“EVERYBODY HAVE FIVE GLASSES OF WINE in front of them?” Everybody did. “Good,” Van says, and gets out a honking big wooden bowl, which he informs us is absolutely essential in the making of Caesar salad. I don’t own a wooden bowl. Also, I don’t know how to coddle an egg, which the twenty-page handout in front of me lists as one of the ingredients in Van’s Caesar salad. I feel ready to demonstrate my ignorance. Van Hale is one of the owners of the Marx Brothers restaurant here in Anchorage, and the author of the best Caesar salad in the world. Yes, there are anchovies in it. Deal with it. There is also garlic. Lots of it.
This last ingredient may be why I signed up for Van’s Caesar salad class, taught annually during the fall. It’s a great way to spend one of the dogs days that exist after summer and before snow. The classes are taught in the restaurant on Third Avenue, and all fifty chairs are filled the November day my friend Kerri and I arrive.
“For each salad we make,” Van tells us, “you want to taste the wine, eat the salad and then taste the wine again. All five wines with each salad.” He bends a stern glance around the room and adds, “That’s a lot of wine. If you feel buzzed after the class, you do not drive.”
We nod obediently.
“All right, first we’re going to taste some balsamic vinegars. Turn to the first page of your handout.” We do, to find a list of ten balsamic vinegars, their origin, their age, size, cost, and where to purchase locally.
Author and founder of Storyknife.org.