The myriad of questions with asparagus

Asparagus by outsideoslo from the Seattlest Flickr Pool

This post originally appeared on Seattlest.

As spring arrives in Seattle, there are a few things that are like clockwork with the season. There will be the lament of the weather (really, this is an every season thing), the underachieving debut of our home nine Mariners, and the arrival of asparagus. There are few foods that signal the arrival of spring like seeing asparagus at your local market. It’s a uniquely wonderful vegetable, but it always raises questions. As in, how do I prepare it? What wine goes with it? And the biggie, why does it make my pee smell? Well dear readers, join us as we try to find some answers.

Asparagus is a great vegetable to work with as it is amenable to several different cooking techniques. Shave it raw as a salad. Toss it in olive oil, salt, and pepper and throw it on the grill. Do the same treatment and place it in a skillet. Heck, put a fried egg on top. Take a big batch and roast it. Drench it in a hollandaise or another rich sauce. The folks at Gilt Taste launched their new website with a recipe for salt & sugar cured asparagus poached in butter. It’s a versatile vegetable; steamed, boiled, pickled; asparagus can do it all.

But first things first, you’ll need to pick it out. You’ll find spears of pencil-width or those of finger-width. Some people say that the thinner ones will be more tender, while some find the thicker spears more flavorful. Next, you’ll need to take off the base of the spear. This is often woody, fibrous, and not tasty. Don’t eat this. Break it off by holding the base and the body of the stalk; it’ll snap at its natural breaking point. Now you can get cooking.

Ask any wine guy/girl a good wine pairing with asparagus and be prepared for some hemming and hawing. Why? Because of those green bitter flavors that are so prevalent. Couple this with their strong scent and you have a food that makes wine people freak out. In trying a wine with asparagus, look for something that can match the green herbal notes, something like Sauvignon Blanc or a bright Gruner Veltliner would step up to the challenge. Riesling or a Spanish Albarino would be good too. Or don’t try to get cute with wine and just have beer with it.

Ultimately, when the subject of asparagus comes up, the conversation will inevitably turn to why it makes your pee smell. When the mega-food guy Mark Bittman was on the Today show recently, Matt Lauer couldn’t resist and asked why it makes your pee smell. Basically, it comes down to some chemical compounds that are present in asparagus. Here is where it gets tricky; not all people will create the smelly pee. In studies, the ratios of smelly versus not varies. And it gets even trickier; in studies, some people can’t even smell the nastiness. Lucky them. If you’re in doubt, try some asparagus and get thee to the water closet. Asparagus has been known to make things stinky in 15 minutes.

There you have it. You now have ideas of what to eat with asparagus, what to drink with asparagus, and what your body does with asparagus. So head on out to your local farmer’s market and take in spring. Get some asparagus, grab a coat, and hope for the best with the Mariners.

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Get Figgins on your wine radar

Figgins courtesy of CellarTracker

This post originally appeared on Seattlest.

Mailing lists are an interesting and quirky part of the winery/consumer relationship. You want to get on them for the access and perks. The big guys, like Leonetti, have the clout and know you want to get on the list and keep a Mordor-level entrance wall to control who gets through. In some cases, it can take years of waiting to even sniff one. Which is why it’s interesting to have an opportunity to get on the ground floor of a winery, bypass the waiting list, and get in line for some wine. Which is one of the reasons why wine drinkers are excited for Figgins, the new wine from the folks that brought you Leonetti Cellars.

It’s fair to say that Leonetti Cellars is in the upper pinnacle of Washington wine. So when they do something new, like Figgins, it’s worth noticing. My first alert of this venture was through a newsletter update from the Figgins family last year. It was from Chris Figgins, CEO and Winemaker for Leonetti, and it highlighted their excitement for Figgins and their cattle company, Lostine Cattle Co. Both were exciting, but for wine people, the news about Figgins was more so.

So when the update came that FIGGINS (they went all caps) would be available next month, I was all in. They say that the wine will be a varietal blend from a single vineyard of estate grown grapes. They mention that it’s a parcel of land that is special in their eyes and will let them make a wine of Old World style and ethos. Okay then. Featuring Bordeaux varietals, it’s from a vineyard in Walla Walla with a soil comprised of silt. The notion of terroir is decidedly French, it’s a romanticized ideal of being able to taste a sense of place. That soil and place will come through in the wine; this is a goal of Figgins.

Back to that mailing list. I’m still waiting to get on the list for Leonetti. Who knows when I’ll get in with them. Which is why I’m looking forward to this new venture. Now that I know I can get in with Figgins, I can get Leonetti quality in a new brand. It may not be ‘Leonetti’, but Figgins is likely made by the same people, from grapes they select, and with a similar mentality. For those curious oenophiles, click away to get added to the list. The wine is released next month and I’m sure the Figgins people are excited to see what the demand will be. Crossing fingers that the supply will suffice.