Hungry Hound: The Bristol delights with seasonal, hyperlocal menu in Bucktown

CHICAGO (WLS) -- There are technically only two weeks left of spring, but since winter was so brutal, a lot of crops are going to be late this year. That means you'll still be able to find plenty of ramps, favas, spring peas and asparagus, and if you missed seeing green on your plates, there's one restaurant in Bucktown where they going all-in this season.

For more than a decade, The Bristol has been a beacon for seasonal, hyperlocal cooking. They've been big supporters of the Green City Market, and this time of year, the greens are everywhere on the plate, in all kinds of forms. I took a closer look at four current items on their menu, each utilizing some of late Spring's bounty.

Like shining beacons on a cold, dark night, the sight of asparagus, ramps and peas comes to local chefs like a savior. At the 10 year-old Bristol, in Bucktown, they use all of the above.

EXTRA COURSE: Basque Cake at The Bristol
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In Steve's Extra Course Video, he takes a look at the Basque Cake that has been on their menu almost since Day 1, some 10 years ago.

"It is the best time of the year, and I think when winter is so bad like it was this year, we look even more forward to it," said Todd Stein, the Chef at The Bristol. "It's ramps, it's peas, it's fava beans, it's artichokes, it's all those things that really spread out of the ground this time of the year and it's the first things we get to see and I get really excited."

Ramps are always up first in the spring; here the leaves are used to make a dip.

"They're great any way you prepare them - pickled, grilled, raw, shaved - we make a dip out of them, so like onion dip, caramelized onion and then ramp dip, that we serve with a chip that's dusted with salt and vinegar and onion powder," Stein said.

Pea risotto gets both raw and pureed peas - as well as some butter - plus Parmiggiano-Reggiano.

"So it's finished with goat cheese that we make ourselves that we then finish with some shallot ash that we fold into the goat cheese and pea shoots and smoked ham," he said.

Ramps are also used in a green goddess dressing that graces a plate of pan-seared trout with barbecued carrots and radishes. Then there's purple asparagus - giant stalks are sauteed with ham, as well as pickled ramps. A ham aioli is first shmeared across the bottom of a plate, followed by the cooked asparagus, slices of ham and a handful of sunflower sprouts. A barely-cooked, quivering egg is nestled on top. Cutting into the dish is a study in the season.

"So you'll see green and purple and brightness on our menu," Stein said.

The Bristol
2152 N. Damen Ave.
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