Posted on

Where to Find Fiddleheads and Ramps on the Menu

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.

Lock 50
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.

deadhorse hill
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
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!

Posted on

Farmhouse Dinner Paired with World Class Draughts

Fried Fish Sandwich and Hill Farmstead Mary from Armsby Abbey on Main Street in Worcester, MA

Sarah Connell joined the front of house staff at Armsby Abbey in 2013.

Look around before dinner service at Armsby Abbey and you’re sure to spot servers sipping from tasting glasses and jotting down careful notes. Observe bartenders sniffing intently at IPA’s and rattling off hop varieties as they try to detect aromas of grapefruit zest or dried flowers or wet grass. The Abbey’s employees study the chalkboard like dedicated students before an exam in hopes of finding you exactly what you came for, or better yet, turning you on to something new.

Multi-Grain “Risotto” with Dunham Saison Rustique from Armsby Abbey on Main Street in Worcester, MA
Multi-Grain “Risotto” with Dunham Saison Rustique from Armsby Abbey on Main Street in Worcester, MA

A suggested pairing appears for every dish on the menu at Armsby Abbey where owners, Alec Lopez and Sherri Sadowski, pride themselves on curating one of the most exclusive draught lists in the world. Menu items are sourced from local farms and as a result, the farmhouse dinner offerings change frequently. This time of year, Armsby Abbey’s menu is rich with the wild delicacies of late spring like ramps and fiddleheads.

Pair the Multi-Grain “Risotto” with Dunham Saison Rustique, a blonde, Belgian-inspired farmhouse ale. The Abbey’s unique take on risotto consists of a blend of spelt and cornmeal from Four Star Farms and Maine Grain oats. Traditionally, saisons were brewed on Belgian farms with the leftover grains, making this pairing a natural marriage of rustic flavors. The tangy, herbaceous characteristics of this beer stand up nicely to the ramps, thinly sliced radishes, pickled onions and tightly spiraled fiddleheads that populate this perfect spring risotto.

Next, order the Fried Fish Sandwich and Hill Farmstead Mary. The fish itself is beer battered with Hill Farmstead and served with a spicy tartar sauce and root vegetable slaw on an ale roll from Crust Bakeshop. It is said that the secret to Hill Farmstead’s elegant pilsner, Mary, is the well water at Shaun Hill’s family farm in Greensboro, Vermont. One clean and refreshing sip of Mary balances the richness of the fried fish sandwich like none other and boldly assures us that summer is on its way.

Armsby Abbey is located on 144 Main Street in Worcester. Inquire about reservations for parties of six or more by calling (508)795-1012.