Photo: Wasabi Prime
The recent beer renaissance in Asheville, N.C. has spawned a new vegetable.
Jacob Sessoms of Table, who earlier this year was shortlisted for a James Beard nomination, believes he's the only chef in the U.S. serving hop shoots, nicknamed "hops asparagus." Sessoms and co-chef Matt Dawes recently started sautéing the springtime delicacy with mushrooms, spritzing it with lemon and serving it over a johnny cake. "It's absolutely amazing," Sessoms says.
Hops asparagus occasionally shows up on menus in Europe, where Sessoms says gourmands pay $150 a pound for the feathery sprigs. But Sessoms and Dawes had never heard of it when a local farmer experimenting with hops production – a popular pastime in a region that's still hunting for a cash crop to replace tobacco -- offered to bring them a sample.
"We were like 'hell yeah, this stuff is crazy good'," Sessoms recalls.
Sessoms describes hops asparagus' appearance as "a cross between a marijuana bud and asparagus." He concedes the vegetable's bound to acquire cache in a town still crowing about tying for first in Examiner.com's Beer City USA contest.
"My style is not to be really sales-oriented, but this is so exciting," says Sessoms, who's sent out a steady stream of tweets about his latest side dish. "We're the only restaurant in the States doing this."