Sunday, June 1, 2008

woodland in wonderland

Nova and Les, the foragers, arrive in the middle of dinner service. They bring certain treasure. A box is filled with woodland ferns and wild morels. It’s the end of May, the season for these mushrooms. Ugly and pocked, we all know where their hidden beauty lays: their woodsy, pungent, gravied taste.

Our diners all crane their necks to try and get a good look at what’s in the box. Later, when things slow down a bit in the dining room, I sport these gems around to each of the tables to show them what our land can offer. Eyes aglitter, customers offer deals and golden opportunities in order to get a reservation tomorrow night when they know the morels will make an appearance. What will we do with them? Everyone asks Caleb this when he’s comes out into the dining room later in the evening. He talks of something simple: cooking them in a little wine, a little bit of garlic, olive oil, butter, salt and pepper, then tossing the mushroom ragu with a fresh pasta. We all agree that the morels don’t need much to shine.

There are over one hundred and fifty varieties of edible mushrooms in the state of Vermont, morels only one of them. The foragers will bring us whatever wild mushrooms they find every week this summer and on into fall until the ground freezes over. We hope to procure dried mushrooms from them for the winter months when it’s too cold to forage. Last week, they brought us a brace of pheasant back mushrooms that were quite large, without gills, and looked like a display of pheasant feathers on the cap. We roasted them for a wine tasting dinner where we featured them in a risotto infused with the red wine in which it was paired. Fresh, their fragrance was like pineapple and the wet branches of trees, and cooked they were meaty and with much constitution. Who knows what they will bring next?


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