Saturday, January 10, 2009

Restaurant Trend: Little Gem Lettuce

It's easy to determine when certain foods are in season or becoming popular ingredients because they start making appearances on multiple restaurant menus. While little gem lettuce seems to be available year-round, it's been a common addition to top-flight San Francisco restaurants over the past year.

Little gem is a cross between romaine (crispy) and butter lettuce (sweet), and has small leafs on the outside and a crisp heart inside. It's usually served cut in half and presented lengthwise, often accompanied by cheese and/or nuts which complement its taste and texture.

Little Gem Salad (Flickr CC: In Praise of Sardines)

Blue Plate's take on little gems includes pink lady apples, spiced pecans and wisconsin buttermilk blue cheese, and is an excellent representation of what a good chef can do with this ingredient. The Mission's Conduit has had a little gem salad on its menu since opening a little more than a year ago; the original was an amazing version with hazelnuts, shaved radish and a light ranch dressing, and the current incarnation is a tasty twist on a caesar salad.

Other notable San Francisco restaurants that have little gem salads on the menu lately include Boulevard, NOPA and Universal Cafe, and across the bay in Berkeley, Chez Panisse.

The Verdict:
I'm usually not a big restaurant salad person, but I haven't met a little gem I haven't liked so I'm a fan.

San Francisco restaurants with little gem salads on Center'd

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