Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Bitchin' Lunch

Today, I stood gazing at the array of salad dressings on my refrigerator door: Italian, Sun-Dried Tomato, Vinegar & Oil, Greek Vinaigrette, and Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette (Yuck...don't know why I haven't thrown that one out!). Bill and I wanted a salad, but I was tired of lite, so-called healthy dressings. To heck with calories and cholesterol; I wanted a rich, creamy dressing.
And then I thought of Brittany Dressing. The best stuff ever to land on a bed of greens.

I discovered Brittany Dressing in the early seventies at The Brittany Restaurant in Bloomington, Illinois. It had only been open a few days, so my co-workers and I decided to lunch there. It was a lovely upscale place; dim lighting, soft music, solicitous waiters.

We all wanted a salad, but there were so many on the menu that we were having a hard time making a decision. “Our Maurice Salad is very excellent,” our dignified waiter said, pen poised in the air, "And may I suggest Brittany, our house dressing?"

We took “Maurice” (as we came to call him) at his word, and as we awaited our salads we discussed what was happening in the company; who was new, who was leaving. Who was being promoted.
We also spent a great deal of time discussing an important new position just posted in personnel.

“A man will get it,” I said, “They think women aren’t capable of anything not involving typing and shorthand.”

“And bringing them coffee,” Lisa said, slapping her napkin in her lap. “I'm sick of men! Jimmy's blood pressure's sky high and his doctor told him not to eat salt.” She took a deep breath, "He's going to kill himself if he keeps using salt like it's going out of style!"

“Well, I’m sick to death of Joe,” said Janice, “When I get home he's sitting at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, waiting for me to cook supper. And he’s all bent out of shape if I’m five minutes late.”

“Carroll's been grumpy all week,” I said, "It's year-end again."

“Well,” Lisa said, “If Jimmy kills himself with salt, there's nothing I can do.
"One of these days I just might not go home," Janice said, "Let Joe put that in his pipe and smoke it!"

“Know what we need?” Janice said, “A good stiff drink!”

We ordered Margaritas, and when Maurice arrived with our salads, we were delighted. Crisp, cold lettuce and numerous vegetables and meats were piled on a dish big enough for a Thanksgiving turkey. What really made the salad, though, was the dressing. Tossed in sizzling bacon oil and topped with a thick blanket of rich, creamy dressing, it was both tangy and sweet. At first bite I was in heaven.

We all agreed it was the best salad we'd ever had, and we were full and happy as we left The Brittany.
“I ate like a pig,” Janice said, “But for some reason I feel lighter.”

“We got it all out system,” Lisa said, “And it felt damn good!”

“It's amazing what a big Margarita will do for you,” I said.
Leanne started laughing and couldn’t stop. Soon we were all cackling. We were in a good mood the rest of the afternoon.

After that, we headed to The Brittany for a Maurice Salad and a Margarita whenever we felt the need.

“Joe is like an 80-year-old,” Janice said, storming into the office one morning, “Every night, he goes to sleep on the couch!”

Lisa and I looked at each other. “Oh, oh,” she said, “You know what this means.”

We all stood back and chorused, “Time for a Bitchin’ Lunch!”

I had to dig for a while, but I found my recipe for Brittany Dressing; it had been there since 1974. I scribbled it down after we wrestled it from poor Maurice. We tried sweet-talking him; when that didn’t work, we bribed him with a big tip. Maybe it’s just me, but the dressing doesn’t taste quite as good as it did at The Brittany. Don’t know if it’s because I didn't prelude it with a Margarita, or if Maurice left something out.
Nevertheless, it's still the best dressing I've ever tasted. And it makes a bitchin' lunch!
(Note: I pour only about one-fourth cup of bacon fat over the lettuce. Also...heat the bacon fat until it's piping hot. )


Angie said...

ROFL.Loved this, I too have had many 'lunches like this.'

Anonymous said...

C'mon. "Brittany Restaurant"?

Jim's Steak House in Bloomington (and Peoria as well). I've been eating there for 25 years or so. And I live in Ohio. Great place, great dressing.

Brenda said...


The Brittany Restaurant later became Jim's Steak House.

Mary said...

And besides, Anonymous, do the math.... 1974 was way longer ago than 25 years ago!!!! I am thrilled to find this recipeand can't wait to try it. I lived in Bloomington in the early 70's when my husband was in college at ISU. While we couldn't go to The Brittany Restaurant very often on a college budget, we always made sure we got that dressing on our salads!!!!

Bob K. said...

Loved the story.....Phil who owened the Brittany was a great cook, chef and Restaurateur. Later he opened a great seafood restaurant named Phil's but sadly he was taken from us way too soon. Greg Comfort has done a great job with Jim's Steakhouse and the dressing as well. He does serve some of the best steaks in the midwest.

We just went there last week for my birthday and had the Brittany on our salad.

All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley