Archive for December, 2009

Shop and Chop(ped Salad)

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

If you’re doing your holiday shopping at either Old Orchard (which is what it will always be called by Those Who Know Better) or Northbrook Court, you can put these Cobbs on your list for lunch:

Nordstrom Café (Old Orchard).  I love Nordstrom  because they sell shoes that fit my fat feet and hire mostly pleasant sales people who place my purchases in colorful, sturdy bags (not like those white, flimsy ones at Macy’s).  And because a few weeks ago, I received a ridiculously gracious letter about a change in their credit system, addressing me as a “valued customer” and signed by Blake Nordstrom himself.  Add to all that an impressive luncheon salad selection, which includes the Cobb.  They use organic baby greens and romaine, topped by generous portions of chicken, bacon, egg, avocado, tomato and blue cheese.  There is even a choice of seven  homemade dressings, including four different vinaigrettes.  And each salad comes with a piece of crispy garlic-parmesan french bread.  Blake Nordstrom would be proud to eat such a salad.

The Zodiac at Neiman Marcus (Northbrook Court).  Yes, there is actually a restaurant at Neiman Marcus.  It’s located on the second floor, several hundred feet (ha ha) from the Manolo Blahniks and Jimmy Choos.  The Cobb salad is not inexpensive ($14.00).  But it is actually quite good.  In addition to the chicken and bacon on endive/mixed greens, the chef adds avocado, juicy grape tomatoes and “shaved egg.”  The blue cheese vinaigrette is light but flavorful.  And where else are you first served a mini-cup of hot chicken consommé, accompanied by “ambrosial popovers with strawberry butter”?  But after you’re done dining, pay your bill (only American Express or Neiman credit cards accepted, Jane!); and just walk on by that shoe section.

Yours till the lettuce leaves,


NJL and Rob Rate the Cobb

Monday, December 7th, 2009

The period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day seems like the perfect time for Cobb salads.  We are all still appalled at how much we once again consumed at Thanksgiving dinner.  And yet it seems pointless to begin any serious dieting until after the first of the year.  The Cobb enables us to say we’ve only eaten a salad; but the bacon, blue cheese et al. don’t give us that quasi-deprived feeling that a more austere greens/vegetable combination would.  Some Cobbs even use turkey, instead of chicken pieces.  To quote Mel:  “Cobble, Cobble.”



You would hope that an organization whose name contains the word “lettuce” knows how to make a salad.  To test that hypothesis with the Cobb, Rob and I sampled (OK, scarfed down) the chopped/Cobb salads at three members of the Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises dynasty.  The Cobbs at each of these restaurants rely on the common denominators of chopped iceberg lettuce, diced tomatoes, crumbled blue cheese, and scallions.  But, after that, the LEYE salad mavens have decided to mix it up a bit.

L. Woods (only in Lincolnwood) adds bacon and pasta, and tosses it in their house Italian dressing.  Chicken is optional.  Everyone I know who eats there just loves that salad.  Period.  Maybe it’s the macaroni, which adds a bland counterpoint to the tangy blue cheese.  And that house dressing is so good that I will pick up a pint if I’m having a big crowd for dinner and want to impress them with my salad savvy.  Living less than a mile away, we eat this salad way too much.  But who could blame us?

Wildfire (Chicago, four suburban and three out-of-state sites) adds chicken, tortilla chips, avocado and bacon, and tosses it in a citrus lime vinaigrette dressing.  Tortilla chips?  It works. While I’m not a huge fan of citrus lime vinaigrette, I somehow manage to eat my fair share of that salad.  When I go there with Barb and Charlene for our “ritual Cobbs,” we ask for most of the non-lettuce components on the side; and our servers don’t seem at all surprised—or put off—by the request.

Maggiano’s (Chicago, the suburbs and through the U.S—maybe even on some other planets?) adds avocado and “crispy prosciutto,” and tosses it in their house Italian dressing.  Ever since we had Mel’s bat mitzvah at the Skokie location 13 years ago, I have been a big fan of this place.  Their chopped salad is but another example of LEYE’s ability to turn a good recipe into something more.  The prosciutto works just as well as bacon, and the house Italian tastes even better than its L.Woods cousin.  No wonder they sell it by the chilled jar.

A Bit About the Bacon

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Bacon PiecesI don’t eat bacon. At least I hadn’t until the first time I ordered and then began to inhale an L. Woods chopped salad. Prior to that lunch, I didn’t know anything about what ingredients went into the typical chopped/Cobb salad, and I obviously hadn’t read the menu’s fine print for this one. At first bite, I remember chewing on something crunchy. I had earnestly hoped it was a crouton. It wasn’t; but I was hooked.

If you’re an observant Jew, Muslim or Seventh Day Adventist, this might be an issue for you, too.  But if you’re not an attorney, you may not know about the important legal principle that should enable you to eat your Cobb with bacon and without scruples. It’s the “de minimis” rule, from the Latin axiom “de minimis non curat lex” (“the law does not concern itself with trifles”). I submit that, given the scanty amount of bacon in most Cobbs—both as an overall quantity and the relative percentage of the salad’s cubic area—it’s OK if a handful of tiny pieces just happen to be mixed in with all the other components. At least that’s what I tell myself every time I order one.

This reminds me of my favorite Grandma Hudes story. According to my mom, Grandma kept kosher and would never have dreamed of eating anything formerly connected to a pig. At lunch one day, she ordered a lettuce and tomato sandwich on toast. As Grandma went to take her first big bite, however, my mom silently gasped, as she noticed a piece of crispy bacon dangling from the side of the sandwich. Too late: the bacon was quickly consumed along with the lettuce, tomato and toast. But instead of displaying a look of knowing horror, Grandma just smiled—and claimed that it was the best lettuce and tomato sandwich that she’d ever eaten.

Yours till the bacon strips,