Sunday, May 27, 2012

Foraging Frolic with the Fringe Food Festival

If there's one thing I've learnt about Fringe Food Festival events….it's that you gotta be quick. 

Which is why, the day after the first mushroom 'Foraging Frolic' was posted, I ran around my house screaming at my mum and dad, frantically called Canada to check if my cousins were interested (which if they weren't I would have made them interested!), whipped out a credit card and booked 9 tickets for the event. 

This led to another episode though. Of running around the house at 9 on a Saturday morning trying to wake the cousins and get them ready on time to leave so that we would arrive at Bress Winery at a fairly reasonable time. I know most Asians are on their own time schedule, but I'm a mutant and am adamant about punctuality! 

Having driven 4 hours a day the two days prior, the one and a half hour drive up to Harcout was a breeze and in no time at all, we were surrounded by insanely delicious cakes, magnums of cider, jugs of fermented pear juice, the beginnings of something that smelled delicious on the paella pan and a whole lot of chatter and excitement at Bress Winery.

Mum's a boozin' nice and early in the morning….

Before we headed out in a convoy to the forest, we all collected bags of wood oven roasted chestnuts. The perfect warm snack on a cool autumn morning and for getting someone's car completely covered in fuzzy chestnut peeling (sorry Suzanne!)!

Oh yes, we brought Chai along for a forest frolic. He loves chestnuts too.

Matt from Mushrooms Anonymous and Adam from Bress, were our well informed guides, giving us tips on where to look for mushrooms and being incredibly patient as we all grew bolder in our mushroom picking expedition and helping us identify the hoards of mushrooms we kept bringing back. 

Mushrooms are usually found under pine trees and are generally more plentiful a few days after rain. Considering it had been fairly dry though, we seemed to pull a pretty good haul!

My dad and my uncle tapped into their manly survival mode and really got into the whole foraging thing. They were often calling for us from the complete opposite side of the hill we were all on and poking around every nook and cranny. Hilarious!

Some of the varieties we picked were pine mushrooms, grey ghosts and slippery jacks! 

We arrived back at Bress, greeted by the alluring smell of pine mushrooms cooking in a paella pan (as you do) and wood oven cooked potatoes. 

There was no shortage of fabulous wines from Bress, Adam was even generous enough to let us have a sample of his silver and gold shiraz's straight from the vat! The gold shiraz in particular was a favourite, at least amongst my family!

Adam seems to be questioning if he should really be sharing with us though…

Lunch was cooked by Jo from The Commoner, which naturally meant, the meal was absolutely stunning. Paella pan cooked pine mushrooms, with a decadent buttery aroma, were served with fluffy and warm bread buns. Perfect for wiping up whatever sauce might be left afterwards! Even my cousin who's not crazy about mushrooms, tucked into these enthusiastically, there was a nice meatiness to them. 

I also loved how brilliant the colour inside the mushrooms were when cross-sectioned. So orange still!

Next up, the mushroom croquettes served on a cauliflower puree was a stunner. It won many hearts that chilly afternoon. Light and crisp outside, but creamily delicious inside. And topped with that cauliflower puree? Just beautiful.

The mushrooms were organised out into piles for identification. I in particular loved the above mushrooms. I forgot their exact names, but it was something something parasol. So cute!

Grey ghost mushrooms had a very different flavour to their meaty pine mushroom counterparts. I found them a little more herbaceous, a little bit more chewy but completely delicious in their own right. 

How brilliant are the golden wood-oven cooked potatoes? My heart sighs happily for carby, carby love. 

The potatoes were partnered with the most decadent beef cheeks and truffled polenta I had ever come across. I'm pretty sure everybody was absolutely drooling when this dish came out, it smelt and tasted amazing. The beef just melted in your mouth!

Mum made sure Chai didn't miss out on the fun as well and sneaked him a little piece of beef with bread, which he chomped down with vigour! She can't help but spoil him…

Matt gave us a quick demo on how to prepare a slippery jack for eating, which is a simple case of getting your knife and peeling off the skin off the top. 

Dessert was a simple but incredibly enjoyable affair. A poached pear, sitting in a delicious puddle of syrup with a healthy dollop of cream. So sweet and so moreish. Really just the perfect way to end the meal. 

It was really a fabulous day, I think we all learnt a lot and had a lot of fun. I personally feel that I do have a bigger appreciation of mushrooms in general now, I really wasn't aware of all the edible forest mushroom varieties and all the different flavour profiles they had. 

Thanks again to SJ and the Fringe Food Festival for helping organise, Bress for the wonderful venue and drinks, Matt for his patience with such a large group and of course, Jo from the Commoner for a beautiful meal.

I think there might be one more of these events coming up on the 2nd of June, but tickets may or may not be sold out already? Worth checking out anyway methinks!

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