Every year, as the winter weather turns into warm spring days, I begin to think about new beginnings. New beginnings to me mean baby vegetables, morel mushrooms, peas and most importantly ramps. Ramps are wild spring leeks. The bottom part of the ramp has a mild garlic flavor, while the green tops have a distinct onion aroma. To me, there is no better flavor in the spring.
One of my favorite things to do in the spring is to put on my boots and trek through the woods to find and pick ramps. As a young cook, I can clearly remember going with the whole kitchen team, with large bags and shovels, to spend hours picking ramps. As we would load the wild leeks into my car, the aroma would engulf us all and overtake our senses.
I have continued this tradition here at the Inn. Picking ramps is a great way for the kitchen team to come together outside of the kitchen, while learning about and experiencing first hand the product that we use everyday.
This year, the ramps have been bountiful and beautiful. The early spring we experienced combined with some heavy rains, lead to a large amount of early ramps.
If I could have my way, I would use ramps on every dish on the spring menu. Although that is not sensible, the spring menu at the Inn has ramps presented in a few ways. On the Wagyu beef carpaccio, the sliced meat is topped with a salad of pea tendrils and pickled ramp bulbs. The acidic crunchy ramp bulbs balance the beautifully marbled meat. Ramps also make an appearance on our veal chop dish. The veal is accompanied by mustard spatzle and a medley of baby spring vegetables, the star being sautéed ramp tops.
As a child, I always loved exploring the outdoors. As a chef, working with the freshest ingredients is very important. Picking ramps combines both of these, and needless to say makes me very happy. I love sharing this with the cooks at the Inn and hope to inspire them in their young career, while providing a great product for our guests.