Labour Day weekend is coming up quick. I’m sure you’re trying to do the mental math on how much potato salad you’ve eaten this summer, the answer: not enough. A little Labour Day barbecue, pool party, or picnic is a great excuse to increase your potato salad intake.
Listen, I love potato salad. I’m of Irish heritage, on both sides of my family, so I’m sure it’s some kind of genetic obligation to indulge in the starchy glory of Yukon Golds. But would I open a restaurant that exclusively sold variations of potato salad? No.
In the past few years, I’ve seen a steady rise in novelty restaurants. Everyone wants to make a mint by predicting what will be the next cronut. In Ottawa, there is a dedicated cereal bar called JAM (Just Add Milk) Cereal and an oatmeal café called Oat Couture.
While these establishments are testing the viability of such a narrowly scoped menu, the most awe-inspiring example I’ve seen to date would have to be. . . wait for it. . . a rice pudding bar.
I stumbled across this unique establishment 6 years ago in a trendy neighbourhood in San Francisco. You might be wondering, “Of all the possibilities, why on earth would you choose to go to a rice pudding bar?”
Well, my friends, the answer is simple: my Tinder date suggested the location. Yes, just before getting into my last long-term relationship, I went to San Francisco for work and tacked on a couple of vacation days. As the curious ethnographic explorer that I am, I wanted to explore the dating scene in my new habitat.
I figured it would be a good way to avoid spending all my hours alone, might discover some hidden gems known only to locals, and hopefully have a few laughs.
The rice pudding bar had a similar set up to a gelato bar. A wide array of rice pudding flavour possibilities sat in elongated metal tubs behind a glass window. The visual experience of gazing upon a plethora of rice pudding is akin to that of examining your snot-filled Kleenex over the course of a 5-day cold – there is some variety in colour and composition but largely you’ll find a sticky, lumpy mess.
In spite of it’s total lack of aesthetic appeal, I actually love rice pudding. A large part of my affection for the dessert is nostalgic. When I was a kid, we had a cleaning lady named Luba who was always more interested in cooking than cleaning. Whenever Luba came over she would set about translating any of the soon-to-spoil items in our fridge into tasty treats. Rice pudding with raisins and cinnamon was one of her standbys and I was always there, ready to lick the spoon.
As I recall, at the San Francisco establishment, I opted for a similarly classic flavour combination and wasn’t disappointed by the flavour. My serving was slopped into some sort of expensive branded cup and I spent the better part of the date hoping I didn’t have any of the stuff dribbling down my chin like a senior citizen fresh out of denture adhesive.
The date itself wasn’t nearly as memorable as the rice pudding bar, but equally unsuccessful.
When it comes to novelty restaurants/snack bars, cupcakes and donuts have flourished where others have failed for a number of reasons.
- Both cupcakes and donuts are visually appealing and look great on the ‘gram.
- Cupcakes and donuts are easy to eat on the run. You can stuff your face with one hand and throw a frisbee with the other.
- Both pair well with coffee for a mid-morning snack or after-lunch treat.
Rice pudding fails in each of these measures. So, while I love potato salad, especially this flavourful version with textural balance, bright acidity, sweet corn, and a bit of heat, I won’t be opening a potato salad bar any time soon.
Mexican Potato Salad
- 1½ lbs baby potatoes
- ¼ cup white wine vinegar
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 roasted red pepper diced
- 1 medium jalapeño seeded and minced
- ½ cup fresh corn kernels about 1 medium cob
- 2 green onions thinly sliced
- 3 tbsp chopped coriander
- 3 tbsp olive oil see TIP
- ¼ tsp ground cumin
- 1 garlic clove minced
Place potatoes in a pot and add enough cold salted water to cover. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer gently until potatoes are just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile stir 2 tbsp vinegar with salt in a large bowl. Drain potatoes well. Slice larger potatoes in half then turn immediately into vinegar mixture. Cool.
Once cool, add red pepper, jalapeño, corn, green onions and coriander. Stir to mix. Whisk oil with remaining 2 tbsp vinegar, cumin and garlic. Add to potato mixture and toss. Taste and add a little more salt if needed.
TIP For a mayo-dressed option, prepare recipe as above but substitute 1/3 cup mayonnaise for olive oil or ¼ cup mayonnaise and 2 tbsp plain yogurt. Taste and add a little more vinegar if needed.
Recipe from: Trim, Heather. “Potato Salad with Fresh Corn, Red Pepper & Jalapeño.” Food & Drink. Summer 2012.