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Wild Mushrooms


JuneBacon
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I have a question for the service people on here and then a question for us common folk. I have recently fallen in love with wild mushrooms, if they are on the menu at a restaurant only as a side, it usually temps me to order that item. I bought a nice variety pack of dried mushrooms from Costco, and the hard to find (in the canister) morels are just plain delicious. I use them in pasta and a roasted garlic and wild mushroom pizza which is great.

Are most restaurants using fresh wild mushrooms from local farms? Or do they often used dried? I'm talking about any restaurant that isn't provided for by Sysco. Like say .... Mike Isabella's Sweet Corn Agnolotti w/ Chanterelles.

I know the dried versions of some of these mushrooms are just so expensive, it never makes sense for me to cook with them at home, even though I am tempted to spend $60 for one meal of morels.

On another note; does anyone know of any local farmer's markets that have a nice large variety of fresh wild mushrooms available? What is your favorite way to prepare them (dried or fresh) ?

I recently had them as a side at Micheal Symon's Lola. I asked if the chef could cook them in the "roasted garlic bone marrow butter" that was served with the rib-eye but the waitress said this was not possible. They certainly didn't need them though, since they tasted like they were cooked in butter, duck fat, and thyme. If you want to die young, go for a meal at Lola.

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Can a cultivated mushroom be considered simultaneously wild? True wild mushrooms are gathered in the wild, for the most part, not grown on local farms. Morel season in the US is over-- "May is morel month in Michigan," as it is here in the mid-Atlantic region. Most of the truly wild mushrooms available here are foraged in the Pacific Northwest or Canada and then sold to wholesale brokers who distribute them. Restaurants typically use only fresh or dried wild mushrooms from commercial sources, due to liability concerns. You can often find fresh wild mushrooms for sale at Whole Foods or Balducci's.

The available farmed "wild varieties" of mushrooms are generally shiitake, maitake (hen of the woods) and oyster. The mushroom stand at Courthouse Market in Arlington on Saturdays and at Dupont Market on Sunday sells a few different varieties of cultivated "wild" mushrooms, as well: honey, lobster, black trumpet, etc. Occasionally, they have true wild, foraged mushrooms for sale. There may be some commercial cultivation developing of chanterelles and porcinis (boletus edulis), but these two are generally foraged in the wild. Personally, I prefer dried porcinis over fresh--they have much more flavor. This mushroom occurs everywhere in the world, so there are many sources for dried ones. Chanterelles are my favorites for eating fresh, followed by morels. J and I have foraged for chanterelles in Southern California, and on a couple of occasions found so many that we sold a large amount to a mushroom broker at the Wholesale Produce Market in downtown L.A.

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Truly exceptional large, newly picked porcini are expensive when in season in Italy and worth it--far superior to anything US-grown that I have had. They are simply grilled in thick slabs and served as a main course to omnivores. On pizza or in risotto, fresh porcini convince you that Chinese and Italian cultures are twins separated at birth in that the texture of food matters, not just flavor.

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The range of mushrooms sold at Dupont Circle is mostly restricted to cultivated varieties grown in Pennsylvania. However, the woods belonging to Spring Valley (W VA) and Quaker Valley (PA) both yield morels in spring. I haven't seen anyone sell foraged chanterelles lately and given dry conditions this year, the mushroom might not have inspired the kinds of quantity-sales that WFM has offered in past years.

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I don't know the name of the vendor, but there's a mushroom guy at the Falls Church Farmers Market., too I don't remember the varieties he has, but he sells them individually and in variety packs. They look and taste fantastic. It may be the same vendor as the Dupont Circle market.

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Just a few random thoughts, on topic but with apologies not in answer to the OP's questions. Like the OP, I'm one who'll nearly always order anything anywhere if made with or centered on quality wild mushrooms.

- I once had a major mushroom producer for a client and found it to be a fascinating industry with lots of intrigue and differences from most major food-production sectors. Among other things, it has been and largely still is a fragmented, local, family run business type of industry not as likely to be consolidated as other types of foods.

- The mushroom "capital of the world" is in Eastern PA. Their mushroom festival is a must-do for anyone (intensely) interested in all things mushroom. While that "capital of the world" label is self-proclaimed and marketing, as of 10 or so years ago and according to verifiable data, that area in eastern PA did produce much higher volumes of mushrooms than anywhere else in America.

- Was just out in Colorado recently, where they were awash in some really great chanterelles. Pretty big thing out that way every year replete with many annual festivals. Some background on that here.

- I'm a big Michael Pollan fan, originally hooked by "The Omnivore's Dilemma." Probably my favorite section in that book was the one about foraging for wild mushrooms in California. Very cool.

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True wild mushrooms are gathered in the wild, for the most part, not grown on local farms. Morel season in the US is over-- "May is morel month in Michigan," as it is here in the mid-Atlantic region.

#food_porn_alert

This year our attempt to group-buy 20-30 pounds of fresh morels was a bust, as the upper Midwestern supplier we bought from last year found slim pickings. But this May we happened to be visiting Princeton to have dinner at Elements, when the chef's mushroom supplier wandered in carrying this beautiful box of bounty, foraged in the woods of northern New Jersey:

post-710-0-84311400-1316135298_thumb.jpg

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If my random sightings of (mostly inedible) giants around the city is any indication there should be a bumper crop of wild mushrooms right about now. I tend to keep my eye to the ground, and I've never seen such a variety or number of 'shrooms coming out of the soil around here. We had two gigantic (but sadly inedible) puffballs in our yard a couple of weeks ago. Last year they were maybe half the size of this year's. Running on Beach Drive a couple weekends ago I thought I saw some lobsters by the hundreds along the side of the road. Sadly, they were not on closer inspection. I need to find the time to go out there and forage!

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