Terrain at Styers

The words Mary Miller and Green Thumb do not go together at all.  Terrible with all things that grow, and that sometimes includes my own children, I have been known to kill plants after just days of buying them,  to watch my herbs ( all excpt that pesky mint) droop very soon after arriving home from the nursery and to have bad luck even with those little air plants that need nothing at all to thrive.

But I do love garden stores, maybe for the smell of green and dirt, maybe just for  the possibility that someday my thumb will turn from brown to green.  Imagine my joy when I first found Terrain, owned by the Anthropologie folks, on one of my treks out to the eastern part of the state. You see, this store is not only a gardener’s dream, but it’s  a haven for carefully selected treasures . . . beautiful jams, luscious oils, kitchy dishtowels, sweet smelling lotions and creams. It’s also the site of a delightful, outdoorsy cafe.

Isn't this so cool?

The perfect mix of plants, food and books.

On my last visit, I didn’t have tme to stop for a meal, so I made sure to work in some time on this trip.

Warm bread in a flowerpot. Honey butter with red salt. Lemon mango tea. Heaven.

Warm bread and honey butter topped with Hawaiian red salt arrived first, followed by a spring salad and then Gnocchi Parisienne. (I actually ordered the salad and gnocchi, they didn’t just “arrive” at my table.) The browned gnocchi were topped with seasonal veggies – pea tendrils, asparagus, fiddleheads, peas. . served on a ramp puree with house made goat ricotta.  Oh . . my . . goodness!  Even the lemon mango iced tea was fabulous.

Gnocchi Parisienne with Spring Vegetables . . . gorgeous.

If you’re a Burgher and summer at the Jersey shore, consider taking a detour to Terrain on your way home.  Make sure to leave some space in your trunk for all of the things you will just have to buy!

Ramps are here again!!

This morning, while sampling a recently pressed batch of Late Harvest Olio Nuevo from David Lagnese at the California Olive Oil Connection in the East Liberty Farmer’s Cooperative, I asked if he knew if any of the vendors had ramps yet. Just my luck!  The stall next to David’s, Zang Greenhouse, owned by Rick Zang, had one bunch left.  I’m not even sure I like these things that much, but I know that when it is ramp season, then it really means spring is here, and I like that a lot.

Ramps have a bold garlic/onion flavor, and once cleaned and chopped, they are terrific added to scrambled eggs, mixed in with melted butter for sauteing, or tossed into mashed potatoes.  Last year, at the Mason Dixon Ramp Festival, I had them in the form of a ramp burger and I also shared a bite of a plate of deep fried ramps.  If you have nothing going on tomorrow, drive down to catch the last day of the festival.  It’s in a rural area, right on the border of PA and WV, and it’s a relaxing way to spend a few hours.  They have music and  crafts, and of course, ramps.

All that needs to be said about ramps was recently in a story by Bob Batz at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  I hate to repeat something that has already been so well said. So here it is.

After my purchase this morning,  I felt confident that I have made it though the winter and that spring is really here!!

Ramp it up

I’ve read about them for years, but this was the first time I tasted them. Ramps.  Those pungent scallion-like first signs of spring for culinary buffs here in the Northeast. Venturing to the Mason Dixon Ramp Festival in Mt. Morris, PA, about 45 miles south of Pittsburgh, I found these garlicky buggers to be pretty darn tasty.  The bulb of the ramp resembles a scallion, but the leaves are larger and floppier, a bit like rabbit ears, and they can be used similarly to scallions and leeks.  According to the gentleman selling the fresh ramps at the festival, there are two types – ones with white stems and ones with purple stems. The purple stemmed ramps have a stronger odor.  I bought the purple ones. What the heck, if I’m going to try ramps, I might as well go for the high octane version.

The Ramp Festival offered all sorts of ramp filled goodies – home fries with ramps, sausage with ramps,  ramp soup, deep fried ramps,  . .. . . . a lot to choose from.  The longest line was for the deep fried ramps and they looked good, but, just so my stomach and I could have a pleasant ride back,  I opted for the ramp burger.

Deep Fried Ramps

There were ramp items to take home, too. Honey mustard with ramps and whiskey, ramp jelly and a beautifully wrapped Buerre de Ramps (see it in the first photo.)  This butter, mixed with lemon zest, chopped ramps and salt, was rolled into small logs, making perfect circular slices when cut.  I put a bit on top of a grilled bison  steak for dinner and the flavor was incredible. The headiness of the ramps blended with the smooth taste of the butter and the grilled meat perfectly.

I haven’t seen ramps in the markets here, so if you want to try them, they can be ordered ( but do it fast .  . it’s a short season) through Earthy Delights at earthy.com or you can  visit a ramp festival. The website, kingofstink.com, lists all sorts of upcoming ramp events. Once in a while, a local restaurant gets hold of some ramps, and lucky for us, they’re on the menu (twice, no three times) at Kaya’s monthly vegetarian dinner this Wednesday, April 21. If you’ve never been to one of their veg dinners, you’re missing some inventive cuisine.

A P.S. from a blog I posted last week.  The May 2010 issue of Cooking Light Magazine lists twelve must-haves for May.  Fee Brother’s Bitters are included in the list.  I bought mine at DiBruno Brothers in Philly, but they can also be ordered from amazon.com.