Tuesday, May 18, 2010
A short but perfect season
In the far west of France, the region of Alsace has long been a source of geopolitical strife between France and Germany. While I would love recap a millennium of agony regarding what belongs to whom, which religion, whose language, and how it was ruled, it is far beyond the scope of this page.
Aside from the storybook beauty of Alsace, a culture vibrant with centuries of gifts bestowed from east, west, and south of itself, it makes remarkable wines both dry and sweet (Gerurztraminer, Muscat, Pinot Blanc, Pinto Gris, Reisling, Cremant d'Alsace, and Pinot Noir) and has a commitment to asparagus worth a trip in spring.
Restaurants spring up between April and June and the only item on the menu is asparagus, generally served with three sauces: Hollandaise, mayonnaise, and vinaigrette.
Alsatian's will drink only one wine along side their prized asparagus; well-chilled dry muscat. Whether or not you go in person, or recreate this beautiful meal at home, I suggest you follow suit; locals know their pairings.
Asparagus is imported for fine purveyors and restaurants only during the legitimate season from the west of France. Check the tags at the grocery store: Although Mexico and other locales produce white asparagus (achieved by growing in darkened boxes, rather than in the mounded nutrient-rich soil of western France), they are generally an inferior product and it is worth, even if it is a splurge to experience this meal, to get the truly tasty asparagus of France. The season is only from late April until June 22 each year, so be quick.
For more on the history of Alsace and the French and German populations therein, read here.