All hail this Caesar

Henri steps into Jedidiah’s new locale for a go at the dinner menu’s salad surprise

SALAD NIGHTS <br>Pantry Chef John Merrill shows off Jedidiah’s special Caesar salad inside the kitchen at its new Main Street location.

Pantry Chef John Merrill shows off Jedidiah’s special Caesar salad inside the kitchen at its new Main Street location.

Photo By Jason Cassidy

Jedidiah’s Neighborhood Grill:
817 Main St. Breakfast and lunch Tues.- Sun., 7 a.m.- 2 p.m. and dinner Tues.-Thurs., 5-9 p.m. and Fri.-Sat., 5-10 p.m., 899-1105.

Despite Henri’s tendance for experimentation in many of life’s arenas, in others he is a resolute purist. Of course, he finds absolutely abominable the very idea of remakes of classic films—and in fact was horrified to learn that a new Poseidon Adventure is about to launch. Roddy McDowell must be turning over in his grave!

Henri also loathes most attempts to improve on standard cocktails, with the notable exception of the vodka martini, and he has long felt that making an Irish coffee should be punishable by law, perhaps as a felony, ruining as it does two of the best drinks ever invented.

Which brings me to Caesar salads. What could be more basic, more pure—more better left alone? Invented in the early 1920s by Italian chef Alex Cardini, whose brother Caesar owned the restaurant in Tijuana where the two worked, the original Caesar salad, traditionally prepared tableside, was a model of simplicity. Its ingredients: Romaine lettuce, croutons, lemon juice, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, raw, coddled or hard-boiled egg yolks, fresh-ground black pepper and Worcestershire sauce, which provided the anchovy flavor—real anchovies became a standard ingredient later. Henri has had Caesars around the world and has always thought the simpler the better.

So he was skeptical the other evening when he stopped in at the recently relocated Jedidiah’s Neighborhood Grill and saw on the menu that the Chicken Caesar Salad included artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes. This would take some contemplation.

Speaking of which, I was told by my waiter that he would be unable to serve me either beer or wine, as the restaurant had not yet secured its license (I was in just two days after it opened). Contemplation, indeed. Far be it from Henri to order a soft drink, and the only thing Henri has ever “paired” with water is Scotch.

Jedidiah’s, which started out as a catering business and then opened for breakfast and lunch on Humboldt Avenue, moved into its new location on May 9 (previously occupied by JP’s Restaurant) and expanded to include dinner (they started serving beer and wine a week later). In fact, the JP’s dinner staff remained to work at Jedidiah’s, where a sense of quiet intimacy is afforded by the new venue’s several small dining rooms.

Jedidiah’s dinner menu includes two or three choices each of beef, seafood and chicken entrées (which come with bread, salad, potato and vegetable), ranging from about $12 to $18. The night I was in, two specials—halibut with shrimp and pesto and chicken breast stuffed with cheese and smoked ham—were listed on a chalkboard above the bar. I was also told about one of the chef/owner’s special creations: a rib-eye cut like a filet and served wrapped in bacon—a “riblet,” he called it.

I decided to stay, despite the fact that I would have to wait until I got home to have a glass of wine, and started with the breaded calamari. Très bon. I continued to contemplate. Everything sounded wonderful—the barbecued pork ribs, the steaks, the pastas. Finally, I took a deep breath, tossed back a half glass of water and, throwing caution to the wind, ordered the Chicken Caesar.

Sacre bleu! Incredible! In fact, one of the tastiest salads Henri’s ever had, and also one of the biggest, topped with huge slices of perfectly grilled chicken breast, tossed with a light dressing and accented with shredded carrots—maybe basic isn’t always best with Caesars. It was a fabulous meal, perfect for a warm spring evening in Chico—too much, in fact, to finish. I took home what was left and had it for breakfast the next morning with a lovely little Pinot Noir.

Jedidiah’s popular lunch includes sandwiches (with a choice of two sides), and the breakfast menu offers egg dishes, breakfast burritos and blueberry pancakes.