y4pcT1JaIwGptQJPO6l_mZmgv34 tiffin unboxed: Home of the Legendary Caesar Salad

Home of the Legendary Caesar Salad

For the final Baja post (for now) I saved my favorite Tijuana experience of having an original recipe caesar salad at the place it was created.

I've had everything from a grilled romaine caesar, to way too heavily dressed and with parmesan from a green can caesar, to expertly seasoned and creatively presented caesar like the one I wrote about here.

Even though they are ubiquitous, and everybody has their preferences, which salad lover wouldn't want to taste how it all began?

Today, in Tijuana's bustling Avenida RevoluciĆ³n, you can find the newly renovated Hotel Caesar and Caesar's Restaurant where this salad was invented in the 1920's.

Original Caesar's restaurant, Tijuana c.1930 - photo from Kitchen Project blog

As legend tells it, in Italian immigrant, Cesare Cardini operated this restaurant in Tijuana, for the Hollywood crowd and other high rollers to enjoy during Prohibition.

On a busy night in 1924, with supplies at hand, he devised this salad and prepared it tableside in an elaborate display.

Original menu at Caesar's - $2.50 for decadent tasting menu, including lobster cocktail

In these early days, along with Hollywood celebrities, famed cookbook author Julia Child wrote in From Julia Child's Kitchen about her earliest restaurant experiences, coming to Caesar's with her parents to enjoy this salad, with Mr. Cardini rolling out a cart to their table and preparing it himself.

Needless to say, the salad was a smash hit. It was quite the thing to do - heading to Tijuana for this incredible salad, and there is no reason it still shouldn't be.

Todays management, warmly greeting us
Bill Esparza - Caesar's Restaurant

During our trip last year, I mentioned to our guide, Bill Esparza, that it was a dream of mine to experience the original caesar salad in this setting, and he kindly worked it into our weekend, an unplanned afternoon visit.

These refreshing tamarind margaritas awaited us, and then came the ceremony!

menu, containing La original Ensalada Caesar's preparada en su mesa
This post describes the process of the tableside caesar, but is not meant to be an exact recipe.

salad cart - Caesar's
Just looking at the cart brought on much excitement. Eggs, garlic, oil, parmesan, fresh pepper and an array of interesting bottles.

The eggs appeared raw, although some recipes indicate the get boiled for exactly 1 minute, then run under cold water.

In a large wooden bowl, the server started to mix olive oil, ground anchovies, garlic, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, parmesan cheese, pepper, salt white wine and vinegar.

He began coating the bowl with part of this mixture, eventually adding the other ingredients to create the dressing in the same bowl.

Preparation at the Baja Culinary Festival 2011

Another key addition are Mexican limes, which are squeezed into the salad dressing to neutralize the strong flavors of the anchovies, garlic and egg yolks so no one flavor dominates. 

Whole, crisp, chilled and dried Romaine leaves are gently rolled into the dressing, in the bowl. The dressing emulsifies around the leaves.

I read that the oil is infused with a couple of cloves of garlic, and are then brushed along with anchovy paste on the long slices of croutons, made from baked baguette slices. These croutons get tossed into the salad.

The server places the greens on chilled plates with the stem end out.

He adds the finishing touches of parmesan, salt and pepper.

In our case, the server used two wooden spoons to mix the ingredients, and we were offered silverware with the salad.

According to many accounts, the original salad was apparently mixed with the hands and meant to be picked up and eaten by the hands.

Overall, it tasted just as remarkable as the elaborate preparation indicates. Perhaps the graceful tableside presentation heightens the flavor and experience even more.

I encourage you to make the trip out one day and experience it yourself.

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