Spring ingredients


Spring has arrived, it is baseball season, new South Philly restaurants will be opening soon and spring ingredients will replace the winter stash of Brussels sprouts and root vegetables.

I am a lifelong Phillies fan. Ticket holders can still get popcorn, peanuts and Cracker Jack, but Citizens Bank Park is now offering a Phillies red wine by Chaddsford Winery, my favorite Federal Donuts and fried chicken and McNally’s Schmitter. I would not pass up a good hot dog or cheesesteak either.

According to its Website, Laurel, 1617 E. Passyunk Ave., is accepting reservations for June. By then Nick Elmi’s acclaimed restaurant and the delightful Bibou, 1009 S. Eighth St., will go all prix fixe.

When it opened in 1933, the Triangle Tavern, 1338 S. 10th St., won instant renown for its mussels. I loved them when I first went there years ago and can’t wait for a return visit.

Last year, chef/proprietor Joncarl Lachman, of Noord, 1046 Tasker St., told me he wanted to open a French/Moroccan restaurant. The good news is he found a spot in the Italian Market. It will be called Neuf, French for nine, and will occupy 943 S. Ninth St. This concept will fill a much-needed niche. I look forward to lamb, goat and marvelous spices in tagines and vegetables. I hope he will offer a bísteeya, a Moroccan dish of shredded chicken, ground almonds, cinnamon, spices covered with phyllo and baked in the oven. It is sprinkled with ground cinnamon and sugar, too. Neuf will have a full-service bar.

Los Jimenez Mexican Cocina, 2654 S. Sixth St., will offer tacos al pastor, the classic from Mexico City that is made from grilled pork, pineapple, onions and cilantro.

Big Gay Ice Cream, coming to 521 S. Broad St., will feature soft-serve selections.

Fourth and Cross, 1527 S. Fourth St., will serve up American bistro fare by using ingredients from local farms.

Kermit the Frog made “It’s not easy being green” famous. But he warbles that “green is the color of spring.” Chefs look forward to spring because they can let their creativity shine with the arrival of these much-anticipated vegetables.

I noticed Will BYOB, 1911 E. Passyunk Ave., is featuring duck breast with fiddlehead ferns and tangy rhubarb. The ferns look like the spiral end of a violin and taste like a cross between asparagus and okra.

Spring peas will soon be in season. They are delicate in flavor, but have a short season. Perhaps French restaurants such as Fond, 1537 S. 11th St., and Laurel will offer the classic spring pea and lettuce salad I prepare this time of year. Ramps will pop up on the menu. They are akin to wild leeks but much smaller and can replace pearl onions in coq au vin.

I hope South Philly chefs will incorporate Jersey fresh asparagus in their dishes. They are a tad thick but filled with flavor.

The non-green treats will soon be here, too. I love rhubarb. Because it is so tart, a bit of sugar, agave or honey will brighten up its flavor. By late May, if we are lucky, Jersey blueberries will be here. Pastry chefs will create pies, cakes and other pastries. By June, luscious strawberries will tempt our taste buds.

Then, of course, we have the Lancaster County and Jersey tomatoes. They have a longer season than the berries, and chefs always make fine use of them.

So if “Spring is bustin’ out all over,” it will be a fine season in South Philly. I look forward to visiting all these new restaurants. And I will bring my appetite.