Though supermarkets have made asparagus a year-round crop, nothing compares to the spring, hometown harvest. “I don’t serve asparagus all the time,” says chef Alex Lira of James Island’s popular neighborhood restaurant, The Lot. “Our menus are driven by seasonal offerings, and like any produce that travels a great distance before it reaches your plate, out-of-season asparagus are less flavorful and vibrant in color and texture than fresh, local ones.”
In the Lowcountry, Lira says prime time for this edible member of the lily family is late February through May. He sources The Lot’s asparagus from Ambrose Family Farm, supplementing as necessary from GrowFood Carolina. Look for your local supply at farm stands and farmers markets, Earth Fare, or Whole Foods.
Like his cuisine at The Lot, the recipes he shares are a balance between rustic and refined. Though he may use a complex technique, like smoking eggs for his smoked egg vinaigrette, his goal is to have ingredients speak for themselves. The smoke-kissed creaminess of the vinaigrette contrasts nicely with the snap of simply blanched spring stalks.
Of his roasted asparagus with asparagus purée, he says, “it’s the juxtaposition of flavors and textures of the cast-iron-charred asparagus and the fresh, unadulterated purée that makes the dish.” In the final recipe, asparagus and clam nage, “the clams are the backbone of the delicate, herb-forward broth,” he explains. “The asparagus brings its great flavor, adding bright texture and color.”
Dishing it up with Chef Alex Lira
RESTAURANT: The Lot
FIRST F&B GIG: “First ever was at Carytown Burgers & Fries (you gotta start somewhere) in Richmond, Virginia. First ‘real’ job was at Lemaire, also in Richmond.”
EDUCATION: Tidewater Culinary in Norfolk, Virginia, and working at Tom Colicchio’s Craft in New York
FAVORITE LOCAL INGREDIENT: “Strawberries; you can taste the most amazing difference in a local strawberry.”
RECIPE HE'LL TAKE TO THE GRAVE: “I’m an open book.”