Farmer Lee Jones / January 28th, 2013
Baby lettuce can be found at nearly any supermarket around the country, but petite lettuce is something you’d be hard-pressed to find in any specialty shop. As opposed to baby lettuces, petite lettuces are completely developed and matured. The amount of labor that goes into planting and harvesting for such little yield doesn’t make sense for most farmers. But we aim to meet the needs of chefs seeking to deliver an exceptional dining experience that cannot be replicated at home, so these tiny, yet full-bodied, heads of lettuce are worth the effort.
An exceptional dining experience is exactly what chef Daniel Zeal creates every day at The Georgian Room in The Cloister Hotel in Sea Island, Georgia. He pairs petite lettuce with a variety of edible flowers, micro greens, and baby vegetables for an intelligent combination of flavors that is only surpassed by the beauty of the presentation.
The lettuce blend that Zeal uses for this salad includes oak, pirat, mâche, lola rosa, butter varieties, red and green leaf lettuces, and a few others. “We used this size and blend of lettuces due to the blooming effect we got from the little florets of lettuce, as well as the incredibly clean, refreshing, and slightly bitter qualities they carry,” says Zeal. “The color variation of the lettuces is also something we love. They add depth, contrast, and excitement to ‘a salad.’”
Zeal tops the salad with house-smoked bacon, 50 year Sherry-maple vinaigrette, and brown butter toasted croutons. He uses the sweet, sour, and smoky flavors in this combination to set off the slightly bitter and spicy qualities in the vegetables and the mixed lettuces. The flavor blending appears to have worked just fine, since according to Zeal, “This salad became an instant hit with our guests in the Georgian Room, and it remains one of my favorites.”