Also known as wild leeks, ramps make a bright green fleeting appearance every spring: three frenzied weeks of foraging, Instagramming, and (oh yeah) cooking and they’re gone. If you’ve never tried ramps, now’s the time.
Chefs get pretty excited about ramps—they’re genuinely delicious, locally available, and versatile (you can find them pickled, grilled, pureed, in pesto and more). As for the flavor? That’s harder to describe. They’re in the allium onion family, slightly sweet like leeks and pungent like garlic (but not garlicky). You’ll just have to try them for yourself using this restaurant round-up as a starting-off point. Here’s where to find ramps in NJ right now.
The Cassidy Bar & Kitchen
The Cassidy is the second restaurant from Gladstone Tavern chef/owner Tom Carlin, a sort of culinary love letter to his hometown of Maplewood. And he’s not messing around with the love in the springtime: they’re doing double seasonal duty with this soft shell crab dish, fried with wild ramps, sea bean, spring onion, and asparagus. 160 Maplewood Avenue, Maplewood; 973-762-5433
Ramps get aquatic at Elements in Princeton in a grilled octopus, potato, ramps and chile dish. Their (elegantly) sparse menu doesn’t say much else about how it’s all put together, but we’re assuming it’s not too dissimilar from the way they recently prepared local eel (in fact, it almost looks like there’s a ramp or two on top?). We can tell you the dish is $18. 66 Witherspoon Street, Princeton; 609-924-0078
Anthony Bucco’s Felina is humming along on Ridgewood Avenue and they’re clearly seasonally tuned in—they celebrated National Bucatini Day on March 21 with some photogenic bucatini with bread crumbs, pecorino, and preserved egg yolk. They shared similar enthusiasm for seasonal ramps with a recent pizza photo on Instagram captioned simply “Ramps, cheese, honey, crust…You’re welcome!” 84 East Ridgewood Avenue, Ridgewood; 551-276-5454
Yes, Restaurant Serenade in Chatham leans elegantly French, but this dish is all about local, with fatty, smoky-sweetness of house-cured slab bacon cut with bright, acidic pickled ramps (and even a bit of rhubarb for extra “early spring” street cred). In fact, Serenade might be among the most ramp-loving: their next photo is this bright green spring pea and ramp soup, and they’re even forecasting ramps for their upcoming Easter Dinner (call to see if any reservations are still available; it’s 11:30am to 7pm, $79). 6 Roosevelt Avenue, Chatham; 973-701-0303
If you’re into the ramps-octopus pairing concept, check out Pluckemin Inn in Bedminster, where the current “Plucky” dinner menu has a $20 Grilled Octopus appetizer with ramps, chickpeas, artichoke, and jalapeno. Here’s an Instagram visual in case you were wondering how it all comes together (hint: beautifully). 359 Route 26, Bedminster; 908-658-9292
Bringing together the best of game meat and seasonal produce, Fossil Farms shared a photo of this Roman Gnocchi this past Sunday at Piattino in Summit, with clams and wild boar ragu, ramps and heirloom tomato. 67 Union Place, Summit; 908-219-4801
If you really want to worship at the altar of ramp, Rat’s is doing a full Spring Ramp Dinner tomorrow, April 18. You’ll see ramps pickled with tuna crudo, grilled with orange poached shrimp and grits, ramp chimichurri on a culotte steak, and—yes, for dessert—caramelized ramps on balsamic ice cream with dark chocolate panna cotta. (Bonus points: every course gets a wine pairing). Reservations are $90, and don’t include tax and tip. If you can’t make the dinner, don’t despair just yet. Leftover ramps could always show up on the menu as a seasonal special. 16 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton; 609-584-7800Click here to leave a comment