Saturday, May 21, 2005

On The Town, pt. 1

It was a bit of a whirlwind trip, but I managed to squeeze in a few of my favourite NY things.

Union Square market is a must for me. We went on Saturday after strolling among the throngs in Chinatown and browsing at the Chelsea Flea Market--two other perennial musts--and we were amply rewarded.

Though I love to eat out in NY, I also love to cook "at home." The same goes for any city I visit, it doesn't feel right unless I can shop for groceries and cook in some way. Even a riverside picnic counts. That evening we were planning to cook at Stephen's house.

I knew it was late in the season for ramps but I hoped against hope that some would be there. I speed-walked through the stands and scanned the tables. Only one farmer had any, and he only had three bunches left when I got to him. I bought a lovely bunch and relaxed a little. Now for dinner.

Stephen had gone off to find lilacs for the table, and I had no set idea about what to make for dinner. Then I spotted fresh horseradish. Suddenly things became clear. Steak with horseradish and potatoes, ramps, braised carrots, green beans and a salad. I found lovely fingerling potatoes--which are not readily available in Montreal for some reason--new garlic, perfect baby spinach and nasturtium flowers. I met back up with Stephen who was laden with lilacs and we crossed the street to the liquor store. There was a wine tasting which completely distracted me, and when I turned back Stephen had found a beautiful bottle: a Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Truth be told, the name meant nothing to me, but the label was nice and the woman who had helped him choose it assured me it would be perfect. It was.

We walked a block to a fancy grocery store and bought skirt steaks, cheeses (a blue, a camembert, and a semi-firm--sorry, I can't remember them exactly--I'm so bad with wine and cheese), carrots, green beans, and bread. It was hard to carry it all to the subway.

When we got home, we realized that neither of us had ever cooked steaks before. We threw them in a pan and seared them until they were medium rare. It was so easy. Dinner came together and was delicious. The wine was amazing. We got a chance to catch up and relax, and I met his friend Paige for the first time. It was a perfect evening.



Anonymous said...

When the season of the 'ramps' comes again, just to let you know that the state of North Carolina has an annual convention of the
"North Carolina Friends of the Ramp."

Matt K. said...

Um... what's a ramp?

Also, I've always worked off of the assumption that Quebec "grelots" were roughly equivalent to fingerlings. Have I been wrong on that count?

michelle said...

Anonymous, see you in North Carolina! Thanks for the tip.

Matt, now here you can see the main difference between my posts and Anthony's. If he had posted, you wouldn't need to ask what a ramp was. You would know its history, geography and maybe a few recipes. I am a bit, how can I put it, unthorough...
Ramps are wild leeks which actually are native to Quebec and the rest of the northeast. Why can't we find them here at our farmers' market? Probably because those who bother to harvest them can get better money for them elsewhere, like NY.
The leaves look sort of like Lily of the Valley, which is very poisonous. The bulbs look like green onion. They are sweet and strong, like an onion crossed with garlic. Delicious! We sauteed them with butter and salt until they were tender. Some people find them too pungent, so be warned before going all out with your own personal ramp festival.

Grelot is basically a name for any small, round new potato, while fingerling descibes any small, elongated new potato. The difference comes with the varieties. I got the Russian Banana fingerlings, which are yellowish and very sweet. After roasting, they become very soft and buttery. I love grelots for roasting, but a good fingerling... I will travel a ways for that.