The challenge flowed over the Ethernet a few days ago from Jason D upstate. Mix a healthy dose of Smokey the Bear, hardcore via the Freeze and Black Flag, toss in an enthusiastic love of books, ancient Rome, Star Wars, and Anna Pacquin. Shake, stir, then pour into a tall, thin, converse-and-spectacle-wearing eco kid, and you get some idea of my list-obsessed vegetarian friend.
Late last year a new eatery opened up in downtown Albany called the Greenhouse, where you can mix and match various ingredients to create a custom salad or wrap. The challenge? I get to choose the ingredients, Jason goes out and eats it, writing up the experience in the process. After considering the options here was my selection:
- Mesculin mixed greens
- Jalapeno peppers
- Dried cranberries
- Mandarin oranges
- Balsamic vinaigrette
Here's Jason with the result:
I have to admit, when I first read these ingredients I was skeptical that you might have broken the "no intentional gross-out" rule. But after giving it more thought, I can see what you are up to here: contrast and lots of it. Sweet fruit and spicy jalapeno, bright acidic orange and smooth avocado. I didn't know what the hell the balsamic was all about (ed. neither do I). I expected to be extremely conscious of the precise contents of each bite. With that in mind, and still just a little fearful of encountering a disgusting combo, I decided to purchase a Saranac root beer to go with my wrap.
Since I was with a group of co-workers, I went with them and their more conventional salads (Caesar, Cobb) to Tricentennial Park, there to enjoy the sunshine and early blooming trees with my repast.
Something happened en route to the park. The liquid of the balsamic dressing combined with the avocado to form a sort of creamy amalgam. I should point out here that the avocado was mashed, not diced as I had expected. Had it been diced it may not have reacted in quite the same way. Anyway, this slurry penetrated all layers of the wrap, picking up flavors as it went. The result was a very consistent flavor throughout the sandwich - a taste that starts out both sweet and tart and finishes with a warm kick from the chills. Texture-wise, the whole was soft, creamy and juicy, with only the jalapenos - which were fresh slices, not from a jar - providing an occasional crunch. Napkins were definitely needed.
All in all, I guess you would call this "southwest Asian fusion" if you wanted to give it a name. It has a nice unique flavor, more Asian than anything else, but I never really detected the balsamic vinegar, which was apparently (and surprisingly) overpowered by the other ingredients. I think it would have worked as well if not better with another dressing. Also, this is not a salad/wrap for someone who suffers from acid indigestion; I think the pH of the whole thing must be pretty low. Fortunately I don't have that problem and there are Tums for those who do. I give it a qualified thumbs-up.