesar at a place that had run out of cos, and it was so good in every other respect that I dealt with it. Really, I'm a snob too).

Emily - thankyou, you inspired me to join in!

Art - that's just so wrong. Since when are anchovies optional? At the very least, they're supposed to be within the sauce! I thought everyone who liked Caesar liked anchovies!

DZER said...

There are two fine dining restaurants here who make the Caesar salads tableside ... VERY good stuff ...

and I'm with you on the croutons ...

Stinkypaw said...

Whenever/if ever you're in our neck of the woods, please, you have an open invitation! (and I'm not joking here!)