Last night was the fourth time in recent memory that I “WOW!!!”’d over a salad.
I have no pictures. Cuz, I mean, it’s salad.
Oh wait, here’s one:
That lovely soon-to-be clean plate was, just moments before, home to THE single most delectable combination of food stuffs I’ve eaten since…. um… probably February. (You may notice a trend: when we go Up North, we eat extremely well. When we eat extremely well, I blog about it, and then try to replicate what we ate Up North, then blog about that.)
Anyway, that salad, the Muse, as I will now call it, was fed to us at the Boathouse on Old Mission.
Its proper name on the menu was “apple beet salad,” which was deceptively misleading and caused me to blow past it without reading the description on first glance. Upon further review, third trip down menu lane, I read all the way to the end of the description & ran smack into this:
“vanilla cinnamon vinaigrette.”
And I died a little.
Nine dollars later, in the name of research and development, I declared the Boathouse apple beet salad to be the most wonderful salad I’ve ever, EVER had. Possibly the best non-meat, non-dessert dish I’ve ever eaten.
Envision the plate (cuz, as noted above, I was too preoccupied with eating the salad to photograph it – bad blogger): Crispy white apple matchsticks on top of a fluffy mound of dark green ruffly spinach leaves, sparkly red beet pieces (ignore the beets if you don’t like them, I just pushed them off to Rick’s side), a perfect canel of creamy goat cheese on the edge of the plate, and a healthy scattering of toasted whole marcona almonds.
Then inhale: the scent of vanilla, apple & cinnamon hit me in the face with more force than I thought vanilla was capable of. Savory, sweet, tangy, crispy, crunchy, cool, creamy, rich, and somehow umami, I swear. Divine. Perfect with the cold Bry’s estate dry reisling we ordered.
(Yes, I was drinking two different glasses of wine – I ordered the veal as my entrée so I needed a red, too, sheesh.)
Luckily that afternoon Rick & I ran 7 miles. I call that 700 spare calories. I saved up some of those for dessert on Sunday… this little beauty:
Lemon tart with a sea salt crust & chocolate sauce at Riverside in Leland. Again, a remarkably perfect flavor pairing. I almost want to shed a tear just thinking about it. And of course re-create it at home in cupcake form. More on that later.
Anyway, so that apple-vanilla-cinnamon salad at the Boathouse changed my life.
Yesterday, unable to shake the memory of it, I began experimenting with vinaigrette at home. I downloaded a few recipes off the interwebs to get familiar with the oil-acid ratios. I went to Meijers (yes, it is “MeijerZ”) & bought some fabulous produce (I’ve found that the boxed organic 50/50 spring mix/baby spinach is the best base for any salad and it makes a huge difference). The grocery cart just about filled itself with berries, apples, cukes, radishes…
I pulled out the blender when I got home and set my print-out references on the counter. I followed one recipe for blueberry-balsamic vinaigrette to the “T” and wasn’t terribly happy with the result. So I put it in a jar and started over.
So in the blender went more blueberries, salt, pepper, Splenda, a little water, apple cider vinegar, and – wait for this – almond emulsion (extract). Yes, almond flavoring, like you’d use in baking. That was all blended till smooth, then drizzled with a bit of canola oil. Here’s the recipe – make it if you get a chance:
Blueberry Vinaigrette with Almond Essence:
1/4 cup fresh blueberries
3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/8 tsp almond emulsion or extract
1 packet of Splenda or up to 1 teaspoon honey or sugar for desired sweetness
1/4 – 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup canola oil
Blend first 5 ingredients til smooth. Then, with blender running, drizzle in the oil. Refrigerate for 1/2 hour or more for best flavor distribution.
I’m smacking myself in the face for not taking a picture of this salad.
Not only was the dressing phenomenal, but so was the mix of fruits, veggies & nuts: the aforementioned 50/50 greens mix, sliced cucumbers, radishes, celery, pink lady apples, black seedless grapes and toasted pecans. If you have any kind of food-sensitive imagination you can know inherently how delectable, in flavor and texture, that combo was. Together with my blueberry almond vinaigrette… WOW.
Next time I promise I’ll take a picture. This time, I leave you with a cocktail inspiration. Something Smith & Wollensky call The U.S. Mint – gin muddled with mint, cucumber & tonic. THE BEST summer drink. One of two reasons I grow mint (mojitos are the other).
Thank you Chef Street for posing with my lovely drink. Your freshly-pressed vintage shirt and dirty martini are definitely better than any backdrop I could design ;-)
PS ~ no matter how much I gush about the food, good friends are the best side dishes. Okay, good wine is right up there, too.