Chef John Little is rolling out a new monthly food and drink pairing special at Harman's Eat & Drink: Each month, guest will be able to order a trio of small plates with three beverages — most likely beer or wine — for $20. Each month will focus on a seasonal ingredient and a single brewery, winery or wine style. This month's menu features wild ramps and beers from River North Brewing, but Little says future pairing could include different breweries or a flight of roses with ingredients at the height of their season.
So what exactly is a ramp? "It's like If one shallot and one garlic had a beautiful baby," explains Little. "The tops are grassy and light and the roots are more pungent, so it's super-fun to work with."
The three featured small plates featured in May are braised lamb tots with ramp romesco; short rib kielbasa with ramp mustard crema and ramp gastrique; and a ramp fritter with ham cream and black garlic.They are paired with River North J Marie Imperial Saison, Hoppenberg Belgian Double IPA and Ketill, a new, light and refreshing sour table beer. Little notes that the bold flavors of River North's beers go excellently with food.
"Beer dinners or wine dinners are so played out," adds Little, "that it's hard to get people excited about them." The new tasting special is his way of offering a pairing experience at a lower price point and without the time commitment required by most formal pairing dinners.
The ramps on this month's menu are foraged in Tennessee and are used both raw and cooked; cooking allows the sharp, pungent flavors to mellow. The lamb tots are a variation on the celery root and potato tots already offered on Harman's standard menu, only with the addition of lamb and ramps. Lamb neck is braised until the meat is soft enough to shred and then mixed with celery root and potato puree, braising liquid and fresh ramps. The natural gelatin in the lamb helps the mixture set up so that it can be sliced into squared and fried into tots.
The River North and ramps menu is available Tuesday through Sunday during dinner hours through the end of May, when a new trio will be created.