Monday, October 6, 2014

DOING DISHES: Lettuce Entertain You! - Salads from the CoOp

The best part of this salad series has been discovering, and tasting, so many (potentially) delicious salad concoctions sold as take-out from our area grocery stores and delis. Trouble is, they don't get any feedback from their customers, at least not directly like they might in a sit-down restaurant. But then again, we are all probably guilty of saying "everything's fine" instead of kicking up a fuss.

Which is why blogging is such a kick! And Zena, Goddess of Fire, is here today to kick some butt.


In addition to a "make your own" salad bar, the Honest Weight Food CoOp offers a variety of salads freshly scooped by the pound from a deli case.  But Foodie Friend and I were pressed for time, so we kicked up our heels and just raced in and out of their newly located store on Watervliet Avenue, not far from Everett Road off Central Avenue, with six (three sweet, three savory) salads from the refrigerator section that we were going to eat at work. There were literally dozens of salads choose from. I liked that they all had labels listing the ingredients so I could eat this one cilantro-free. In fact, anyone who is sensitive to ingredients - gluten, nuts, dairy, etc.-  benefits as well.

In order of tasting, here's a summary of our kick back lunch on the job.

The first was a cabbage Slaw with Apples, Walnuts and Poppy ($8.99/lb), sweetened with a bit of honey and orange marmalade. It was very light with a nice crunch - we loved the texture, partly from the nuts and partly from the fruits and veggies. It was mellow - so much so that you could almost taste the nuttiness of the poppy seeds. But it was colorless and really not very flavorful, almost like the taste leaves you as soon as you swallow. I wanted more vinegar, and if I was home would have added a few splashes to kick things up a notch.
Slaw with Apples, Walnuts and Poppy Seeds.
Next we tried the Balsamic Roasted Eggplant Salad ($8.99/lb), which tasted like eggplant and balsamic with a big hit of garlic. In fact, roasted garlic bulbs were added whole to the salad - and there were SO many of them, we just started pushing them aside. I liked that the eggplant was a bit firm, but FF thought it could have been roasted longer. Neither of us got much of a kick out of this salad.
Balsamic Roasted Eggplant Salad on the left, and their Pineapple Kale salad on the right

The third salad that we tasted was called Moroccan Carrot Salad (($7.99/lb), flavored with finely chopped dates, and pistachios, and laced with spices like cumin and cinnamon. This was a wet, wet salad that was almost gloppy. It was way too sweet and really cuminy, and the nuts were squishy. Yes, squishy nuts. Gugh.  We had a few other folks at work interested in what we were tasting and NO ONE wanted to finish it. OK labeling - we noticed the "packed on" date. This one was on it's fourth day on the shelf. It tasted old. We kicked it into the trash. (NOTE: Three of our picks - the Slaw, this one, and the broccoli salads were dated 9/16 and the date of our foodie adventure was 9/19. Next time I'm going to pay closer attention to the packing dates)

Then we tried another savory mixture, the Lemon-Garlic Broccoli-Almond Salad ($9.99/lb). This one got a quite a few compliments - "fresh, bright, a bit of tang; perfectly cooked broccoli; nice texture; garlicky". There was a goodly amount grated parmesan in there that personally I didn't like (I thought it made the salad heavy and gloppy and grainy). This salad could have been a meal in itself in that it was so rich and had a bit of protein in there. It was pretty good, but I don't think it would win in a kick-off.

Next was a beet salad they called Rawsome Veggie Salad ($7.99/lb). Loaded with shredded beets and carrots, as well as red and green bell peppers and broccoli, we agreed that it was rooty and purple, but also that is tasted weird and confusing. FF described it as "too many strong flavors going in too many directions all at once". Oh, and the ingredients said "tomatoes", and there were definitely no tomatoes in this medly. Honestly Honest Weight - did anyone taste this before packaging??? (Kicked that one to the curb as well).

Last but not least (in this rant, anyway) was their Kale and Pineapple salad with shredded coconut and cashews ($19.99/lb). The kale was tender and mild, the pineapple fresh, the shredded coconut was delightful, and the cashews were totally absent, as was any amount of dressing. It tasted like pineapple and coconut and kale, an interesting combo, but so is Watergate Salad, which also doesn't cut it as far as I'm concerned. This one came SO close to being a really good salad idea, but my sense is that no one is paying close enough attention to the preparation to make it kick. And why the high price tag???

I imagine a world where at the checkout the saleslady asks me to fill out an online survey about their products or services to win a prize or a discount and I actually do it, which I usually don't, but maybe the Co-op could do something to get input when they see their customers leave with take-out meals. Either that or host a meal and ask everyone their opinions (in which case my work here is done). Or leave it to the bloggers.

But don't feel kicked out, Honest Weight - you have many other salads there that I still want to try, and I'll bet some of them are pretty darn good. Aim for high kicks.

Zena, Goddess  of Fire


Anonymous said...

This is EXACTLY how I feel about their pre-packaged salads. They always seem good, and I feel like I should like them. But I don't. They're not good.

Zena G.O.F. said...

Yeah! Yes! Yes!!! (waving my hands emphatically)