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Posts Tagged ‘funghi’

A funghi only a mother could love..morels

Check out this beautiful funghi! Admittedly, what looks like a couple of shriveled up baby pine cones might only be something that only a funghi forager (like myself) would get excited about.  Well believe me, when I found this lovely pair (after 45 minutes of foraging) I was jumping up and down!

Gateway to funghi fun..Camp Mather

My first ever mushroom foray took place several weeks ago right outside the gates of Yosemite National Park.  The idea for the trip was spearheaded by my good friend Keelyn, an experienced mushroom forager, who has foraged and found many a morel, chanterelle and porcini in the woods of Northern California and Washington. Also along for the ride were my SF friends Kirk W. and Tara P.

Camp Mather, which is owned by the City of San Francisco Parks and Recreation department,  was our headquarters that weekend. The historic camp was located just south of the Yosemite National Park’s Hetch Hetchy entrance and just several miles from where we were set to forage.

Springtime is generally when morels start to make their appearance in these parts..often in areas that have experienced either a burn several years prior, or where there’s lots of brush or undergrowth for them to hide under.

don't worry..we know what we're doing.. The San Francisco Mycological Society

Our weekend mushroom trip (which coincided with Kee’s birthday) was organized by the San Francisco Mycological Society, an organization which helps educate and promote the appreciation and enjoyment of mushrooms throughout the Bay Area.

Several times during the year, the MSSF organizes weekend trips to various locations around northern California in order to collect, enjoy and (hopefully) consume the non-poisonous delicacies that the group finds.

way over mumu's head: the MSSF funghi slideshow

After getting settled in our cabins, the four of us headed over to the cafeteria for a spaghetti dinner and then a post prandial slideshow of, yes mushrooms. Slide after slide after slide of beautifully drawn mushrooms, but oddly enough, not a single slide was shown illuminating what I was to be foraging for the next day. Nonetheless, it was really pretty awesome seeing this group so passionate and into their shrooms..

morel mushroom maestro: Norm

The following morning the four of us (fortified with coffee, oatmeal and powdered eggs) headed for the hills with several other eager to find funghi folk, and Norm, our group leader. Luckily for us, Norm was considered one of the best, and has lead such expeditions for the past 26 years. This, mes amis, is man who knows how to find les champignons.

the journey begins.. foraging for morels

Before traipsing off into the woods,  Norm instructed our group on what to look for when foraging for morels. More specifically, morels seem to love decay. Areas that contain a considerable amount of dead or decomposing organic material were good places to look.

Also, morels seemed to thrive in areas that had experienced burns (i.e. forest fires) a year or two prior. The exact reason for this is not really known, however given Norm’s vast experience on the subject, I took this information as a given.

leave no log unturned..Tara foraging for morels

Dead or decaying organic matter includes places under and around felled trees, under (vast piles of) pine needles, and in moist deep dirt. Here is Tara, demonstrating the lost art of morel foraging. This picture is pretty typical of how we spent most of the eight hours out “in the field” that day.  And apart from having to squint all day and a sore back, there are hazards to foraging. Five minutes after taking this picture, Tara and I turned over a log and found an impressive scorpion!

Where's Waldo?

And did I mention that these buggers are hard to see! One of our fellow foragers compared morel foraging to looking at a Where’s Waldo picture. You really have to look hard, and sometimes you’ll still miss the morel pretty much directly under your feet.

Unlike Chanterelles, which are a bright golden yellow and easily visible, or porcinis with their round reddish caps, morels just “disappear” into their surroundings., and as such they really do an excellent job at eluding capture.

The first is always the sweetest: Kirk's morel find

Which is pretty much what happened to Kirk the first hour out. Zippo, nada..but when he did find his first set, victory was oh so sweet! Once Kirk was officially initiated, he was cooking with gas and there was no looking back. And with all of our mushroom eagle eyes in focus and our foraging baskets, the four of us found about 5 lbs of morels!

Keelyn examining additional funghi finds..

Back at Camp Mather that evening, our crew unloaded our bounty, along with a slew of other non morels that we had discovered along the way. The senior taxonomists of the MSSF were on hand to identify each specimen and indicate whether or not they were edible.

Also on hand were several bottles of Navarro Vineyards Chenin Blanc to enjoy after a long day of foraging. I certainly have a new found appreciation for foraging and the delicacy of the morel mushroom. What a rewarding day it was looking for these little morsels of earth’s buried treasure!

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The star of the evening

I am pre-empting coverage of harvest 2010 with this inspired dinner that I recently hosted with several of my good friends. Some of you might recall my first post on la sagra dei funghi  that transpired just about 1 year ago. Well this year the  festivities moved over to my place. The star of the evening was this gorgeous truffle from Piemonte, that would find it’s way into our first 2 courses.

..making it look so easy!

Last year’s funghi feast was hosted by my friend Elisabeth (a.k.a. Bip). This year, the foodies convened at my place. I have often proclaimed that Bip is truly awesome in the kitchen. Not only are her culinary creations delicious, she seems to execute each dish with perfect timing and ease.

This time around, Bip arrived at my house with a few bags of choice ingredients, a bottle of nebbiolo, and her own home made pasta.

After ramping up our appetites with a beautifully arranged platter of salumni, artisanal cheeses and various antipasti, (thank you Sunhee!) It was time to get down to truffi business.

Toasted brioche with scrambled eggs, topped with shaved truffle!

Pinot meunier and truffes

What to pair with this rich and earthy first course? How about a high acid, dry and somewhat earthy-nutty champagne like the Collard Picard pictured above? This food wine pairing combination was really perfect.

This particular cuvee is composed of 80% Meunier and 20% Chardonnay. It is fermented in stainless steel with no malolactic fermentation. The reserve wine, which is primarily from the 2004 vintage is aged in giant foudres (1000 liter or larger barrels) to encourage some contact with oxygen but to avoid flavoring the wine with overt barrel characteristics.

Next, Elisabeth whipped up an assorted funghi medley to accompany her house made pasta. A bit more shaved truffle finished off the dish. Bip paired this earthy pasta course with a lovely nebbiolo from Piedmonte (see Les Photos)

finishing on a lighter note..

After a brief repose, it was time to prepare the main course. We decided to slowly taper, and progress to a lighter main course and side. Two very fresh snappers were stuffed with lemons, fennel and doused in pastis. The fish was then oven roasted for about 40 minutes. Along side, a tian of roasted tomatos provided a zip and acidity to the mild white fish.

Keelyn also contributed a hearty fennel gratin to the mix. I need to get this recipe!

To finish things off, I made pumpkin pot de creme, topped with shaved milk chocolate and whipped cream.

Thanks to my fellow sagra dei funghi friends and foodies.

Let’s do this again next year!

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Well, now that you know something about the wines of Cahors..but what about the local cuisine?
Below is a brief summary of the food specialties of the region. The next time you visit, be sure to seek them out!

Les Truffes!

Rare, seasonal and delicious, one cannot explore the cuisine of the region without considering this magical funghi. The season here generally runs from December to March, when the famous truffle markets in Lalbenque and Martel are held. These rare gems which tend to prefer limestone soil and is most often found growing on the rootlets of oak trees. Specially trained dogs or (not so specially trained) pigs have the superior nasal skills needed to uncover these delicacies.
Rocamadour cheese..thanks to Myrabella for the photo!
Perhaps the region’s very best and most famous cheese hails from the A.O.C. of Rocamadour (also a breathtakingly beautiful village). Produced as far back as the 15 century, this small disk-like fromage is made from goat’s milk. Rocamadour can be enjoyed a variety of ways: on its own, sprinkled with cracked pepper, warmed gently and served on warm toast and with a salad, or drizzled with honey!

Rich and creamy..foie gras

Duck, geese and of course foie-gras are all traditional specialties of southwest France, and Cahors is no exception. Not a fan of the super-rich and highly contraversial foie gras? Then try instead a more simple (and less decadent) duck confit or perhaps a pan seared duck breast in a Cahors red wine reduction.

Walnuts

Another important food product to be found here are walnuts, and more specifically those sold under the A.O.C. Noix du Perigord. Originally introduced to the region by the Romans, walnuts take on numerous culinary, alcoholic and healthful uses.  They can be found adorning a cheese plate, in salads, as an integral component to cakes and pastries, pressed to give a clear light oil or used in the creation of the local “vin de noix” a local liqueur.

Melons..thanks to Toby Hudson for the pic!

During the summer months, markets throughout the region will often feature the delicious and fleshy “Melons du Quercy”. These are grown on sunny and well-exposed chalky hillsides in the Quercy Blanc region.  The bright orange and sweet fruit center is perhaps best enjoyed on its own at the height of the season.

saffron?

Yes saffron! In the last 10-12 years or so the crocus sativus has enjoyed something of a renaissance, as local farmers (particularly in the Lot and Cele valleys) have re-introduced this crop. Harvest time comes around October, when the delicate and pale mauve flowers litter the landscape. All harvesting of these fragile flowers must be done by hand and on a daily basis. It takes approximately 200-250 flowers to yield 1 gram of the finished spice. Expensive, but oh so worth it!

Lamb du Quercy

Perhaps the quintessential dish to pair with the deep wines of Cahors is none other than Quercy Farm lamb. Raised on the limestone plateaus of the region, the ewes nibble on the sparse grass and fresh herbs that grow alongside. Locals admit that these grasses and herbs are transferred directly to the meat, which contributes to its unique and delicious flavor.

Bon Appétit!

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the raw goods-chanterelles

Good morning, good day, good evening, and welcome to this inaugural post on mumu les vignes! If you are curious to know more about me, please read “about mumu”. Otherwise, I’m just going to dive right in!

Here is something to wet your whistle and get your tastebuds fired up. Last night a few of us mobilized at the eleventh hour for this insane funghi fest. My good friend Kee and her mom went mushroom hunting last weekend up in Marin and came back with 40+ pounds of chanterelles,  as well as one yet to be confirmed, but almost certain to be, white truffle. It is currently at the mushroom lab under going further analysis.

What to do with such a stupid amount of funghi? Eat! How do we eat thee? Lemme count the ways.. Please find posted several descriptive photos to give you an idea of what I was confronted with last night. Of note, there was also a vegetable component, a.k.a. a gorgeous mixed green salad that my friend Bip through together a la minute.

chanterelles, brie and crusty bread

I got off pretty easy considering that all I had to do was bring the wine to showcase Kees’ beautiful meal. What to pair with all that earthy and flavorful mushroom goodness? Wines of a similar nature I say. Here are some adjectives: earthy, gusty and intense, but not necessarily heavy wines, with subtle hints of orchard fruits, dried flowers, roasted nuts and forest floor –does this not sound so very autumnal? In addition to the aforementioned very grounded characteristics, a strong wine candidate for such dishes requires good levels of acidity in order to cut through the richness of the meal..keep your palate cleansed, awake and ready for the next bite-right?

papardelle with fresh chanterelles, roasted hazelnuts and dried apricots

Here is what I brought to the festivities. I will provide more detailed information and tasting notes on each of these wines in future posts.

Vintage Champagne, Chardonnay from the Jura, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo

As this sagra dei funghi wound down, I thought about the fact that Kee had spent the better part of the weekend foraging for those gorgeous mushrooms so that we could sit down together and break bread/wine. How lucky am I to have such a dedicated friend?

Kee at the range-all systems go

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