The Mailbox: The Coral Reef’s popular salad dressing

A page from the Coral Reef menu that includes the salads.
A page from the Coral Reef menu that includes the salads. Courtesy Special Collections of The Sacramento Public Library

Patty Conroy of El Dorado Hills and her brother Gary Nyland of Carmichael were looking for recipes from the now-closed Coral Reef restaurant.

The Coral Reef’s salad dressing has long been the Mailbox’s most-requested recipe. It was created by Lee Bishop, the Coral Reef’s day-crew supervisor. It was a closely guarded secret for many years. In 1996, Bishop told us that in the 1960s General Food wanted to buy the recipe but he told them it was not for sale. Many versions of this recipe have been floating around for decades. This one is the real deal.

How to contact the mailbox

If you have recipes in reply to Mailbox reader requests, or questions or comments, write to: Mailbox, c/o Taste, The Sacramento Bee, P.O. Box 15779, Sacramento, CA 95852. You also can email or fax (916)  321-1109. Please include your full name, your city and phone number.

Coral Reef salad dressing

Prep time: 45 minutes

Makes 2 quarts


1 quart Wesson vegetable oil

1½ cups tarragon vinegar

¾ cup Heinz apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 ½ tablespoons celery powder or ground celery seed

1 ½ tablespoons Hungarian paprika

¼ teaspoon garlic, finely chopped

½ cup white onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons horseradish mustard

5 ounces domestic blue cheese, crumbled

5 ounces imported Danish blue cheese, crumbled (if not available, use Gorgonzola)


Lettuce, radish slices, carrot curls

Fresh bay shrimp

Place the oil, tarragon vinegar and cider vinegar in 3 separate containers and place each container in a bowl of hot water before use.

In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, salt, celery powder (or ground celery seed) and paprika. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, place garlic and half of the oil and mix for 5 minutes using the mixer on medium speed. Add onion, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and tarragon vinegar and mix for 10 minutes. Add sugar mixture. Add apple cider vinegar and continue to mix. Add both crumbled blue cheeses and mix for 10 minutes. Slowly add remaining oil while mixing.

Make a salad of broken lettuce, radish slices and carrot curls. Place bay shrimp on top and make very moist with dressing.

Per ¼ cup: 295 calories; 4 g pro.; 3 g carb.; 30 g fat (6 sat., 7 monounsat.; 17 polyunsat.); 20 mg chol.; 232 mg sod.; 0 g fiber; 90 percent calories from fat.

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