Bar La Grassa, Parma 8200 in a duel of Caprese salads
If the end of tomato season has you waxing poetic before you concede to seasonality and switch to squash, this Food Fight is for you. We tested two upscale Caprese salads, at Parma 8200 in Bloomington and Bar La Grassa in Minneapolis, to find the best-tasting way to satisfy the craving for a formal farewell with the juicy fruit, er, vegetable.
Lisa Gulya Caprese salad at Bar La Grassa
Bar La Grassa
Bar La Grassa's Caprese salad is a distant cousin to the garden variety home cooks are familiar with--but hey, at $14 before tax, an upgrade is expected. At La Grassa, instead of plain mozzarella, they use Burrata, mozzarella injected with cream. Instead of sliced tomatoes, they use blanched and peeled cherry tomatoes. Finally, they add basil and a balsamic vinegar reduction and sprinkle on some bread crumbs. The final product is decadent: buttery cheese blanketing the tomatoes, accented by the slightly sweet balsamic vinegar and crunch of the bread crumbs.
The Caprese salad at Parma 8200 came with an enthusiastic recommendation from the server about the use of local farmers' tomatoes. Sure enough, when the salad arrives, it is an eye-pleasing array of sliced yellow and red tomatoes, hiding discs of bufala mozzarella, topped with whole basil leaves and sprinkled with chunks of olive. But the salad, which costs $13.50 before tax, is boring. It lacks the romance that "farmers' tomatoes" conjures--vine-ripened, sun-warmed--since the flavor of the tomatoes was muted after the chill of refrigeration.
The winner: If we're going to splurge on a simple tomato salad, we'll do it at Bar La Grassa. A preparation that makes the diner feel pampered--cream-injected cheese, pre-peeled tomatoes, and a high-quality balsamic vinegar--seems proper at this price point.