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Asparagus at last!

Spring seems to take forever to arrive some years, or maybe that’s just an illusion of age. There have been teasing inklings for a while now – the sun battling harder against the north winds, and the daffodils around the Lough – but you can’t eat daffodils. it’s true we had an incredible crop of sprouting broccoli this year, both in quantity and quality. And I should really have written here to acknowledge the arrival of white, blanched seakale which Ultan grew and tended so carefully over the winter, and which we had on the menus for three weeks. Thankfully, someone else remarked on it by writing to Food & Wine magazine. It was a joy to be able to cook with it and, as the writer said, it would be great if more restaurants – and their suppliers – were to seek out this amazingly beautiful and subtle tasting gem of spring time.

Last week, however, we got our first delivery of Ultan’s asparagus. Three kilos to start with, then five more a few days later. This week, it will be more like 25kg so you’ll see it spread across the menus as they days and nights warm up. For me, asparagus is the most optimistic sign of spring and everything that will follow on from it. For anyone who only knows asparagus as a supermarket vegetable, the taste of the real thing, from a local source and freshly picked, is a revelation. It’s a pity that it’s not easy to find local asparagus as very few people produce it on a commercial scale. If you grow it at home, you’ll know how much tending and weeding an asparagus patch requires. Ultan keeps a quarter acre and both he and Lucy have spent many a day over the last nine months bent over in that patch to remove any competition that the plants might have from weeds. The result is the best asparagus I’ve ever tasted and it’s an honour to have it on the Paradiso menus.

From next week, all going well, we should also have enough to sell a few bunches from the small shop in the dining room, so you can take a bunch home after lunch or dinner and taste the difference in your own kitchen.

Posted on: 5 May 2008

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