In Sonoma and Napa, wild mushrooms include the more exotic types such as morels, chanterelles, and hedgehogs, to name just a few. And in St. Helena, these wild mushrooms can be found in abundance at the Martini House restaurant. Chef and Co-Owner Todd Humphries says he finds porcini in the fall, matsutake in December, and later in the season, white truffles and black trumpets.
“The feeling of foraging and finding mushrooms is exciting to me,” says Humphries. He enjoys sharing the adventures with his family, and it teaches them to love and respect the earth. His passion for mushrooms is enthusiastically represented in the menu at Martini House.
Martini House even boasts a mushroom tasting menu with interesting combinations such as ginger braised shiitake with Japanese Eggplant, Summer Squash and Sake Broth, (paired with a Riesling), and roasted maitake mushrooms with cipollini onions, fingerling potato chips and sweet garlic sauce (paired with a Syrah).
So if you are one of those adventurous types out to seek your own earth-grown treasure, be cautious and do your research before you go. The best way to collect and eat wild mushrooms (and stay out of the emergency room) is to collect with an experienced local mushroom hunter, says the Journal of Wild Mushrooming.
Here are a few tips from the experts that we all can use. Don’t store mushrooms in plastic bags. Moisture inside the plastic bags will cause the mushroom to rot very quickly. Instead, place your mushrooms into paper bags, or loose in a basket or aluminum foil.
With the exception of the button mushroom, don’t serve mushrooms raw, says the Journal of Wild Mushrooming; some people will have allergic reactions to uncooked mushrooms.
Mushrooms are a great source of nutrition. They are low in calories, have no cholesterol and are virtually fat and sodium free. Mushrooms contain essential minerals like Selenium, Potassium, B-Complex vitamins, riboflavin and niacin. If that weren't enough, they are high in amino acids and protein too. By cooking mushrooms, digestibility and nutritional value actually increases.So whether you find your wild mushrooms in the deep, green forest or at your favorite hot spot, enjoy and appreciate these gifts from the earth.
Wine Pairing Tip: With the earthy, organic flavor of mushrooms, try pairing with earthy wines like pinot noir, nebbiolo or Burgundy. One of our current favorites is Lazy Creek Vineyards Table Red wine made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes. A Mendocino County wine that retails for about $20.
Wild Mushroom Polenta
By Chef Emily Buller
This easy-to-make polenta dish makes a wonderful accompaniment to rack of lamb or pork tenderloin.
4 cups water, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. pepper, 1 cup polenta, 2 tbsp. butter, 2 cups wild mushrooms, 2 tbsp. olive oil, 1 cup Parmesan cheese (you can include a truffle cheese included with the Parmesan), white truffle oil and chives to garnish.
Bring salt and water to boil, stirring constantly while you add the polenta. Roast the assorted wild mushrooms on a sheet tray in the oven for approximately 10 minutes until tender with salt, pepper, and olive oil. While mushrooms are hot, add 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, and fold in wild mushrooms. Next, top with white truffle oil and garnish with chives. Serve warm.
White beech mushrooms, king trumpet mushrooms, hen of the woods (myatake), oyster mushrooms are wild mushrooms that you can buy at your local farmers market, specialty food stores or Whole Foods. The white truffle oil is available at most specialty food stores, such as Dean and Deluca.
Written by Karen