This year’s quest? Salad

The next quest for the best of an Elkhart County food will involve more vegetables than any of the past ones.
Posted on March 4, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

Marshall V. King

Dining A La King

I’m shocked.

Not in a get-me-a-defibrillator kind of way. But I never imagined that if I asked 200 people that the next quest — the next search for the best of an Elkhart County restaurant dish — would involve lettuce.

Welcome to Salad Quest. I’m going to be eating a lot of bunny food in the comings months.

In 2003, an editor suggested I search for the best pie in Elkhart County. More than 100 pieces of pie later, I picked the winner as lemon meringue at South Side Soda Shop.

Since then, usually once or twice a year, I do a search for the best of something you can eat.

Readers suggest places to find their favorites. I eat them. Others try them too. And after trying a bunch of them, I say which I think is best and readers vote for their favorites.

The reader vote didn’t happen in all 10 previous quests. And this is really the first time I surveyed readers about what the quest should be.

In a blog post on Feb. 20, I suggested some options for the next quest and asked readers what they’d suggest.

About 135 people responded. And though more than a few suggested biscuits and gravy, I just couldn’t face plate after plate of that at this point.

On Thursday, Feb. 28, I posted a new survey on the blog with eight options. And I fully expected that readers would pick fried fish.

I was wrong. And I’m glad I was wrong.

Here’s how 202 people voted on the blog in just more than 24 hours:

1. Salad, 51 (25 percent)

2. Fried chicken, 39 (19 percent)

3. Fish, other than fried, 30 (15 percent)

4. Tenderloin sandwich, 26 (13 percent)

5. Lasagna, 15 (7 percent)

6. Pancakes, fried fish, tied at 14 (7 percent)

8. Omelets, 13 (6 percent)

My lovely wife, Bethany, has been suggesting Salad Quest for a number of years. She’s seen me down pounds of pizza, burritos and steak for the sake of this job and thought that something healthy would be a good idea. I don’t disagree with her. About that or a lot of other things.

Years ago, I was dismissive of salads. I was asked to bring them to potlucks. I think friends thought that was funny to ask me to bring bunny food. But it’s how I learned to appreciate a good salad.

There are a zillion kinds of salad. I happen to like ham salad. That’s what you get when you mince ham with mayonnaise and pickles to make a sandwich spread. But I don’t think you can compare ham salad to lettuce salad. So ham, chicken and tuna salad won’t be part of this search. But the question that I’ll have to answer is whether tomato salad could be considered.

You don’t need to be a chef to make a good salad.

You need some greens. I’m not a huge fan of iceberg because I don’t think it has enough flavor.

You need something that adds some crunch. I like toasted nuts and carrots.

Fruit helps. The classic pear/nut/bleu cheese salad has appeared on menus in Elkhart. There are some good versions. I’m not crazy about craisins, but I don’t pick them out.

Protein, such as fish, chicken or steak, works well on a salad. My mouth waters at the thought of the steak trimmings from Miles Lab going on a bed of greens with a good Italian vinaigrette.

Which brings me to the dressing. You can buy some decent dressings. But a well-made vinaigrette makes a salad sing. So does bleu cheese dressing.

So I’m on the hunt for the best salad. You tell me where your favorites are. Contact me at any of the ways below and I’ll put a form on the blog for people to make suggestions as well.

I’m looking forward to the quest. I’ll need your help.

As for that defibrillator, my heart will be a lot healthier not eating months worth of fried food. Salad Quest it is.

I’m hungry. Let’s eat.

Marshall V. King is news/multimedia editor and food columns for The Elkhart Truth. You can reach him at mking@etruth.com, 574-296-5805, on Twitter or Instagram @hungrymarshall and via the Dining A La King Facebook page.

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