How many ways can ramps be prepared? This is an excellent question. I know now that there are many more than 20. This small local plant that is oniony and garlicky can inspire chefs to reach for the mild, the pungent, the bizarre and the downright floor-banging fantastic.
In the pre-event quiet the 19th century factory is clean and ready for 20 + chefs to unload and display what will be on offer for the fifth annual Ramp Fest. It's located very near the Hudson Amtrak station.
A couple dozen volunteers form the bulk of the staff, and this year I decided to join the crew to see all the action up close and personal.
The biggest crowd yet!
It wasn't all hard work being a volunteer. There were plenty of opportunities to taste the delicious fare. Some of the beautifully crafted ramp treats were:
Another Fork in the Road - Ramp and lamb kofta
Ca'Mea - Galatina di pollo with ramp aioli
The Crimson Sparrow - ramp tofu, pork cheek lemon grass, wasabi
The Farmer's Wife - spring chowder of mussels, bacon, ramps and asparagus w/cornbread croutons
and the list went on and on. Everyone looked delighted as they went down the rows of serving tables and tried things no one had ever heard of before. In the hands of skilled chefs the ramp can be muted or a highlight.
The one I broke the "one and done" rule for was Gaskins ramp arancini - little crisped balls of rice with the perfect rice texture on the inside and a little garnish of bright green ramp aioli on top, like a little cap. This is the perfect food as far and I'm concerned and I returned to their table a few times for that scrumptious little bite.
The Fest had its first ever panel discussion, "Ramps and the Food Choices We Make" with Andreas Schneider of Hawthorne Valley, Sara Grady of Glynwood, Jori Emde and Zak Pelaccio of Fish and Game which used ramps as a "metaphor for the future of food."
As the festival wound down people lingered to enjoy the last of the offerings and the diffuse light in the old-fashioned industrial surroundings.
LorreBob sez: put the 6th annual Ramp Fest on your calendar and head down to Hudson in the spring next year. Everyone should try it at least once - to get the sense of what this little plant can inspire.
Below is the whole list if you are interested in the participating chefs and restaurants. Click on the image and you will get a size that is more reasonable.