Why do you sometimes need a knife for a salad at Urban Plates? It is an interesting question and I answer it all the time. We want to be trusted as your advocate when you come in to eat with us, and this is a perfect example of something we do differently. On purpose.
We buy our salad greens from Tanimura and Antle (T&A), a very well respected grower in the Salinas Valley. The company is known for being excellent stewards of their land and doing everything possible to grow phenomenal produce. The company has been thriving for three generations for good reason. T&A is a good fit for us as a partner because of the quality of their product and the way in which they conduct their business. The fields are managed responsibly in many ways including a focus on soil vitality by rotating crops, utilizing beneficial and nutritive cover crops, efficient tillage and minimized tractor passes. Minimizing water use is a top priority in our drought affected state and the farms use long range weather forecasts, soil moisture testing and computer modeling to manage watering schedules and gain efficiencies. These factors, plus a focus on food waste reduction, excellent supply chain management and crop traceability are all reasons Tanimura and Antle are such great vendor partners for us. We feel lucky and proud to be able to share such a fantastic product with our guests.
We have sourced baby heads of lettuce that are 4-5” when they are harvested and shipped to us. To prep them, we just cut the ends off the heads, separate and fluff the leaves, then wash them twice in very cold water. We then spin them dry and put them into a bin that lets the air move through the leaves and lets any last water drain off. Now the lettuce is ready to become the foundation for your salad.
Here is the part that answers the question. We have these beautiful and natural whole leaves of lettuce. They are delicate, crunchy, and colorful. We want to highlight what we have sourced and prepared for you. If we were to cut the leaves smaller, it would look like any other pre-washed, bagged lettuce (and we could use it, really, who would know.) If you see perfect little uncut leaves in your salad, you know someone went through some trouble to get them to you. Yes, you may have to use a knife to cut them, but you can tell with your own eyes the quality of what you are putting into your body. We have chosen to be transparent and to be held accountable for what we serve you. If it is not whole leaf, baby head lettuce, you will be able to tell right away. I like being held to that standard, so we will not cut down the leaves, we will ask you to do it when you enjoy the salad…and you will know we are not cheating. We hope this more than makes up for the hassle of using a knife.
As I said, I get asked about this a lot. After I explain our motivation for the way we do things, not one person has asked us to cut the leaves down smaller. I consider that very telling. Thank you for the time you took to read this and thank you for your support of Urban Plates. We could cook all day long, if no one is there to enjoy it, it just won’t work out for us. We value every guest that comes to dine with us. We know you have a choice and we appreciate your business.