Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Candy Cap Mushroom

Last weekend I went to Mendocino. It was beautiful and I'll write about it later – what I want to talk about right now is this mushroom I encountered there.

Credit: Ron Wolfe

I'd bookmarked a place for us to visit – Frankie's Pizza and Ice Cream Parlor – based on the fact that they had a mushroom flavored ice cream.  I fully expected to have a little sample of the mushroom flavor, find it unique but disgusting but worth trying for novelty's sake, and then proceed to buy any of the other standard ice-cream-shop flavors offered.

So, I tried it. And it tasted something like butterscotch, maple syrup,  butter pecan – nothing at all like mushroom.  I assumed they used incredibly small quantities of it. Anyway, it was so good we ended up getting a cone of it.

I forgot to take a picture of the ice cream itself so here is a picture of an ice cream model for you to enjoy:

Ice cream looks pretty normal no?

I asked the guy at the counter exactly how this ice cream was made, and he told me it was nothing but cream + sugar + mushrooms – and that's all. It was the mushroom that was responsible for the flavor.

Apparently, the type of mushroom they used (Candy Cap) gives off a very distinctive sweet, burnt sugar, maple-syrupish smell.  It's faint when the mushrooms are fresh, but becomes incredibly amplified when they're dried, and is used to impart flavor to both savory and sweet foods (like ice cream). They're a dark, burnt orange-brown, and are found under pine and oak trees only in the Bay Area.

I was totally blown away.  Never did I really think of mushrooms as a dessert component.

After learning this, we made a beeline to a local health foods shop a block away and bought a little bag of these beauties.

$207/lb. WOW

I plan to make some candy cap mushroom cookies or cake in the near future. They've been in my room a couple days, and already it smells like a maple syrup factory in here. Which I personally greatly enjoy.

That same night, I ordered a sturgeon dish with "wild forest mushrooms" for my dinner entree. While eating my dish, I smelled that same sweet, familiar, buttery maple syrup smell. I thought I was hallucinating, experiencing some delayed aroma response, or that the scent of the mushrooms I had bought earlier had somehow gotten in my clothing.  Then I heard the waitress tell someone in the room (with the same dish I ordered) that those were Candy Cap mushrooms on their plate.

Candy caps (rehydrated) along the perimeter of the dish

Twice in a day!

I can't believe it took so long for me to discover these.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

December Highlights

– Dinner at Ruth Chris Steakhouse. This was the first time in recorded history that I found myself enjoying steak. Rejoicing in steak might be more accurate. Cold champagne, bread and whipped butter, steak, bourbon bread pudding and good company – these are things that make me happy.

I will never forget you, steak. (Ignore the shrimp)

– Walking thirteen miles in one night in San Francisco, stopping by bars, lounges, hotels, dance floors...was crippled in the legs the next day.

– Stopping for extremely potent and delicious rum drinks at Smuggler's Cove. If the Pirates of the Caribbean ride had a bar somewhere hidden in it – that's what Smuggler's Cove would look like.

– A romantic trip to Arizmendi Bakery and the Japanese Tea Garden with a girlfriend.  Ending up in Yerba Buena Gardens and peeping-tomming on some children warming up for an ice-skating performance. There was perhaps a 3 year old who was dressed as a fairy skating very tenuously across the ice. Freaking adorable.

Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park – the oldest one in the US.

– Climbing to the top of Westwood Hills Park on an overcast day. You can see downtown Napa from the top.

At the top of Westwood Hills Park

– Indulging in a now-established tradition: holiday drinks at a specific Starbucks in San Francisco. I had the creme brulee latte; R had the peppermint hot cocoa.

– Going to my first wedding. And it was an Indian wedding, at that. There was bhangra, endless drinks and food, a violinist who played Michael Jackson...they know how to have a good time.

Bride walk.

– Visting a gingerbread house big enough to walk into at the Fairmont hotel...which also had a lit Christmas tree of mammoth proportions.

– Roasting chestnuts over...an oven rack. Plus sweet potatoes. I love how roasting concentrates the flavors tenfold and really brings out the natural sweetness of foods.

Never again will I microwave you, sweet potato.

– Making gingerbread men gingerpug. Watching Home Alone while sipping apple cider. What a great movie.

Yeah we follow directions.

– When I told my friends I had never had a traditional holiday meal before, one of them decided to hold a Christmas feast. We had a huge roast, deviled eggs, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, rolls with herb butter, HOMEMADE EGGNOG AND MULLED WINE...gah it was so delicious. My friends are the best.

– Drinking champagne and dancing with some of my best girlfriends basically three nights in a row.

Two hours before 2012.

– Being with my family for the few days surrounding Christmas. There is nothing more comfortable than that.

The best things I ate this month:

Papparadelle with Braised Duck (with Porcini mushrooms, peas, truffle oil) at Sociale. Insanely tender flavorful saucy duck on top of pappardelle, a large, broad, eggy type of fettuccine, and now my favorite kind of pasta. Amazing.

Braised Duck Paparadelle

Brown sugar ice cream with a ginger swirl at Bi-Rite Creamery. This was my first time ordering something here. I relented after more than a year living basically two blocks away (thinking it'd be overrated), and it completely blew my mind. I also didn't have to wait in line, and it was a Friday (??).

Filet mignon at Ruth Chris Steakhouse. Doused in butter. See above.

Freshly baked whole wheat walnut bread at The Liberty Cafe. The homemade raspberry jam to go along with it. And the dark chewy mushrooms that were in my omelette – I have no idea what type they were, but now they're my favorite.

– My mom's homecooked food. Doesn't matter what she makes, I am always able to eat platefuls.