There are a few things I am forbidden from telling you about my afternoon of foraging with Julia Auger and Jared Forman.
I can tell you that traveling to their secret spot takes two hours roundtrip. I can tell you that Forman sometimes refers to it as “Ramptopia.” I can tell you that I was asked to turn my geotags off. I can tell you that they did not go so far as to blindfold me. But, I cannot tell you where they brought me or how we got there.
As proprietors of deadhorse hill and simjang in Worcester, Auger and Forman practice a modern philosophy of hospitality. This means taking excessive measures to guarantee an optimal guest experience—even if that requires braving the untamed forest in search of wild bounty.
Chefs favor ramps and fiddleheads as the first sign of spring. Ramp season is short, lasting about a month as soon as the weather grows seasonable. Fiddleheads are equally elusive, calling for wet and swampy conditions.
You don’t need to go off the grid to sample these rare treasures of New England. A variety of farm stands west of the Quabbin reservoir have ramps available for purchase and many of your neighborhood chefs have done the hard work for you.
Executive Chef Tim Russo is pickling fiddleheads at Lock 50 to extend their availability over the next two months. He also charred and packed his ramp haul in oil to make chimichurri and salsa verde set to appear in feature dishes all season long.
City Bar and Grille
Chef/Owner Al Soto has fiddleheads and ramps on the menu at his new westside hot spot, City Bar and Grille. Expect a dose of grilled ramp aioli with your first course at CBG’s Mad River cocktail dinner on May 15th.
BirchTree Bread Co.
This week, BirchTree Bread’s specialty toast features roasted fiddleheads along with a fried duck egg and asiago cream sauce served on seeded levain. Keep an eye out for fiddleheads on future Wednesday and Friday pizza nights.
If you aren’t lucky enough to enjoy your ramp-stuffed trout over an outdoor grill after hours of manual labor in the pouring rain, enjoy your ramps the civilized way—in the dining room. Forman has a kurobuta pork chop on the menu right now dressed with wild ramps, fiddleheads, and mushrooms.
Armsby Abbey no longer uses foraged ingredients, but you can still find ramps and fiddleheads on the menu for special occasions. Executive Chef Sean Dacey was serving up pickled ramps in his fried vegetables along with a horseradish cream puree, aged sheep’s milk cheese, and a fried egg. The ramps used were a one time purchase from a farm and once gone they are gone (hint: they’re gone). He has also devised a tasty carrot-ramp vinaigrette to properly dress the spring salad for Mother’s Day brunch. Like the ramps, you’ll only be able to get the fiddleheads through Mother’s Day before they are off of the menu!