You know it is autumn when local foragers head for the forests to search out the season’s best fungi. Lucky for eaters and lovers of all things umami, November is peak ‘shroom. Do yourself a favor and sit down with a plate of meaty mushrooms. Hearty and savory and roaring with umami, they are the perfect alternative to meat.
From November 9–19, Italian white truffles will be shaved over hand-cut pasta with sage butter, veal carne cruda with quail egg and pecorino, chanterelle mushroom pizza and anything executive chef Benjamin Balesteri can dream up in a showcase dedicated to the world’s most famous tuber. A who’s who of Barolo and Barbaresco, designed to pair with autumn’s aromatic apparitions, will also be available.
777 Bridgeway, Sausalito.
Self-proclaimed forager extraordinaire Mike Colosimo brings his hard-won findings back to the open-to-the-public restaurant he runs with chef Andrea Blum inside Novato’s Rolling Hills Club. Weekly specials are likely to include Colosimo’s findings but mainstays such as the wild mushroom quesadillas burst with local flavor. In early autumn, look for black trumpets mixed with rehydrated spring porcini and fresh morels from Mount Shasta. A chef’s touch of salsa verde infuses into the mushrooms’ mycelium (the fungi’s structural fibers) for flavor magic.
351 San Andreas Dr, Novato.
Chef Alexander Alioto adheres to the Italian cooking mantra of fresh, seasonal, approachable food at his West End restaurant, creating a dish with layers of shrooms expressly for the season. Adrift in a sea of Italian porcini-enriched broth, crisped cheesy polenta acts as a foil for a soft Japanese maitake fan. “The porcini broth just sets the dish off,” says Alioto.
1574 Fourth St, San Rafael.
Marinated in a simple vinaigrette before layers of arugula, roasted red peppers, pepperoncini and
pesto aioli are added to a Panorama ciabatta roll, the Grilled Portabella Mushroom Sandwich is then finished in the oven. The result is a light texture and a supremely filling meal that satisfies even the hungriest carnivore.
558 Bridgeway, Sausalito.
“Mushrooms” is the deceptively simple title of a dish of maitakes from chef Scott Koranda. Inspired by foraging trips, Koranda first gently roasts a huddle of the so-called “dancing mushroom,” then smacks them with a glaze of red wine, balsamic vinegar and fig. Placed atop a swirl of chimichurri aioli and dotted with pickled shimeji mushrooms, the dish is, at first sweet before a hint of smoke and fresh herbs hits your palate, the grace and subtle spectacle of the forest evident in each bite.
1 Hotel, 8 Mission St, San Francisco.
Christina Mueller is a long-time Bay Area food writer. She hails from the East Coast and has spent way too much time in South America and Europe. She discovered her talent as a wordsmith in college and her love of all things epicurean in grad school. She has written for Condé Nast Contract Publishing, Sunset, and the Marin Independent Journal, among others. She volunteers with California State Parks and at her childrens’ schools, and supports the Marin Audubon Society, PEN America, and Planned Parenthood. When she is not drinking wine by a fire, she is known to spend time with her extended family.