The Next Big Ingredient: Sucrine Lettuce

What's the culinary scene's next ramp? Is ricotta the new burrata? Grits the new polenta? Menu Spotting searches the country's restaurants, bars, and farmers' markets, revealing the next big ingredient coming soon to a plate near you.

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The Ingredient: Sucrine Lettuce (aka Lactuca sativa)

What: Rooted in the French word for "sugar," sucrine (sugar lettuce sounds better) is a smaller variety of romaine with soft, silky leaves, buttery texture, and, as the name suggests, a sweet-ish flavor. Chef Tien Ho at Momofuku Ssam in NYC describes it as a complex lettuce with bitter flavors on the finish that help cut the rich fat in the restaurant's crispy pig's head torchon. For David Kinch, chef at Manresa in Los Gatos, CA, sucrine reminds him of a cross between a Bibb/Little Gem lettuce with the structure of Romaine. "I really like sucrine when it bolts and starts to go to seed. You can take the elongated core of the lettuce, peel it, and steam it--it is as delicate as asparagus and just as delicious," says Kinch.

When: Right now in the Northeast; out West it's in season in the fall

Where to try it: For now, you'll find sucrine primarily on the menus at some of NYC's better restaurants. That's in large part thanks to celebrity farmer Rick Bishop of Mountain Sweet Berry Farm who sells the lettuce at the Union Square Greenmarket. Kinch grows his own at Manresa's on-site garden. Here's how some top restaurants are serving sucrine:

Lever House, NYC: Sucrine lettuce and roasted baby beet salad with creamy tarragon dressing, crushed almonds, and pickled onion
Hearth, NYC: Sucrine lettuce with marinated white anchovies, croutons, and pickled shallots
Momofuku Ssam, NYC: Crispy Pig's Head Torchon with Sucrine and starfruit
P*ong, NYC: Local Sucrine Hearts with avocado-Green Goddess dressing, an white anchovy crouton
Jean-Georges, NYC: Sucrine and wild arugula salad, cherry tomatoes, and pecorino vinaigrette.
Manresa, Los Gatos, CA: Abalone and slow-poached egg with sucrine lettuce

Seeds of Change sells sucrine seeds if you want to grow your own.

Market Potential Prediction: While this year's sucrine sightings have been minimal, its profile is on the rise. NY Mag featured the green last summer and for many years it has been a staple at some of Paris' best bistros. Might bags of sucrine soon hit the supermarkets? Get on it Earthbound Farm!

Navigate the farmers' market like a pro with expert tips from this informative Bon Appétit podcast.

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