Spring means a lot of things – warm breezes, sunshine and patio-service. It also means you’re about to see some of your favorite ingredients coming in from the farms. While your floor manager is getting ready to double your seating capacity (without a thought of the number of burners or oven space available, naturally,) you can at least get excited about putting some new dishes up in the window. Here’s a rundown of what might be coming in through the back door over the next couple of months. Don’t miss out – some of these are only in peak season for weeks at the longest!
Morels can come twice a year. It’s not so much “seasonal” but “something awesome that happens when it’s around 60°F and just rained.” Still, if you can score some morels for your Spring menu you’ll never regret it. Morels go with all the other bits of Spring produce – pea shoots, asparagus, fiddleheads – The list goes on and on. Plus, there’s nothing quite like talking to a mushroom hunter. As a game, see if you can get them to reveal their favorite hunting grounds (they won’t.)
I’m not sure who was so impatient that they started eating pea shoots, but they made the right choice. Peas shoots offer an intense flavor of the peas to come. If you’re looking for something to make a plate just a little fresher and lighter, a small pea shoot salad can go a long way. They can also serve as a distinctive garnish to a soup – like the last batch of the potato-leek you’ve been ladling all winter while waiting for Spring.
When they’re fresh just grill and salt them, finish with a squirt of lemon and everyone will think you’re a genius. If you have any left after a few days, make some soup – garnish with the morels and everyone will still think you’re a genius. Pickle some and serve them with your bar program’s Bloody Mary and everyone will think you’re a drunk genius, which fits everyone’s image of geniuses anyway.
You can pretty much take any of the suggestions for asparagus and apply them to fiddlehead ferns. People will not only continue to think you’re a genius, but you might even get nominated for a MacArthur Grant. Ok, we might be taking this a bit far, but seriously. Grilled, sautéed or even pickled, Fiddlehead ferns are the epitome of Spring on a plate.
The above items can be difficult to pair with wines – particularly asparagus. Your resident wine buyer should have no problem putting 2 and 2 together, but just in case, ask him about Domaine Sorin Terre Amata Rosé. Why the specific suggestion? Well, it’s cheap and it’s good. Restaurants often depend on high margins on wine to make ends meet. The Terre Amata usually comes in cheap enough to be able to make for an affordable glass pour that matches your new Spring menu (state to state of course – looking at you, Pennsylvania.)
What ingredients are you looking for this season? Drop us a line in the comments and let us know.