Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Off the Map: A Cobb Salad By Any Other Name Is Called "Louie"

Crab and Shrimp Louie Salad -- The Rotunda at Neiman Marcus, San Francisco, CA
The Rotunda at Neiman Marcus

If there is one thing Vodka loves to hear in life, it is Ginger on the phone with a Best Thing I Ever Ate restaurant location, trying to discern whether or not they serve the dish we have been pre-ordained to eat.
"Hello, Yes, Can You Please Read Me Your Entire Menu? Because Your Website Is Useless"
Unfortunately for Ginger, all such calls to the Rotunda at Neiman Marcus in San Francisco land her in, say, the Gucci dress department, where they do not know, nor care, whether or not the "Crab and Shrimp Louie Salad" is the same one Tyler Florence called the "seafood cobb salad" on the HOLIDAY episode of the show.  (PS Why is Tyler not calling the dishes by the correct names?  This is the second time this has happened with his dish choices.  Do your research, Tyler!).
Get With the Program, Will You, Florence?
Therefore, when we wander into the Rotunda (after, naturally, getting lost among the bevy of escalators that led us to the place, none of which Vodka is capable of boarding gracefully), we are fairly, but not 100%, certain that the correct dish will be on the menu.
Thanks for the Window View So We Can Try to Get Our Bearings Back
And if it's not, well, it's past noon now, and we haven't had a whiskey-spiked coffee in over three hours, so it's time to start drinking again.
Enough with the Scenery, Bring on the Wine
We are led to our window seat overlooking Union Square and greeted by yet another absurdly pleasant waitress (what flows through the water in Northern California?!  Gin?!  This happiness is baffling).
The God of Gin and Pleasantries
This particular member of the Neiman Marcus service staff is wearing peace sign earrings and bright purple glasses, and if there was a person who better epitomized our image of San Francisco for us, we'd have difficulty finding her.
Neiman Marcus: Where the Upscale Hippies Come to Flock
We each order a glass of white wine -- what we see as the perfect compliment to our upcoming plate of seafood -- along with the Louie salad and a bowl of lobster bisque (apparently, we came to San Francisco to eat as many fish-based soups as possible).
Noon = Long Past Wine O'Clock
As we wait, we are handed two shot glasses of what tastes like delicious Campbell's chicken broth (obviously it is something fancier than this, but "consomme" isn't really in our vocabularies).
Quick, Ginger, Create a Diversion While I Stick This Cup in My Handbag
It is all we can do not to change our lobster bisque order to a pot of this stuff instead, but when popovers also appear on our bread plates, we are momentarily distracted.
Popovers?! Did Someone Say POPOVERS?!
Now, Tyler Florence is the one who initially turned us on to BLT Steak's to-die-for popovers, so we are flummoxed as to why he wouldn't mention this little accessory in his Best Thing I Ever Ate spiel about the salad.
Priorities, Tyler. PRIORITIES
This popover is decidedly less pleasing than the BLT Steak version (the sure sign of this fact?  Vodka does not finish it.  Ginger, on the other hand, can't seem to find enough food to satisfy the void left by three food-less hours).  They come with a sweet, fruity butter (which Vodka instantly dismisses in the name of regular butter and a giant helping of salt).
Vodka Is the Founder of We Hate Sweet Butter .Com
Ahh, There's the Stuff
Said butter is served ice cold, which is generally a no-no in our book, but overall, we are merely impressed that we are being handed free popovers in the first place.
And We're Sure Neiman Marcus Is Impressed on Our Ability to Create Crumbs
Our food arrives, and we proceed to act as though we're eating at Old Country Buffet rather than a high-end department store, passing our dishes back and forth between us like hooligans.
You Take a Bite, Then I'll Take a Bite, Then You Take a Bite, Then I'll Take a Bite
Our peace-loving waitress, upon witnessing this behavior, assures us that "next time," we can just tell her that we want to split the dishes, and they'd be happy to do so.  To her credit, this fact does not come out in a tone that breathes, "Stop sullying the reputation of this establishment, you hicks."
For the Record, We Did Not Spill the Soup. So That's Something
The dishes themselves are a study in contrasts -- the lobster bisque warm, creamy, and heavy, and the salad refreshing, crunchy, and light.  Ginger laps up the lobster bisque with glee, while Vodka finds it just a bit too creamy and sweet for her liking (in other words, she apparently doesn't know the meaning of "bisque").
Of Note, She Took No Such Issue with the Creaminess of the Morning's Chowder, Presumably Because It Came with a Side of Whiskey
She finds the Louie salad much more pleasing, despite the fact that it is difficult to eat, what with all the giant components stacked on the plate.  Indeed, a pile of thick romaine lettuce has been topped with a hard-boiled egg, avocado, tomato, cucumber, and a large pile of crab meat and shrimp in the middle.
Veggies from a Giant's Garden
At first, it is hard to unearth the Louie dressing (which tastes like an upper-crust Thousand Island) at all, as it is hiding within the mound of seafood.  With a bit of digging and rearranging, however, and by managing to pile almost all of the ingredients onto one fork-bite, we find the salad to be just as fresh and crisp as Tyler Florence had described.
Oh Salad Dressing... Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Are....
We dare say it might be one of the best seafood cobb salads out there -- the issue is that we're just not that into cobb salads.  It's not something we would ever crave, and while this one is very good, and the atmosphere is calmly serene, we just don't see ourselves shelling out another $26 in the future in order to eat this concoction.
Though We Might Be More Inclined to Do So If They Would Hand Over a Cauldron of that Campbell's Soup
And so, we make our way out of the Rotunda like two country bumpkins, Ginger stuffing bathroom tissues into her handbag like a klepto, claiming that our hotel room does not furnish them (sidenote: they do).  If our oh-so-subtle passing of dishes across the table weren't classy enough, this tissue hoarding seems to cement our place on the list of Neiman Marcus's most dreaded customers.
You Are Very Welcome for Our Patronage, Neiman Marcus
In actuality, we have never been to an Old Country Buffet, but based on this experience, perhaps it is time for us to start frequenting the place.

The Rotunda at Neiman Marcus's Crab and Shrimp Louie Salad: 3 stars

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