Our Three Favorite Salads, Thus Far, in Twenty Eleven

The butter lettuce at Juliette

This is time of year when most food magazines release their “eating light” issues. Not us, of course: The January/February edition that literally just hit streets is our alcohol-themed issue. But that’s not to say we don’t like salad. In fact, even though it makes no sustainable seasonal sense we tend to crave the leafy greens this time of year, maybe because in winter it’s socially acceptable to eat them schmeared with a creamy dressing instead of a vinaigrette. To that end, our three favorites thus far have been:

1) The world’s best — or at least pretty damn close — herbed Caesar salad at The Breslin in the Ace Hotel, courtesy chef April Bloomfield. Think whole crisp planes of romaine leaves covered with that perfect creamy dressing and scattered with craggy anchovy croutons that seem to have been torn into pieces rather than cut. Their texture, like that of the romaine, is addictive, and we prefer to leave the fork aside and just eat both crunchy leaf and crackly crouton with our fingers.

2). The smoked herring Caesar at M. Wells in Long Island City, Queens. They swap the salty umami of cured anchovies for the smoky sensuality of another tiny fish, and the results are pretty stellar.

3.) The butter lettuce salad dressed with creamy white balsamic and pureed chive dressing at Juliette in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Egg, next door, is one of our long-standing favorites, but the place is always packed. So we were happy to find just next door good eggs, fat burgers and this excellent salad, kind of a cousin of the Green Goddess. The fluttery pale-green butter lettuce is also known as Bibb — which as it happens is the name of our favorite Brooklyn salad of 2010. Found at Roberta’s in Bushwick, it comes topped with a tangy-sweet dried cherry vinaigrette, hunks of gorgonzola, and almost-candied roasted walnuts.

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