Bacon salad dressing brings back memories, blesses pea shoots and more

Salad with bacon dressingMichelle had never heard of Hillstone Restaurant Group before reading this month’s feature article in Bon Appétit Magazine. This “non-chain chain” is reportedly adored by such culinary luminaries as Danny Meyer and David Chang. As she read, Michelle felt a jolt of familiarity when she saw that HRG “started in 1977 with the opening of Houston’s in Nashville.” 1977, it seems, was the year Michelle and her college girlfriends also landed on Nashville’s West End Avenue, becoming a part of the beginning of what Andrew Knowlton, the article’s author, calls the “best-run, most-loved, relentlessly respected restaurant [group] in America.”

Vanderbilt coedsSo many memories arose out of a shared Facebook chat. The quiche! The ferns! The preppy waiters! The ice cream drinks! The spinach salad with bacon dressing! As noted in Bon Appétit, the folks behind Houston’s “identified and then filled a void in the American dining scene. It wasn’t fast-food burgers, but it wasn’t fancy European-style dining either.” Indeed, for Michelle and her friends, Houston’s bridged the gap between fancy places that one’s parents would have to pay for (like Mario’s and the fusty French Julian’s) and the cheap-but-still-tasty spots such as Rotier’s and Elliston Place Soda Shop able to be frequented by college students whose monthly allowances were running out.

It seems the Nashville Houston’s closed in 2005, and there are no outposts of any Hillstone Restaurant Group brands located near Gourmandistan’s current lodgings—which is too bad, because the food featured in Bon Appétit looks really tasty and made us want to visit one. To continue her trip down memory lane, Michelle instead adapted this recipe for Chicken Waldorf Salad, based on what we had around the kitchen. Our salad featured watercress, pea shoots, shredded roast chicken, currants, toasted nuts (walnuts, cashews and almonds), chopped hard-boiled eggs, crumbled blue cheese, sliced radishes and grated apple. It may not be quite the same as Nashville 1977, but our version of Houston’s bacon dressing is indeed utterly delicious—and for some, nostalgic.


(adapted from Hillstone Restaurant Group as printed in Bon Appétit Magazine)

  • 3 TB champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 3 TB grainy Dijon mustard
  • 4 tsp. sugar
  • cup olive oil
  • cup walnut oil
  • 3 TB finely chopped cooked bacon (from about 2 slices)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Mix ingredients together in a covered jar and shake well.


  1. My favourite dressing and an all time classic in French cuisine although we simply cook the bacon seperately and do not add it to the dressing but directly on the salad. Basically very similar and utterly delicious. Try it on lentils, yum!

  2. rrwriter

    I want to love pea shoots. But so far, their stemminess baffles me. Do you do anything to make them more tender? Strip from stems, blanch. . . I don’t know – but thought you might.

    • Rona, it really, really depends. Many are too stemmy, too stringy and yuck for anything other than (maybe) stir-frying. The ones from Grateful Greens here in Louisville are usually perfect, though, for salads. I’ve never figured out if it’s a variety thing or how they’re grown or what. When we tried to grow them they were gross unfortunately.

  3. OK spill the beans, which lovely young thing is Michelle? Great sounding salad. I loath stemmy pea tendrils and consider them a choking hazard. It makes me very cautious so I cut even the most tender into short lengths to quell my nervousness, I love their fresh pea flavour though. I think fresh young peas would be a nice addition to your salad too.

    • A very, very sweet vinaigrette… I was surprised that the bacon pieces would add much, but it did. And Steve said to tell you, when the short fingered vulgarian is elected, EVERYONE will be an American. 😉

    • Eha

      Heaps later and accidentally and I am truly hiding behind another person’s commenr: Oh sheesh, Roger . . . .I SO feel the same but did not want to ‘say it’!! Nope, am not American either: nor even 100% Australian, but . . . have a wonderful weekend!!!! NOPE to your last sentence . . . . surely everyone cannot be a total idiot!!!

  4. This took me straight back to Paris and the first time I ever had a hot bacon dressing on a salad (which also had a poached egg on top, better than it sounds). Wonderful how evocative a recipe can be. Move over, M. Proust, make room for Michelle.

    • What a great comment! How sad that the American version of a madeleine is some overly sweet salad dressing thingy. But it’s delicious. 🙂 I grew up with my mother’s ever so yummy iceberg lettuce/hard boiled eggs/scallions/bacon salad with hot bacon dressing (full of soooo much sugar and lots of cider vinegar). So I can’t help myself!

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