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.