What's Popping Up On Plates?

by Melody Kettle

Fascino's Zucchini BlossomsWhat do you think of when you hear zucchini blossoms, ramps, and lamb? Spring of course! 

While it may not be apparent in the air, spring is upon the menus at many of our local restaurants! So what are our local chefs excited about this season?  There are the perennial favorites like, lamb, veal, halibut, but it’s the produce that really makes spring a unique culinary time.  Ramps, zucchini blossoms, spring onions, spring garlic, baby carrots, peas and fiddlehead ferns!

At Fascino, 331 Bloomfield Ave., Montclair, Chef Ryan DePersio is reprising his signature dish, Crab stuffed Zucchini Flower with yellow tomato marmalade.  DePersio doesn’t obscure the delicate, golden, blossoms in a heavy breadcrumb fry, but instead opts for the much lighter Japanese Tempura.  When combined with the mellow sweetness of crabmeat, the tender flavor of the blossom is truly enhanced. 

For this seasonal gem, Kathy Brindle, of Gary’s Wine and Marketplace recommends:

Since the tempura is lightly fried and the main component is seafood, something bubbly and crisp would work well with this dish. Because the tomato marmalade probably has a hint of sweetness you can’t go totally bone dry. I would pair this with Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rose, a sparkling wine from California crafted from a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes that is dry but  has a nice roundness and fruity berry notes that add a little extra flavor. $20.99

DePersio also added a new dish; butter poached lobster with English pea and basil risotto.  The spring menu will also feature, a broad, beautiful, freshly made spinach pappardelle with braised veal. For the carnivore, Fascino is offering lamb shank with baby carrots, baby spinach, and black olive potato puree. 

RampsI chatted with our own Top Chef, Ariane Duarte, owner of CulinAriane, 33 Walnut Street, Montclair.  Like many chefs, Ariane is excited about “Ramps! Ramps! Ramps!” 

A ramp is a spring delicacy that is sometimes referred to as a wild leek.  The bulb appears similar to a scallion, but unlike a scallion, the leaf is very broad, and tender, with a flavor profile somewhere between garlic and onion.  According to Ariane,

[w]e all love ramps because the flavor is just great and we could only get them for maybe four weeks.  We did a special last night where we grilled them.  I made a vinaigrette, and put it on Burrata with broccoli rabe. It was to die for!

 In addition to this fleeting green, here’s what you could expect from the Spring Menu at CulinAriane:

It’s been really beautiful. I lightened up the menu not so much, but just enough. We’re getting beautiful spring peas; chefs love spring onions, and spring garlic.  And also the little nettles, and the Fiddlehead ferns.

In addition to the green produce, CulinAriane is bringing in lamb, and halibut from Alaska and Boston. On the spring menu, and worthy of salivation is a Rabbit dish, served Yukon Gold potato gnocchi, baby carrots, pearl onion confit carrot juice reduction, herb sour cream. 

Fiddlehead FernFor the perfect bottle to accompany Ariane's Rabbit dish, head over to Amanti Vino to pick up that perfect bottle of wine.  For Ariane’s Rabbit dish, Sharon Sevrens, proprietor of Amanti Vino, suggests Domaine Michel Caillot, at $29.99, Caillot, or, if you prefer reds, Le Potazzine Toscana Rosso, a baby Brunello at $21.99.

Print this article, and bring to Amanti Vino to receive 10% off either suggested bottles.

Stay tuned to Hot From The Kettle and Montclair Patch for more updates on Spring Menus!