Hugh Erle Smith
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Favorite Forays

15th Annual Chef's Winter Foray

intro | mushrooms

Wow, was that the 15th Annual Winter Chef's Foray?

I can't imagine what the other 14 were like!

This was the first one I attended though, so I wish I hadn't missed the others.

I hadn't heard of it before, but Todd Spanier puts on this annual event... every year.

Three Januaries ago, Sandi and I entered the raffle at the Fungus Federation of Santa Cruz' 34th Fungus Fair. Todd had been more than generous to offer such a weekend of Hunting, Wining and Dining in the Anderson Valley. Pretty generous Todd.

All of us (you & me) are very busy of course, and Sandi & I weren't able to collect on our prize until now. It was certainly worth the wait.

We arrived at the Screaming Lizard Ranch to meet up with everyone at the house where we would be staying. Sandi and I took the cabin away from the main house. There are Redwoods, Oaks, Fir(s), Pine, and many other types of trees on the 40 acres. Our bathroom was inside, but our shower was outside. Imagine me, in my outside shower, with hot running water, in the woods, naked.

Ok, don't.

Hungry? We picked greens from the back yard for our salad.

Everyone brought something for the first night's Pot-Luck and there was plenty of food to go around. People are what make a party great.

But the first thing I did when we arrived at the property, was to get out of the car and start the hunt. There is always something to find at this time of year. Lots of things! Exciting things!

Gyromitra esculenta, Ganoderma applanatum, Craterellus cinereus, Phlogiotus helveloides, Helvella compressa, and far too many other mushrooms to name here.

Y'know, really great stuff.

There were also Cantherellus californicus, Craterellus cornucopioides, Spring Coccora, Hydnum umbilicatum... the usual.

There are many other things to do too.

We went to the Yorkville Winery, Todd showed us a place where Oak Trees have been inoculated and French truffles are being propagated, and there's a grove of virgin Coastal Redwoods (Hendy Woods). But the real treat came Saturday night.

After a day of hunting, wine tasting, sack lunches and sunshine, we picked some more of our salad in the yard, had a campfire, and had some of the most awesome dishes created for us that I think I have ever tasted. Although Todd is a great chef in his own right (he was the head chef Friday night), he invited a man named Marc Vogel for Saturday night. Marc, I had no idea mushrooms could taste that good. 

I don't really like mushrooms, y'know. I'd usually rather trade them for Chicken. It's about the hunt, y'know? The discovery!

But with cooking like that, I'm rethinking if I know what I have talked myself in to, or out of. Could mushrooms really taste this great?

That was a terrific weekend Todd.

Thank you very much!

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