In Defense Of Ramps

I never thought it would happen to me. Like most writers and editors, I'm a pretty cynical guy, so I tended to side with chefs like Michael Schwartz and Tyler Kord, both of whom have publicly skewered the ramp craze via Food Republic. Heck, I even took pride in publishing their anti-ramp rhetoric; take that, overly hyped seasonal produce!

Then this weekend happened. Below the photos, I repent. To ramps. Which I now love.

My sauteed ramps with goat cheese on toasted baguette.

Live from this past weekend's Ramp Fest in Hudson, New York.

Upstate New York restaurants got creative with their ramp condiments at Ramp Fest.

My ramp transformation started innocently enough. I was grabbing a drink at Local 111, a favorite restaurant in Philmont, NY, and started chatting with chef Josephine Proul. Eventually, the talk turned to foraging, and she quickly ducked back into the kitchen and emerged with an oversized clear plastic bag filled with what looked like a bunch of dirt-covered scallions. I accepted her gift of foraged ramps and went on my way.

That night at the farmhouse that my fiancée and my friends and I had rented, I happened across an Instagram photo that FR assistant editor Jess Kapadia had recently posted of a ramp and goat cheese toast by ABC Kitchen. I realized that I had already bought a delicious-looking baguette from the amazing Hudson bakery Loaf, and a local goat cheese, so I could easily replicate the dish. I guess it came out pretty good because every goat cheese ramp toast was soon devoured.

The next day, we headed to the Basilica, a cool old 19th century industrial warehouse space that looks like someone paid a million dollars to AvroKO to design, for Ramp Fest. Yes, Ramp Fest. (In a curious aside, for those who care, the space is co-owned by famed rock bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur of Hole, along with her husband.) As a ramp skeptic, I'd been unaware of past Ramp Fests in Hudson, where mostly upstate chefs come together to put this wild onion to use in spring recipes for a few curious eaters. But times as they are, it's hard not to know about a Ramp Fest these days (in truth, I'd been tipped off by our own Alimentary Canal columnist and Ramp Fest veteran Zakary Pelaccio), and luckily, my friends were game for the experience.

We arrived to find long lines. I headed for the bar to grab some cans of Pork Slap, then queued up for ramp pizza at the Truck Pizza pizza truck from Hudson (sorry for the repetition — is this a side effect of eating too many ramps?!). As I waited, my companions brought me various sandwiches incorporating ramp mustard, ramp mayo and other ramp-laden condiments. It was all damn tasty.

I eventually found Pelaccio in the crowd; he was happily serving lamb with some sort of ramp sauce and local whiskey with ramp picklebacks. At least I think. At this point, I was a bit ramped out.

Back in Brooklyn Sunday night, I foraged through my weekend leftovers and pulled out that bag of ramps, then cleaned them and chopped up the bulbs and leaves. I boiled some spaghetti, sauteed the ramps, sprinkled in some salt and crushed red pepper and cheese, and I had one last personal ramp fest before the weekend came, sadly, to a close.

I am now a man transformed. Sure, all you haughty food bloggers and in-the-know chefs can hate on the trendiness of ramps. They're an easy target. But after a winter of same-y root vegetables, it's hard to deny the overt taste of spring in a dish that features ramps. My versatile, new favorite ingredient. You'll always have a place in my kitchen.