Have you dusted off the cobwebs and fired up the grill? Is there dirt under your nails from digging in your garden? Did a cold beer or glass of wine on the porch hit the spot this weekend? Are you busy plotting all the ways to incorporate ramps and morels mushrooms into your weekly menu? Good. You're doing all the things we want you to be doing. Soak it up folks, spring is here!
Naturally, we're featuring a few of our most exciting springtime products this week! From fragrant and flavorful produce to fresh Michigan maple syrup to the tastiest cheese to pair with dry rosé, we can't hide our affinity for this most excellent season!
1. Yes Way Rose!
Why do we go gaga over the pink juice? For starters, nothing beats the excitement and anticipation of opening that first bottle of the newest vintage of rose early in the springtime. What we've gathered so far about growing conditions for 2014 is this: it was a very cool summer in major wine producing regions such as southern France, norther Italy and parts of Spain. August was extremely mild in these areas and virtually no warm weather occurred until into September. This resulted in an under-ripening of the grapes. Lucky for us rose lovers, under-ripe grapes deliver a punch of pleasing acidity to the wine! So, all's well. As you may know, this style of wine is meant to be drunk fresh, thus, you should be drinking 2014 roses now. Unlike other wines, every vintage of rose will vary immensely. So far this year, we're noticing tons of fresh raspberry, honey and a light floral presence.
Over the past few years, The Produce Station has emerged as Ann Arbor's hot spot for roses. Come in to check out our vast collection of roses from France, California, Spain, and more! Once you've worked through a few 2014 bottles, mix it up and enjoy rose as a cocktail ingredient! Try this recipe!
2. Dark Horse Brewing Co. Maple Syrup is back!
Known for brewing some of the most awesome beer in the state, Dark Horse has outdone themselves with their Michigan maple syrup! This is the good stuff- made from the sap of Michigan maple trees and nothing else. The tapping of maple trees is a timeless tradition here in Michigan. If you look close, you'll notice buckets and plastic hoses attached the trunks of large maples starting in mid-February, and if you're lucky, you'll get to taste the fruits of the tree starting in early spring. Did you know that it takes roughly 85 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup? If you're feeling adventurous and are utterly over the whole pancakes and waffles thing, try drizzling syrup over good vanilla ice cream or adding a few drops to your next Old Fashioned.
3. Jam ON! Gus and Grey's Southern Lovin'!
Okay, we admit it. We can't get enough of this totally amazing Michigan-made jam! Blackberry...bourbon...vanilla! A smooth sweetness from the bourbon and vanilla is balanced by a little sting of acidity from the fresh blackberries. It should come as no surprise that we are passionate about supporting local, small businesses producing GOOD, quality products. Our burgeoning relationship with Tara (the mastermind behind Gus and Grey) is a perfect example of this.
4. Cabot Clothbound Cheddar aka "The Cheese That Made Me a Believer".
When your cheesemonger readily volunteers her favorite cheeses, you listen. This cheddar is made by the renown Cellers at Jasper Hill in Greensboro, Vermont. It's crumbly texture and intense flavor, full of notes of grass, caramel, nuts and dried fruits, solidifies its spot at the very top of our cheesemonger's list. Do yourself a favor: pick up a slice of Cabot Clothbound, gently break it into small pieces and layer with sliced pear or apricot and the tiniest drizzle of local honey on a crispy cracker. You can thank us later.
5. Fiddlehead Ferns are a sure sign of spring!
These succulent coils are some of spring's finest treats! Their flavor ranges from asparagus- like to green bean-esque. Our best tips? Use fiddleheads quickly and prepare them simply. Their flavor and sturdy texture will fade quickly after you purchase them, so we recommend buying fresh fiddleheads, boiling in salted water for about 10 minutes to remove a little of their bitterness and soften the fiddleheads, then sauteing with butter and lemon before serving.
6.Tulips are the rock-stars of the cut flower world!
It's true, nothing says spring like a fresh bunch of pastel-colored tulips spilling out of an ornate glass vase on your dining room table. We are excited that our cut flower selection has steadily grown over the past few months, and right now is prime time for tulip bunches! We can't wait to bring you more and more varieties of rare and specialty cut flowers! Check out our Pinterest page for more floral inspiration!
7. Herb and Vegetable Plants A-Plenty!
As warm weather inches closer, our State Street Garden Center grows daily with a multitude of green goodies. One of the first batches of plants to show up are herbs and veggies! If you're itching to get your green thumb on, lettuces and herbs in particular are ideal for container gardens! Now's the time to come in to grab your herb plants since the rare varieties tend to go quickly! We're still predicting a few below freezing temps overnight this week, so hold back on putting your plants into the ground. Click here to check out a few photos of our newest herb and veggie plants!
8. If you only indulge in one spring vegetable, let it be Michigan-Grown RAMPS.
Ramps: spring’s finest luxury! These slender, leafy, wild onions are the forest’s first delicacies of springtime. Ramps were prized by early North American settlers for their bright, garlicky flavor- especially delightful after a bland winter diet! Nowadays, foodies and chefs alike jump at the first sight of ramps to sprinkle into their springtime dishes or for pickling purposes to prolong their short season! These Michigan-grown, early spring ramps have tender leaves the perfectly subtle garlic-onion flavor. Try simply topping an omelet with the slivered leaves! Also try thinly slicing a small bunch of ramps to fold into your next batch of biscuits for a savory flair!
Try this fresh and comforting recipe:
Browned and Braised Chicken with Ramps and Charred Onions
12 medium red skin potatoes, roughly chopped
Pinch chili powder
1 tbs. olive oil
4 knob onions, sliced in half lengthwise
2 tbs. rice vinegar
3 tbs. grapeseed oil
4 skin-on Amish chicken breasts
1/4 c. finely chopped shallots
1 bunch ramps, leaves and bulbs thinly sliced
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 c. dry white wine
1 c. chicken stock
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tbs. thyme leaves
1 tbs. butter
Salt and pepper
1. Preheat oven to 400*. Toss potatoes with chili powder, salt, pepper and olive oil. Spread on baking sheet and roast until soft, roughly 25 minutes.
2. While the potatoes roast, warm a cast iron pan over high heat. Drizzle knob onions with rice vinegar, salt and pepper. Coat pan with 1 tbs. grapeseed oil and, once hot, place onions cut side down in pan and let cook for 8-10 minutes before flipping. Let onions char lightly on their backsides, about 4-5 minutes. Take onions out of pan and set aside. Reduce heat to medium-high.
3. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Coat hot cast iron with remaining grapeseed oil and brown chicken, skin side down, for about 8-10 minutes or until deeply golden. Remove chicken and set aside.
4. In the same cast iron pan, saute shallots and ramps for 1-2 mintues, or until soft. Add the balsamic vinegar, wine, stock, lemon zest and thyme to the pan and let cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes to cook out some of the alcohol. Add chicken back into the wine-stock mixture and transfer entire pan into the oven.
5. Let chicken braise in the oven until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Once cooked, remove chicken from wine-stock sauce and set aside.
6. Return the wine-stock sauce to the stove and let reduce over medium-high heat, stirring, for about 10 minutes. Add the butter at the very end and stir to incorporate.
7. Layer the chicken breasts over the roasted potatoes and charred onions and top with sauce. Garnish with thinly sliced ramp leaves.