There's an added bonus that comes with weather change. And that is the bliss of seasonal menus.
Enter ramps. Mention ramps and 9 times out of 10 someone will exclaim, WTF are ramps?! (Or cautiously whisper, but what ARE ramps? Because God forbid you admit to not knowing something (amiright?)
Ramps are cousin to the onion and are sweet, pungent, tangy and some would say harbor a spicy-garlicy flavor. The obsession and fascination with ramps has a lot not only to do with its seasonality, but also with its scarcity. If you were cultivating the plant 'from scratch' it would take roughly 4 years to produce, flower and reproduce. During the springtime when they do grow, they are only in season for about four weeks. In places like Richwood, West Virginia and other parts of Appalachia, ramps grow somewhat abundantly but due to their harsh ways of uprooting the plant, its numbers dwindled significantly over 200 years. Cherokees managed to harvest the plants for thousands of years and their practices have only recently caught on in the modern day.
Chefs are all over NYC relish the arrival of ramps. With restaurants like The Eddy in the East Village, putting ramps in the spotlight via their Icelandic Cod served with sauteed ramp leaves, ramp pesto and French radishes. They even serve a Gibson cocktail that features pickled ramps and gin. Or Brooklyn's sexy pizza place Speedy Romeo serving The Ramp, a pizza topped with mozzarella, ricotta, spices and ramp aioli. Careful now, these dishes may disappear in a blink of an eye due to all the reasons I listed above. They may already be gone. :(
But should you find yourself some ramps without having to fight someone to get it, the wine for you is Valli Unite Bianchino. A biodynamic wine made of Cortese grapes from Piemonte (en Italiano) or Piedmont, this Bianchino (Italian for 'little white one') can compare to the ramp as both are produced in relatively low volume. My bottle was a bit funky on the nose smelling a bit like stinky cheese, but its flavor is lightly tart, clean and mineral. This hay-colored wine allows for the pungency of the ramps to really shine through without abandoning the impact of the wine's briney, somewhat acidic flavor.
Ramps remind us all that nothing is promised - especially the availability of a delicious seasonal dish. Go out there. Seize the day. And the dish.
Cover photo credit: Flickr