No pink slime, no heat lamps, no freezer burn on this patty. This was one of the freshest pieces of meat I’ve ever seen. I ordered it at Local Roots, a farm to table restaurant in Roanoke, Virginia, where the folks aren’t kidding about local.
The menu actually names farms where the dishes originate. The duck breast is from Crescent Farms, the bison from Hollow Hill Farm. In the fifteen minutes between ordering my burger and its delivery, I probably could have driven to the pasture where it was raised, shook hands with the farmer, and met its cow cousins.
And it’s not just the meat that’s local. This super-duper burger was topped with a nose thrilling, breath killing aioli made with fresh, locally harvested ramps. Whoever combed Virginia's forests for these beauties deserves a reward and a big hug. The ramps were the centerpiece of one amazing sauce. It made the meal, and every time I saw the delectable, light green smear of it in the photo online, my mouth would fill with saliva and my stomach would leap with excitement.
By Thursday, I’d had enough. I picked up the phone and called Local Roots. When Diane Elliot, the owner, first answered the line, I sped through my name and the name of the website, all in one big word…
She barely had time to say, “Ah, okay,” before I started glowing about the hamburger and its special sauce. “The meat was incredible and the bun, perfect, and that ramp aioli was just out of this world. Really, great. And I’m wondering if you’d be willing the share the recipe, to publish it on my site.”
She didn’t have a chance to respond before I added, “Not the recipe for the whole burger. Just the recipe for the aioli. I mean, I could make a meal out of it by itself. Ha! It was, seriously, that good.”
Yes, I laughed at my own joke in the middle there. When I finally stopped talking, I heard no response, so I added, “I bet the folks who read The Revivalist would love it too.”
I don’t think Diane knew whether it was safe to speak or not. After a long pause, presumably waiting to see if I would start gushing again, she hesitantly said, “Uhm, yeah, could you hold for a minute?”
“Of course,” I said, enthusiastically, like I’d been waiting all day to listen to some hold music. There was a clunk as Diane sat the phone down but no tunes. All I could hear was a busy, restaurant—the thud of pans being hoisted from surface to surface, silverware clattering as tables were set, someone reciting the night’s specials.
I listened to this cacophony and realized that I’d made one stupid mistake. I’d called at the worst possible time. Diane and her crew were less than an hour away from their dinnertime opening, and there I was, asking about posting a recipe, which, when you think about, is a precious thing to a restauranteur. Recipes are Diane's bread and butter, and I wanted her to put one on a website that she probably hadn't read and probably couldn’t name because I’d said it so dang fast.
“I should just let her get back to work,” I thought, hovering my finger over the “End” button, but I thought better of it. Hanging up would only compound the rudeness, so I waited, doodling tight circles on the notepad in front of me and listening to the bustle at the other end of the line. The phone clunked again, and Diane was back. “I talked to the chef,” she said politely but fast, as if we had been talking all along, “and we’re okay with that. It’s fine.”
“Oh, really,” I asked unable to hide my surprise. I wasn’t sure if she was saying yes because she liked the idea or if she just needed to get this strangely eager man off of her phone. Either way, I took it!
I jotted down the ingredients and directions before she had a chance to change her mind and thanked her about twenty times. Diane was already a hero for making this delightful dish; now she’s a saint for sharing it.
So from Saint Diane and the kitchen at Local Roots, I am proud to present ramps aioli, a recipe that originated in the forests of Southwest Virginia and that was procured through a food addict’s enthusiasm.
LOCAL ROOTS RAMPS AIOLI
2 egg yolks
4 cloves of garlic confit
chopped ramps to taste
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon of lemon zest
1 teaspoon of dijon mustard
Have your ingredients at room temperature. In a blender, add the egg yolks, garlic cloves, and ramps. You might start off light on the ramps. They've got kick, and you can always add more as you taste the sauce.
Cover and blend at medium speed until smooth. With the blender running, remove the small cap on your lid and slowly drizzle in half of the olive oil.
Stop the blender and scrape down the sides of the jar. Cover.
Return to medium speed. Remove the small cap and add the lemon juice, the lemon zest, the mustard, and the remaining olive oil. As the sauce thickens, stop the blender to scrape down the sides again and taste.
Not rampy enough?
Gradually add more ramps until the aioli is light green and perfectly pungent. Blend until thick. Chill and serve.