Johnny Caito 7:07 p.m., July 28
I know, I know. Midwinter and we’re talking salads?
But here I am, seven at night, sitting outside Salad Style, that tiny little eatery just up from the post office (807 F Street, 619-255-6731), waiting for a Moroccan couscous salad.
At least, I start out here, with my glass of water and view of the old main post office.
But what with the threat of rain, and that icy breeze, I decided to wimp out and scuttle inside.
And order a hot soup. Dang. Tiny hands are frozen.
So now I am up on a huge old wooden stool putting away a homemade soup that really heats you up from the inside, and tastes rich and potatoey but tanged up with other veggies. M-mm. Warms the cockles of a man’s heart.
Veggie soup and Moroccan couscous salad
Things have sure changed since last time I came by. For starters, they’re open till seven, not just three. Then they’ve made space so you’ve got about eight tables inside now where the kitchen used to be (plus the four outside, which was the only place you could eat before).
The new inside
Then they’ve got San Diego beers and others on tap. They’ve even got an organic açai beer from Eel River Brewing for $4. And wine, by the carafe. This is a whole ’nother thing. Like, four people could get a 24-ounce carafe of Chard for $16 (like, four bucks each) and get a really interesting salad and wine thing going.
Get talking to Miranda, who’s running the place tonight.
Over a barrel: Cooks Jose and Miranda
“I’m just a loyal worker,” she says. "I’ve been here four years. Love it. When I first came, I was pure carnivore. But MaryJo and Scott - they started this - completely taught me to love salads, because they make them so interesting.”
Miranda ain’t total herbivore. She still eats meat, and half the salads have meat or fish in them anyway, but she says salads are her main thing.
“They’re raw, and organic, and local,” she says. “That’s good. You feel good.”
I know that MaryJo Testa and Scott Thomas are like the two pioneers of locovoring, organic. They were young chefs who came out of Laurel, the upmarket restaurant on Banker’s Hill, and took an adventurous long stint in some restaurant in a tiny mountaintop village in southern Italy.
“Everything came fresh each day. And was grown locally,” Scott told me when I first met him. “They got their cheeses from the farms outside Santa Maria, the village where our restaurant was. Their cream, their yogurts, nothing was mass-produced.”
Salad Style was the result of the freshness fervor they built up, when they got back. Fresh everything, plus flavor. Salads you actually want to eat.
Even the cutlery is heavy, arty, classy
So tonight, Miranda Gregory and Jose Acevedo are throwing together the soup ($5), from the weekly special board...
...and a Moroccan couscous salad ($7 for the “small” but that is totally enough for me).
“It’s a parsnip, cauliflower and potato soup, with chives, scallions, green onions, whatever,” says Miranda.
You’d think it’d be what grandma forced down you as a kid, but it’s actually dee-lish. And really nutritious.
“I made a week’s worth of this soup,” says Miranda, who’s pretty short. “I had to get up on a stool to be able to see over the 80-quart pot, and stir away. You feel like one of Macbeth’s witches.”
I only get in a few mouthfuls of the couscous salad...
...delicious as it is with things like arugula, currants, toasted almonds, scallions, mint, and that couscous (which is really semolina), because that soup filled me so.
But Carla and I feast on it down to the last toasted almond shavings when I get home.
I see they have a lunch deal, ten bucks for a house salad, soup and a small drink.
But next time, I think I’m just gonna get me a roasted red pepper hummus bruschetta for $5 and a small glass of wine ($6), or an even smaller 3-oz taster (maybe $3), and eat it all out on the sidewalk.
Rain or shine.
Hey, Paris starts here.
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