Monday, November 25, 2013

The Best Salad Dressing Ever

I used to think, back before I went to college, that salad was a side dish. That wimpy, watery iceberg lettuce and dried out carrots, miniature croutons and shredded American cheese, mealy tomato cubes and neon-orange French dressing were as good as salad got.

I was so wrong. See, there's this place in Berkeley called Cafe Intermezzo. Or there was that place, anyways. And they served the best most amazing giant salads ever. Bigger than your head, with mounds of almost fluffy red and green leaf lettuce, the thinnest of sliced cucumbers, brilliantly purple red cabbage, bite-sized cherry tomatos, crunchy crouton discs, half an avocado just plopped on there, kidney and garbanzo beans, bright orange carrot slices, and if you wanted them, sprouts (I never did). Served with a hunk of just-made honey whole-wheat sunflower bread, the "Veggie Delight" was breathtaking before the dressing was added.

Photo by Micah L

But then came the Poppy Seed dressing. A little tangy, a little sweet, a lot something I could never quite figure out. It was addicting...dip your bread in it, let the croutons soak some up, always be sure to toss your salad (haha) around a lot to get all the dressing on there. It turned a great salad into something worthy of being on a "top ten meals of your life" list.

Every time I was nearby, I popped into Cafe Intermezzo and ordered a Veggie Delight with Poppy Seed Dressing. Even when I wasn't nearby, I'd more-than-occasionally head over to pick up a salad to go, driving 30 minutes out of my way sometimes and never feeling like it wasn't worth it to have this amazing salad dressing. I'm not kidding, it's that good. None of that grocery store garbage compares. I don't even really LIKE other poppy seed dressings.
Photo by Henry S

And then, Intermezzo burned down. A little over a year and a half ago, my favorite restaurant burned down, and with it went the recipe for the best salad dressing ever. Ever since then, I've been trying to figure it out, experimenting with piles of ingredients and tweaking my recipe here and there. And finally, I think I've got it! Try this now. You won't regret it, I promise. In fact, you can come find me and yell at me if you don't like it.

Poppy Seed Dressing

(yes, I know the measurments are funny. My kid stole all my measuring cups except for the 1/5 cup & the 1/2 cup. Sorry.)

Ingredients (makes enough for 3 big-a** salads)

~1 tsp of grated yellow onion (I use a microplane)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
~1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/5 cup red wine vinegar
1/5 cup white sugar
1 tbsp poppy seeds
a blob of mustard

Directions

Add all ingredients into a jar or container with a tight lid. Shake it up. Pour over lettuce and other salad-y things. You'll be happy you did. I am, and now I get to have this deliciousness whenever I want. 













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I'm thankful today for early Christmas gifts, for my sweet and goofy students who made me giant cards of well wishes while I was gone, for the even sweeter but also more serious student who cleaned my room and reorganized my papers for me, for new headbands, and for comfy shoes.

26 comments:

  1. This is awesome. Thanks for posting. After trying out your recipe, I do have one comment/question. I notice that the dressing doesn't look quite as pink as what I recall Intermezzo's dressing looking like. Do you think this is because they used more red wine vinegar and perhaps less apple cider vinegar? Any thoughts or suggestions?

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    1. I think that's totally possible! I tried it with more red wine, to make it pinker, and it didn't taste quite right to me, but I could be remembering wrong! Or maybe they had a "redder" vinegar than we do? I've also gotten the right pink with a red onion instead of yellow, but the flavor was a lot spicier and I didn't like it as much. Hope this got you close enough! My feelings won't be hurt in the slightest if you tweak it to match your memory - let me know if you figure out something I missed!!!

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  2. This is amazing!!! It has been a little over 13 years since I last had a salad from CI. This place is second to none in the salad/bread category. Wow I remember if you didn't get there on time, you would not have your choice of dressing. Also, there were times when the line would spin around Channing Way. I have to say I was shocked when I first saw the line around the block, but not surprised. See like many of you I am a repeat offender and so I know how good the salads were. Anyhow, let me give this recipe a whirl and see how it goes. I really appreciate all the effort you put into making this happen.

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    1. OK I created the dressing on the and Im a happy campert. In my curiosity of just putting things together I add a hand full of Doritos with Lime into the bowl and it was epic. Turns out that the mustard and the lime complement each other b/c they have a tangy taste. If you want to take this to the next level you can add a Peruvian dish to the mix, called Causa. Causa contains lime and hot yellow pepper which I imagine would work well in bite size portion.

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    2. I'm so glad you liked it! I'll have to try the lime and hot pepper addition some time.

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    3. This recipe is almost like being at Cafe Intermezzo. Thanks!

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  3. Does anyone know of the other dressing that they had and perhaps a recipe?

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    1. Oh man, the herbal vinaigrette? That stuff was awesome too. I have no idea where to start with it...and the internet is no help so far! I hope someone knows, because I would seriously love to have some of that dressing too!

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  4. I heart this post. Thank you so much. I can't wait to try! I'm still heartbroken they haven't come back (yet... still trying to be hopeful). I have tried many variations of my own and it never came out quite right.

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    1. You're welcome, and thanks! I hope it's close to how you remember!

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  5. I think about this salad almost once a week. Yesterday I got fed up and told a friend, I'm going to figure out how to make that dressing and make the salad myself. I was all ready to spend hours trying to perfect the recipe, but I came across your post. Super excited to try it out. I'll report back soon. Thanks so much!

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  6. BLESS YOU. I had an urge to recreate this salad but couldn't quite remember everything that went into it. Your wonderfully written description of the salad ingredients served as my grocery list today :)

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  7. Thank you so much for recreating and posting this recipe - delicious! Takes me right back to growing up in Berkeley and having a veggie delight with poppy seed dressing after school.

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  8. We raised our kids on CI. Even with them gone, we still miss that place. My wife and I had the "what do you want for dinner" conversation and we continue to lament that there's no CI. I look forward to trying the salad dressing. Don't supposed you have a bread recipe that mirrors theirs?

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    1. Oh don't I wish! That, and the herbal vinaigrette, are still on my list. My husband's the baker around here, so I may have to start leaning on him for some of that honey whole wheat...

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  9. Thank you SO MUCH for this recipe. I think about those salads probably every week. I'm going to try them. I wonder what kinds of lettuce and cabbage they put into the veggie delight. There were so many kinds. It was *the* perfect salad.

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    1. Best I can remember there was green leaf, romaine, and red cabbage. Maybe something else too, but nothing too fancy, I don't think!

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  10. Thank you for the recipe. Now, can you recreate the honey wheat bread.

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  11. Hi, so glad to find this, I thought I was the only one obsessed with the poppy seed. Still mourning but looking forward to trying this recipe. Thanks!

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  12. Hi! I used to work at Cafe Intermezzo for about 2 years! Before I worked there it was my favorite restaurant in Berkeley - and after working there it still remained my favorite restaurant! I was working the day it burned down, such an awful memory. I have been thinking and missing the salads ever since and am so glad I ran across this recipe. I never made the dressings, the cooks in the back would make it so I never learned the recipe :( One of the last times I was near Telegraph Ave was around 2013 and I walked by to reminisce and randomly the owner was outside, and said that he was planning on opening it up again. Not sure what happened because I haven't heard anything since. My heart still is waiting, until then I am so happy you posted this recipe!

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    2. I know a key ingredient in the Vinaigrette was a TON of honey! Also, a secret I know about the Intermezzo recipe for Poppyseed was with raw eggs - but I'm kind of glad you have come up with a recipe similar without the eggs because that kind of grossed me out.

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    3. I bet the raw egg worked the way that the mayonnaise does! Have you tried this recipe? I would LOVE to hear from an Intermezzo employee about how close I got!

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  13. Hi I've been making your recipe for the last couple years and it is WONDERFUL! It brings back so many memories of those great salads. I found that using shallots gets it close to the pink color and the flavor (I tried yellow onion and purple onion but the taste wasn't quite right -- and the color not as pink). I've been to Cafe Mezzo (formerly Cafe Intermezzo) since it's reopening and it's great just "slightly" off the bread not quite as sweet/hearty or dark and the poppy dressing not quite the same but still an AMAZING salad (I'd say 90-95% to the original) but this is a great alternative if you can't get to Berkeley, it feels almost like you're there. I wish I could find the original bread recipe!

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