Hail Caesar! A Beloved Salad Turns 100 | ICONIC LIFE

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Hail Caesar! A Beloved Salad Turns 100

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A century ago, Caesar Cardini invented the Caesar salad in Tijuana, Mexico, which would be known around the world.

America isn’t the only one celebrating a birthday on July 4. The business lunch default order, the Caesar salad, turns 100 this month as well. Who knew a mix of romaine, Parmesan cheese, croutons and anchovy-flavored dressing would become the ICONIC darling of the salad-ordering set? 

Since its inception in 1924, foodies worldwide have indulged in this fine-dining staple and chefs have found countless ways to reinvent the unique salad.

Many think the salad is an homage to the great ruler Julius Caesar, but its beginning was a bit more humble. 

Most credit restaurateur and Italian immigrant Caesar Cardini for creating the salad. According to the Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, Cardini owned a series of restaurants in Tijuana, Mexico. On July 4, 1924, Cardini was said to have prepared a salad intended to be served as a main course. He had run out of some key ingredients and pulled the salad together with what he had on hand.

The dish consisted of romaine lettuce, croutons, and a distinctive dressing made from olive oil, egg, garlic, Parmesan cheese, anchovies, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Food historians debate whether Cardini added the anchovies and mustard to the dressing’s recipe.

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The new salad was a bona fide hit. In fact, the dish was so popular that years later, it would be deemed the “greatest recipe to originate from the Americas in 50 years” by the International Society of Epicures in Paris. 

Cardini began selling his renowned dressing and in 1948, the recipe was patented under the name “Cardini’s Original Caesar Dressing Mix.”

After he died in 1956, his daughter Rosa Marie took over the multimillion-dollar family business, according to the LA Times, before selling the company in 1988.

One famous patron, Julia Child, enjoyed a Caesar salad at Cardini’s in her youth in the 1920s, and she suggested the salad should be made with whole romaine leaves, which were meant to be lifted by the stem and eaten with the fingers. 

More recently, some inventive chefs have suggested grilling the salad, which makes it a different experience altogether.

Tradition holds that an authentic Caesar salad is prepared fresh at the table when served at a restaurant. It starts with mixing the dressing, which is sometimes creamy and sometimes like a vinaigrette.

The Caesar salad has remained consistent for 100 years, and most menus wouldn’t dare exclude it from their roster of salads.  


And to that point, and hundreds of Caesar salads later, let this writer share her favorite. 

I visited Europa Village in the Temecula wine region a year ago and dined at Bolero Restaurante. There, I met Chef Hany Ali, a super friendly and artistic chef who spent time sharing some mind-blowing offerings with us. One was a deconstructed olive, made from 30 to 40 olives and reconstituted back to a single olive. 

He brought us his version of a Caesar salad, which is still my favorite version of the beloved salad to this day. 

Thanks, Hany and Hail Caesar!

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