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100 Favorite Dishes 2013-2014: No. 29, Caesar Wedge Salad at Provisions

It's not a traditional salad, but it's all the better for being unique.
It's not a traditional salad, but it's all the better for being unique.
Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg

This year, leading up to our annual Menu of Menus® issue, Kaitlin Steinberg counts down her 100 favorite dishes as she eats her way through Houston. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most awesome, most creative and, of course, most delicious in town. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that seem particularly indicative of the ever-changing Houston foodscape.

I love salads. I really do. A hazard of my job is that I don't get to eat many (who wants to read about bowl after bowl of dressed arugula?), so when I'm out eating just for fun--not to write about it--I tend to look for unique and creative salads. One of my all-time favorites, one that I order again and again, often as a whole meal, is the Caesar wedge salad at Provisions.

In theory, it's enormously simple. It's a whole wedge of romaine lettuce rolled in Caesar dressing and then a mixture of Parmesan, toasted bread crumbs and dried capers, topped with a few white anchovies and a few rings of pickled lemon. That's it. Caesar salad deconstructed. So easy you could make it at home, right?

Wrong. Or at least, I haven't been able to replicate it.

First off, I'm not sure where to find pickled lemons. I could make my own, of course, but I don't have the foresight to do that in advance of when I'll inevitably crave them on a salad. Secondly, the crunchy blend of Parmesan, bread crumbs and dried capers is inimitable. I've tried with powdered Parmesan and freshly grated Parmesan. I've tried making my own bread crumbs and stirring them in with the cheese. I have no idea how to go about drying or dehydrating capers without a machine.

You see, that's the beauty of the meals at Provisions. It's the simpler, heartier sister of The Pass, a restaurant we all know makes ample use of dehydrators, liquid nitrogen, maltodextrin and the like to turn everyday foods into extraordinary works of art. And a bit of that creativity and whimsy spills over into the dishes at Provisions.

This is how you get a crust on the romaine wedge that crunches when you cut into it and bites back with sharp Parmesan and vinegary capers. This is how you get wafer-thin pickled lemons that taste, indeed, like the perfect marriage between a fresh, juicy lemon and a dill pickle wedge. This is how you're delighted rather than annoyed that your "salad" is still one big hunk of greens that no one in the kitchen bothered to tear up into manageable pieces.

The Caesar wedge is served with a steak knife, and you'll need it to cut through the outer layer of bread crumbs and the crisp, bright-green center of the romaine wedge. It makes a marvelous noise when you cut it, as if you're slicing through egg shells or crunching on carrots. And, in the process, the crumb coating will fall off a bit, and the anchovies will slide onto the plate, and you'll be left with a beautiful, wonderful mess to eat up. I wouldn't blame you if you used your fingers.

Sorry it's shaky. I'm clearly not talented enough to slice a salad and film smoothly simultaneously.

See the full list of favorites on the next page.

 

The list so far: No. 30: Ice Cream in a Waffle Cone at Fat Cat Creamery No. 31: Cochito con Mole Xico at Hugo's No. 32: Carnitas at Molina's Cantina No. 33: Taleggio Pizza at Dolce Vita No. 34: Chiles de Padron Asados at Caracol No. 35: Morning Thali at Pondicheri No. 36: Fried Mini Fish at House of Bowls No. 37: Trompo Tacos at Taqueria La Macro No. 38: Spicy Tamale Plate at La Mexicana No. 39: Mum's Chicken Curry At The Queen Vic Pub No. 40: Canestri alla Funghi at Paulie's No. 41: Biscuit with Marmalade and Crème Fraîche at Blacksmith No. 42: Fried Oyster Po'Boy at Goode Company Seafood No. 43: Roasted Duck Red Curry at Morningside Thai No. 44: BBQ Pulled Wild Boar Sandwich at Sammy's Wild Game Grill No. 45: Guanciale Burger at Plonk No. 46: Parma 600 Pizza at Pizzeria Solario No. 47: CFC Deviled Eggs at Liberty Kitchen & Oyster Bar No. 48: The El Real Burger at El Real Tex-Mex Cafe No. 49: Custard Sandwich at Petite Sweets No. 50: Black Pepper Beer Lobster at Hai Cang Seafood Restaurant No. 51: Red Dragon Roll at Michiru Sushi No. 52: Fried Bananas Foster at Custom Confections No. 53: Bánh Canh Hue at Simply Pho No. 54: Kimchi Koagie at Koagie Hots No. 55: The Juicy Lucy Burger at Lowbrow No. 56: Eggplant Fries at Batanga No. 57: Macarons at Ganache Dessert Bar No. 58: Grilled Cheese at The Golden Grill No. 59: Baklava French Toast at Harry's Restaurant & Cafe No. 60: Patata e Funghi Pizza at Pizaro's No. 61: Old Fashioned Frito Pie at Armadillo Palace No. 62: Korean Spiced Brisket Plate at Revival Market No. 63: Bánh Mì at Les Givral's Sandwich and Cafe No. 64: Squirrel Master Burger at Cottonwood No. 65: Shorty Mac at H-Town StrEATS No. 66: Enchiladas de Mole at La Guadalupana No. 67: Bad Ass Hambur-Torta at Pistolero's No. 68: Green "Hurry Curry" at Nit Noi No. 69: Dozen Raw Oysters at Pappas Seafood No 70: Banana Split at Cloud 10 Creamery No. 71: Lazy Lane Frites at Brasserie 19 No. 72: Chicken Pot Pie at Kenny & Ziggy's No. 73: Chili Cheese Mac from Jus' Mac No. 74: Taco al Pastor at Taco Keto No. 75: 'Date With a Pig' at Sparrow Bar + Cookshop No. 76: The Heights Burger at Gratifi No. 77: Lamb Lollipops at Américas No. 78: Mortadella Sandwich at 13 Celsius No. 79: Carnissima Pizza at Coppa Osteria No. 80: The Marie Laveau Sandwich at Sandy Witch No. 81: Catfish and Grits at The Breakfast Klub No. 82: Grilled Ahi Tuna at St. John's Fire No. 83: Lobster Roll at Maine-ly Sandwiches No. 84: Greek Burger at Hubcap Grill No. 85: Pork Tamales at Irma's No. 86: Ham, Egg & Cheese Crepe at Melange Creperie No. 87: Crab Daddy Bao at Fat Bao No. 88: Sesame Soft Balls at Golden Dim Sum No. 89: Porchetta e Fagioli at Giacomo's Cibo e Vino No. 90: Uncle Daryl's Cake at The Chocolate Bar No. 91: Lobster Cake Benedict at Sorrel Urban Bistro No. 92: Homeroom at Bernie's Burger Bus No. 93: Vuelve a la Vida Soup at Connie's Seafood No. 94: Foie Gras Mac & Cheese at BRC Gastropub No. 95: Sweet Potato Gnocchi at Brooklyn Athletic Club No. 96: Chicken and Waffles at Adair Kitchen No. 97: Soft Pretzel from Mongoose Versus Cobra No. 98: Bulgogi Tacos with Kimchi at Chi'Lantro No. 99: Almond Croissant at Phoenicia No. 100: Bangkok Fries at Boheme

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