FIDDLEHEAD FERN GNUDI AT THE MARROW
The snapped-off tips of unfurled ostrich-fern fronds—prized for their grassy flavor and toothsome crunch—are among spring’s most elusive crops, grown for a short season (about three weeks in May) in deep, damp woods. Harold Dieterle crowns pillowy ricotta gnudi with the curlicue fiddleheads. Tender English peas and translucent radish ribbons add another garden hit, while salty Pecorino shavings and sumptuous emulsified butter sauce curb the ferns’ slight vegetal bitterness. 99 Bank St between Greenwich and Hudson Sts (212-428-6000). $14.
STINGING-NETTLE SOUP AT GWYNNETT ST.
No need to grab the antihistamines—the bristly, harsh bite of these springtime leaves is tempered with a quick blanching (though not poisonous, contact with a raw nettle can result in day-ruining irritation). At avant-garde Gwynnett St., the vexing greens in this woody soup are downright delicate. Forest-green clam-kombu broth is poured tableside over a tumble of nettle, dotted with plump bivalves, doubling down on fresh-from-the-sea brininess. Silky strands of the plant give the bowl a rich, earthy funk, which is brightened by parsley. 312 Graham Ave between Ainslie and Devoe Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (347-889-7002). $15.
FAVA BEAN RISOTTO AT CHARLEMAGNE
This legume may have gained notoriety as Hannibal Lecter’s go-to side dish (paired with a nice chianti, of course), but smooth favas are anything but bloodcurdling. Dubbed the king of beans, the buttery emerald seeds are right at home at this regally named spot, swelling creamy risotto to even heartier heights. Chef Jodi Bernhard laces the luscious rice with nutty Grano Padano, a deft match for the al dente beans, while shoestring strips of salty, rosy serrano ham counter the favas’ natural sweetness. 679 Greenwich St at Christopher St (646-558-5623). $20.
PISTACHIO CAKE WITH RHUBARB SORBETTI AT LOCANDA VERDE
Pastry superchef Karen DeMasco highlights the lip-puckering sourness of ruby-hued rhubarb—popping up at farmers’ markets until September—as a delicious foil for her pistachio cake. Sticky-moist and subtly nutty, a thick wedge of the pale-green cake is smartly paired with refreshing rhubarb sorbet and a chunky cherry-rhubarb conserve. An airy fluff of pistachio cream and crunchy nuts tame the rhubarb’s signature tang. 377 Greenwich St between Franklin and North Moore Sts (212-925-3797). $11.
ABBYVILLE POTATO SALAD AT MARIETTA
With their paper-thin skins and firm, sweet flesh, freshly harvested young potatoes—in season from April through July—are a crisp, clean base for this refreshing salad. Thin disks of petite purple, white and yukon gold spuds are arranged like a blossom, piled with kale ruffles, sweet Vidalia slices and vibrant early green beans. A light, lemony vinaigrette brightens the vegetables, complemented with dots of sharp, acidic Dijon. 285 Grand Ave between Clifton Pl and Lafayette Ave, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn (718-638-9500). $8.
BRAISED PEA GREENS AT MISSION CHINESE FOOD
Szechuan spice maestro Danny Bowien gives dainty, mild-mannered pea greens some serious heft. In this deep, nuanced soup, a tangle of the silky, wilted vines—a staple of Chinese stir-fry—receives a fiery lift courtesy of fermented chili and Old Bay–seasoned peanuts. Nutty adzuki beans and hunks of kabocha squash, saturated to softness in the robust pumpkin broth, cool the Scoville units to a pleasant tongue-tingling level. 154 Orchard St between Rivington and Stanton Sts (212-529-8800). $13.
GOLDEN MORELS AT MAISON PREMIERE
At this Williamsburg hot spot, oyster-slurpers can find one of spring’s most sought-after delicacies alongside their beloved bivalves: the golden morel. Sautéed bulbs of smoky Oregon mushrooms come sponged in a whipped Normandy velouté, a velvety saffron-flecked sauce padding the morels’ honeycomb ridges. Fat stalks of braised asparagus—a fellow harbinger of spring—and fleshy poached oysters prove a sweet contrast with the earthy, trufflelike gems. 298 Bedford Ave between Grand and South 1st Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (347-335-0446). $13.
Between The Bread
Between the Bread started as owner Ricky Eisen’s corporate catering company, and eventually expanded into three Manhattan eateries serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, if you’re hungry early enough. The menu changes seasonally, as the company focuses on locally sourced and exceptionally fresh ingredients. On a recent visit, it included breakfast options like overnight oats with cinnamon, walnuts, chia seeds and berries ($7.50) and an asparagus-mushroom frittata ($5.75). For lunch or dinner, you’ll have to choose between sandwiches like the Chrysler with grilled chicken, caramelized onions, avocado and bacon ($9.75), salads like the Chelsea with grilled salmon, fennel, frisee and watercress ($12.50) and “seasonal plates” composed of your choice of protein and two sides ($11.50–$13.25). Still hungry? Snag one of their whoopie pies ($1.50 for a small, $3 for a large) or butterscotch blondies ($1.75 for a small, $3.50 for a large) for dessert.
Venue says: “Our chefs create specials daily & we rotate our vegetables & grains monthly. We believe in eating natural & seasonal foods that fill you up”