A few years ago, J took me to the Sidney Pier Hotel over on Vancouver Island for my birthday weekend. Sidney is a book lover’s dream, with second-hand book shops on every corner. The hotel is beautiful (with great views), and they don’t just allow dogs…they welcome them. When we made the reservation and asked (tentatively, as one does with inquiries of this type) whether they allowed dogs, they actually asked for our dogs’ names and sizes. When we arrived at our room, there were two little dog beds for Buster and Stella and a fat bone-shaped biscuit beside each. It was quite a remarkable experience. There was also a concierge dog named “Dave,” who has his own page on the hotel website. But I digress…
I recall two significant things about our stay (and that birthday meal in particular): the first was the Caesar salad. J loves room service and had arranged for us to have my birthday dinner in our room. It was lovely because the view was great and the room service was provided by the restaurant adjoining the hotel. I can’t remember the entree (perhaps an Al Fredo pasta?), but I clearly remember the Caesar salad, which was a full head of romaine, sliced down the centre, grilled (cut side down) and drizzled with dressing. It was a rather amazing textural experience (the crispy grilled leaves, the floppy heated inner leaves, and the fresh crisp outer leaves all combined rather deliciously).
The other significant thing about that birthday dinner is that just as the meal arrived, J produced a bottle of champagne, which he proceeded to pop rather dramatically. And while I appreciated the gesture, as he began to pour me a glass, I said, “Oh, just a little…I don’t really like champagne,” to which J replied, “Oh…you will.”
Truer words were never spoken.
In any event, all these years (and many bottles of champagne) later, I finally attempted the grilled Caesar salad, and it was a great success. And I made it with a vegan version of the dressing, which even J found delicious! Here’s the dressing recipe, adapted from Post-Punk Kitchen:
1/4 cup hummous
1/4 cup vegetable broth (plus more for thinning)
2 teaspoons fresh grated garlic (see note)
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
2 teaspoons whole grain dijon mustard
1/8 cup lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
(Only about 12 calories per tablespoon!)
Pull off the outer leaves on a head of romaine lettuce and slice the head length-wise down the centre. Drizzle the cut side with olive oil and salt and pepper. Grill cut side down on a hot grill for about three or four minutes. Serve cut side up, drizzle dressing on top (and fresh grated parmesan cheese, if you like). Serve with a wedge of lemon.
This is J’s plate–he had fresh parmesan on his. Note the grill marks on the left: that’s what you want to go for.