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Monday, March 25, 2013

Of Course You Don't Want to Find a Mouse in Your Salad -- But You Shouldn't Want Bagged Greens in It, Either

Posted By on Mon, Mar 25, 2013 at 12:00 PM

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click to enlarge katies_pizzeria_mouse.jpg

Bagged greens save time. That's why restaurants buy them. That's why you buy them. That's why I buy them. Dump 'em in a bowl, add a few other ingredients if you like, dress and serve.

Except that when I buy them -- I know I shouldn't; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak -- I know to not simply dump them in the bowl. Even if they passed a visual inspection in the store, I look for the browned bits hiding behind the larger leaves. I pick up a leaf or two to check the texture. I smell it.

If you are going to serve bagged greens at your restaurant, you should do at least this much with each and every bag. You will certainly notice any foreign objects among the greens. ("Hey! I didn't know this spring mix had dried figs in it...") You will likely notice any leaves or other bits that would look or taste unappetizing. At the very least, you can say, "I, in good conscience, know what I'm serving my diners."

Even if what you're serving is subpar product. Because that's what bagged greens are, by and large. Like the endless row of shrink-wrapped boneless, skinless chicken breasts, they are a commodity filler, inoffensive at best, made palatable by the addition of a dressing or bacon or whatever, not because they themselves have any intrinsic deliciousness.

Will you spend more money to buy better greens? Will it take you more time to separate the leaves and sort out the bad ones and wash and dry the rest? Yes.

Would it distinguish you as the sort of restaurant that truly cares about every product on its menu -- even the humble house salad -- rather than only the one or two dishes on which your reputation rests? Yes.

And note that I said "better" greens, not "great" greens. You don't have to jump right from the bagged stuff to some kind of heirloom, organic, locally grown variety that will send your food costs into the stratosphere. (Though I applaud you if you do.) You do have to think about what you're serving your diners.

And if you still decide to open the bag, you have to look inside.

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