HOWEVER. I have had very very very bad experiences with "fancy" lettuce (re: that time in my life when I got such bad stomach pain that I lost feeling in my hands and almost went to the ER in France). I am a big fan of romaine, and there is always a time and a place for iceberg. But the frisees (curly endives), dandelion leaves, arugulas and radicchios of the world of "fancy" lettuces really freak me out. Mostly because it took many nights of painful stomach cramps to realize that I have some kind of stomach intolerance to fancy salads.
When I go out to eat, I'm not much of a salad orderer. I'd rather spend my time on a delicious main course than a bowl of poorly made, red-headed-step-child-of-the-head-chef salad. Honestly, I think most salads at restaurants are irritatingly subpar. This could be because, like me, they are focusing on other items on their menu and they view salads as the neglected middle child between entree and dessert.
My major pet peeves:
1. Habitually, the lettuce is not cut into pleasingly palatable sizes. Wanna pass that fancy chef knife at least one to eight more times through that Berlin wall sized hunk of iceberg? I don't think that the entire entity of salad should move when I poke one side.
2. The salad invariably contains two pieces of unpeeled cucumber and one cherry tomato. Which to me, just spells out the word lazy using vegetables. Cucumbers and tomatoes do not a salad make. Nor do they always have to be paired together. And, if the tomatoes are not perfectly ripened, they do not belong in a salad.
3. Carrot shavings drive me bat-shit crazy. Seriously? Carrot SHAVINGS? Could you be more revolting? Oh right, you can because sometimes there are thick, sliced hot dog sized carrot hockey pucks in the salad too. Way to step it up from revolting to hideous.
4. Last, but not least, the horrid store dressings that are either too lightly spritzed on flavorless iceberg lettuce or too heavily slathered so that your salad is taking an orange bath with specks of indeterminable freeze-dried herbs acting as demented rubber ducks.
My lettuce = kryptonite problem really bugs me so I decided to make Salade Lyonnaise. The salad looked amazing enough that I was willing to make it, fully acknowledging that it may be my first and last Salade Lyonnaise due to crippling stomach pain. Whole Foods didn't have frisee (aka, curly endive, or spiky tumbleweed, as Beans calls it) so I substituted arugula, also a perpetrator on the list of usual leafy suspects. Those sneaky greens in mesclun. I'm onto you!
With a friend as my control, we made Salade Lyonnaise with pan-seared applewood smoked bacon, perfectly poached (if I do say so myself) local free-range eggs and really nice sherry vinegar in the shallot and mustard vinaigrette. Holy crap it was so freaking delicious.
I promptly got my horrible stomach cramps about 45 minutes later.
Arugula, you are dead to me.
However, I am dedicated to the cause, so I will probably make this salad again, substituting one poison with another. I vow to fight on in this battle between my stomach and leaves. Rah!
Anyone want to volunteer as my control?