Sunday, May 3, 2009
It's spargel (white asparagus) season in northern Germany, and the country is obsessed with it.
Germany's roads are mostly free from billboards, so the hand-painted signs are even more noticeable: frisch spargel! Spargel menus! Spargel here!
Every restaurant I've gone to so far has had a special page of spargel dishes -- even a beer bar in Luneburg that had only about two pages of food to begin with. Of course, a spargel page isn't really necessary because nobody does a whole lot with spargel: It's either cream soup, or it's steamed whole. The menus list the accompaniments. I've had spargel with scrambled eggs with fresh herbs, spargel with ham, spargel with Canadian salmon. Some serve spargel with a hollandaise-like sauce; others with brown butter (that's homemade spargel, above, with a brown butter sauce.)
I don't know why we don't eat white asparagus in the States. Any asparagus plant that produces green asparagus could produce spargel. It's just a matter of depriving the shoots of light.
The result is a more delicate-tasting asparagus, and that may be why we don't eat it: green asparagus is more intense. That said, I really like spargel, and one of the reasons is that it's much more wine-friendly than green asparagus, against which I usually set New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and let 'em fight it out on my palate.
This being Germany, most places recommend Riesling with spargel, and I'm happy to follow that. Incidentally, it's really striking to me that the great majority of restaurant-list Rieslings here are trocken (dry). In the US we tend to think of Riesling from Germany as mostly sweet; that's OK, but I much prefer the trockens.
I have also had Sylvaner with spargel, a happy match, and Gruner Veltliner from Austria, which I think is probably the best of all so far. But I need to keep investigating spargel-wine matching, and that's going to mean eating a whole lot more spargel. Spargelpalooza!