In Season Right Now: Wild Mushrooms
Nov 29, 2011 9:01 am
Fungi and games with D’Artagnan’s Ariane Daguin
Hedgehog, fried chicken, cauliflower, canary, lobster. An odd menu, right? Well, not so weird, it turns out: these are all wild mushrooms available through D’Artagnan, the foie gras and truffle specialist and purveyor of other fine meats and mushrooms to restaurants around the country.
D’Artagnan’s founder, Ariane Daguin, is something of a mushroom expert. She peels off their Latin names the way other people call out their favorite bands. Over a recent fungus-laced meal, that began with wild mushroom soup and ended with white truffle ice cream, she discussed her job as fungus hunter.
Why are November and December such big months for mushrooms?
In the Northern hemisphere, it’s the end of the fall and in the Southern hemisphere, it’s spring. So both seasons are good times for mushrooms. What’s particularly exciting in the Northern hemisphere, especially at the end of November, is that the truffles are coming in.
How did truffles get to be so prized?
There are recipes from Escoffier where he is using 10 kilos of truffles and sometimes not even to eat—just as a decoration around the dish. So, there was a time when truffles were really plentiful. I wouldn’t say it was like potatoes, but there were more. Now, as cities get larger and the size of the woods diminishes, there are less truffles.
At D’Artagnan, how do you find what mushrooms are in season?
We have a purchasing team that is looking at the whole world as a sourcing possibility. For example, I always thought that morels came at the start of spring (because I was raised in France). But the more east you go — Russia, Turkey — the earlier they come. And we do that with every wild mushroom. Going back to truffles, there used to be none in the Southern hemisphere. Now, there are growers in Australia. So, we can have black winter truffles in the middle of the summer.
Do mushrooms have terroir, as in taste different depending on where they’re from? Read more