Not so long ago, I was having dinner in San Antonio after a day of working with a client. I say not so long ago for 2 reasons: 1) I can’t quickly recall a date – March/April/Easterish? and 2) I need you to know that it was definitely not Tomato season. Regardless, the description was too good to pass up – something about tomato hearts with feta and capers and a citrus balsamic dressing. It sounded light; it sounded different from the flotilla of Caesar salads that routinely pass before my eyes on menus across the country; it sounded GOOD.
So I asked my waiter, a friendly if overworked guy, about the tomato salad. “Was it good?” I asked. “Tomatoes aren’t in season yet. Will it taste like tomatoes?” “Yes”, he assured me, “It’s really good.” So I took a chance and ordered the tomato salad, a shrimp appetizer, and a nice glass of pinot gris.
When it came, it was beautiful in all its stacked glory, but not what I expected. In my head, I had translated heart to mean ‘middle’ not ‘center’. Undaunted, I cut into it and took my first bite. It was tomatoey, rising above the typical winter pale pink slice on a deli sandwich, but….not ripe. It certainly walked the walk – it was the right color and had some viney/fruity tomato flavor – but it couldn’t quite talk the talk. While not hard like slicing stale bread, it did not yield to the knife nor to the bite, nor did it feel juicy and slippery as I chewed. It was the right salad, the wrong time. I ate much of it, enjoying the well blended flavors and tolerating the texture.
All in all, it was worth it. But the best part? I’m heading back to San Antonio at the end of the summer to work with the same client. And I’m heading back to the same restaurant to give that salad another try.