The days when the dining-room captain would roll out the gueridon and proceed to carve, flambé and toss your food have pretty much passed. The thing that was most frequently tossed, of course, was the caesar salad. When you think about it, the caesar was an unlikely candidate to be plucked from the hordes of aspiring greens and thrust into stardom. If you pitched the concept today — romaine lettuce, grated Parmesan cheese, anchovies, croutons and a creamy dressing — the salad moguls would thank you for your time and show you the door. Be that as it may, the caesar lives on in a kind of Gloria Swanson-esque glory, and we're the richer for it — when it's done right. When you're looking for a caesar, the trick is to stick to the basics: simple ingredients, excellently sourced, and no frou-frou add-ons. The best caesar in St. Louis remains the version served at the Vine Wine Bar & Bistro in St. Charles. The Vine's Caesar captures the pure essence of the dish, with crisp greens and shaved curls of salty Parmesan. To eat one is to discover anew why the classic is a classic — and that the caesar is still ready for its close-up.
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