Caprese Salad theory- the salad will predict how your meal will be

GON

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Caprese salad is a simple Italian salad, made of sliced fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and sweet basil, seasoned with salt, and olive oil. It is usually arranged on a plate in restaurant practice. Like pizza Margherita, it features the colors of the Italian flag: green, white, and red.

In 2006 I spent the summer working in Sicily with a awesome YOUNGER guy who had PHD in Canadian military history and was a professor at a top Canadian University. We spent a lot of time together studying the battlefields of WWII in Sicily where many Canadian and American forces, along with other allied forces, battled.

This young professor spent many years in Italy working on his PHD and doing research for books on Canadian Military History. We ate many meals together, and one day he shared his "Caprese Salad Theory".

The professor said a caprese salad will tell you exactly how the rest of the meal will be. The caprese salad is a extremely simple salad to make, yet the quality of a caprese salad has a huge spread, from outstanding to poor. The professor stated if the restaurant can get the salad right, they will have everything else right. But if the caprese salad is not good, the restaurant is not competent.

I have tested the professor's caprese salad theory over the past 15 years- and he is spot on. Anytime I have had a outstanding caprese salad, the rest of the meal was excellent. When the simple to make salad was not good, the rest of the meal was likely not so good.

Last night in Bangkok I went to a small Italian restaurant, 4.5 stars on google reviews. I was excited to try this restaurant as the reviews stated the owner was Italian and he was the cook/ chef. After sitting down, I ordered the caprese salad. A huge disappointment. The tomato was not ripe, super low quality tomato, and even the core ends of the tomato were not removed. The basil simply a few dried specs of the herb, and the cheese was a poor of a quality of any fresh mozzarella I have ever had. Super disappointed. From my drink, to the main course of chicken with mushrooms, all disappointing.

The professor's theory seems to be spot on. Maybe one should not order a main course at a Italian restaurant until after they eat the caprese salad.

Below are two pictures, the first picture is the salad I had last night (what's with the lettuce garnish???), another of what might be a good caprese salad.

Of note, Thailand is bursting at the seams with fresh produce and fresh herbs. No reason whatsoever for the caprese salad I had last night to be of such poor quality.

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Caprese-Salad-1-500.jpg
 
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I do the same thing, but with pizza. I order a Margherita and if that sucks, the rest will too. A Margherita allows me to taste the crust, sauce and cheese; there's nowhere to hide with this quick test. Furthermore, if it's not wood-fired where it cooks in 90 seconds at over 750c, I just keep walking.
 
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Tomatoes over there are a real hit and miss. You will see a lot of green tomatoes in the markets. They tend to be small and not sweet.

While in the Philippines we grew cherry tomatoes in hanging baskets under the wide eaves of the house. They got lots of sun and only watered in the soil for the most part. We snuck the seeds over from the US😮. They turned out okay but lots of pests kept us at bay. These wouldn’t do for caprese salad though.

The cheese must be local from water Buffalo. I imagine whatever they eat affects the flavor. Cheese is hard to get there. Most of the imported stuff is already spoiled. The local stuff is processed crap. Some restaurants seem to be able to use decent cheese though.
 
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GON, Thanks for sharing. This reminds me of a recent conversation that I just had with a colleague of mine regarding American Pizza. Most of the franchised and organized pizza chain restaurants all seem to use the "conveyor style" pizza ovens....you know in one side, out the other. Pizzas made this way have crust that has a distinct texture and taste. There is bar near by, that has a real commercial pizza oven, wide but not tall with a door. Pizza's cooked in that kind of oven have a completely different taste and texture and IMHO taste so much better.
 
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GON

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I like my Caprese salad with parsley on it. I believe you object to this barbarism. :sneaky:

3VR,

Your post triggered a memory from Sicily.

The professor and I were in a remote part of the island. We stopped at a tiny gas station to go the bathroom and get a cup of coffee to go. The bathroom was as primitive as one could imagine, and not pleasant in any aspect.

When I went to order a cup of coffee to go, the gas station owner replied " You will sit down and have your coffee here in a china coffee cup- what do you think we are barbarians here". Nasty, nasty bathroom, yet refused to serve a cup of coffee in a Styrofoam or paper cup....
 
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3VR,

Your post triggered a memory from Sicily.

The professor and I were in a remote part of the island. We stopped at a tiny gas station to go the bathroom and get a cup of coffee to go. The bathroom was a primitive as one could imagine, and not pleasant in any aspect.

When I went to order a cup of coffee to go, the gas station owner replied " You will sit down and have your coffee here in a china coffee cup- what do you think we are barbarians here". Nasty, nasty bathroom, yet refused to serve a cup of coffee in a Styrofoam or paper cup....
At least he didn't serve you your coffee while you were on the john.
 
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3VR,

Your post triggered a memory from Sicily.

The professor and I were in a remote part of the island. We stopped at a tiny gas station to go the bathroom and get a cup of coffee to go. The bathroom was as primitive as one could imagine, and not pleasant in any aspect.

When I went to order a cup of coffee to go, the gas station owner replied " You will sit down and have your coffee here in a china coffee cup- what do you think we are barbarians here". Nasty, nasty bathroom, yet refused to serve a cup of coffee in a Styrofoam or paper cup....
We take our coffee seriously, even at the Autogrill. I remember in the early days of Starbucks, they would serve espresso in a demitasse, now it's in a paper cup, gross. I recently tried their espresso again, I tossed it in the trash, what garbage, never again.
 
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We take our coffee seriously, even at the Autogrill. I remember in the early days of Starbucks, they would serve espresso in a demitasse, now it's in a paper cup, gross. I recently tried their espresso again, I tossed it in the trash, what garbage, never again.


Espresso is such a hit and miss these days. If you find a good place, remember it.

I’ve been getting a long black. More volume and still that nice pure coffee taste and smell.
 
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You went to an Italian restaurant in Thailand??? For the love of all that’s holy, why? Thailand has fabulous, magical foods.
That's the biggest problem. Ingredients influence culinary culture because it is all about how to maximize enjoyment and nutrition with minimal cost and effort. Going to a place to order foreign food will never get you the same quality per dollar as ordering local food.

A friend of mine went to Burma with his wife, and one day in a decent local cafe he ordered a cheese cake. The waiter came back with a vanilla cake with whip cream sprinkled with shredded cheddar on top. The cake was ok and the coffee was decent (Java).
 
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We take our coffee seriously, even at the Autogrill. I remember in the early days of Starbucks, they would serve espresso in a demitasse, now it's in a paper cup, gross. I recently tried their espresso again, I tossed it in the trash, what garbage, never again.
I think it was Gordon Ramsay or Anthony Bourdain who said the test of a coffee shop - order a latte.

I’ve been to many coffee shops that make watery brewed coffee but a good latte/Gibraltar/cortado.

I don’t eat much Italian - dearth of them in the Bay Area but I’ll do the caprese test time.
 

GON

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Nth,

You bring up a good issue. Drip coffee is often just pennies less than a latte. Yet the drip coffee may be old, poorly made, etc. I prefer just black coffee, but often order a latte simply so I know I am paying for fresh.
 
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I order pour over coffee. That way I know it’s fresh. A Long Black is another way.


In hot climates a nice mocha frappe hits the spot.
 
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I don't drink drip much anymore, only espresso, black, so I can taste the roast. Good quality espresso doesn't need sugar. I would like to try a cortadito but I'm afraid I may find it too sweet @nthach .
 
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