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Mar 18, 2007 12:09 PM

"New York style",East coast Iceburg lettuce?

Can anyone tell me where to get "New York style",East coast Iceburg lettuce?

Eastbay? or in San Francisco?

All the Iceberg lettuce I have tried in California just does not compare to what restaurants and markets sell and serve back East.

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  1. I grew up in The Salad Bowl of the World and the last time I had iceberg in NY about 20 years ago, it was limp and almost slimy . . . while the other folks at the table were commenting on how good it was. What is the difference you're seeing these days?

    Also, bear in mind that during the winter the iceberg supply comes from Yuma and is softer than the lettuce grown in the Salinas Valley during the summer and early fall. Is it a seasonal variance that you're picking up on?

    Edited to add: forgot to mention that production shifts to Huron in the Central Valley during the shoulder months (e.g., March and October/November). Here's a piece on iceberg lettuce production,

    1. We had a great iceberg wedge salad at Two the other night. You might call and ask them where they get it.

      1. Maybe it's not so much a question of the quality of the lettuce as the quality of the restaurant. Most produce-conscious restaurants in the Bay Area -- rightly or wrongly -- eschew iceberg lettuce in favor of other kinds of greens (with the exception of the re-emergence of "retro" iceberg wedge salads). Therefore, restaurants that serve iceberg tend to be those that pay less attention to the quality and freshness of their lettuce.

        After years of buying into the foodie line that iceberg lettuce was inferior, I finally decided to own up to the fact that I like iceberg lettuce! I started making my salads with a mixture of iceberg (for body, crunch and that "refreshing" quality) and spring-mix type greens (for flavor, color and nutrition), and not only have been much happier with my salads, but my guests have enjoyed them more (great salad -- what's the secret? Iceberg lettuce!).

        About 70-75 percent of the iceberg lettuce in the country is produced in California, with most of the rest being produced in Arizona (98 percent, between the two states), so it's unlikely that your "East Coast" iceberg came from anywhere but the West Coast.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Here's a link to an old thread on the General board on iceberg lettuce.

          In the past, the best (largest and heaviest) heads of iceberg were air-freighted to Hong Kong for premium prices. I'm wondering if the East Coast might be getting the larger, cello-wrapped heads because it can hold up better during the lag time in the distribution channel.

          P.S. you should try cooking iceberg and adding a drizzle of oyster sauce the way its served in HK.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            "THANK YOU!"
            I also agree with you about the crunch and refreshing quality of iceberg lettuce....
            I am also from New York originally and I can't for the life of me remember a qualitative difference in freshly bought Iceberg here or there....are you sure it wasn't 'Goldberg" or "Greenberg"!???

          2. I lived in the Salinas Valley when younger, and remember when there was a lettuce strike and it was unavailable in the stores. Taking matters into my own hands, I went into the neighboring field and picked a head for the family. It was _far_ better than any iceberg lettuce had before or since. I mentioned that to someone I knew in the lettuce business--he told me that all the best stuff goes back East. YMMV.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Steve Green

              It could also have been better because it was fresh from the field.

              If you buy from a small grower at a farmers market, you'll be less likely to be getting the leftovers after the "good stuff" has been shipped out.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Yes, absolutely.
                I didn't keep at Bowie knife at hand (for cutting lettuce or dressing game on the spur of the moment), but some friends always had one in the car for impromptu needs. And, we would yank the heart out of the head and eat it unadorned on the spot, then take the rest home for other uses.

                The top quality goes to "export" markets, but I'd think that the 3 to 7 day-delay to table has to impact eating quality.

                I've tried iceberg lettuce organically grown in Russian River Valley and it doesn't have the thick juicy leaves and compact heads of the prime stuff from Salinas.

            2. I actually posted this topic with "Tongue Firmly Planted in Cheek".

              As retribution to all the "East coast,NYC is better" topics.

              I used Iceberg lettuce as the most benign of all foods but evidently even the Iceberg has regional differences.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Mission

                Quite true. Mariquita Farms' iceberg lettuce is better than anything shipped to New York.

                1. re: Mission

                  I was wondering if I was the only one who got the joke!

                  1. re: Mission

                    Ha! And I was the first to jump to the bait. Thank you though for the opportunity to talk about iceberg lettuce. In Salinas we call it green gold.