Mushrooms and Moonshine was marvelous. Fantastic everything... the weather (gorgeous after a week of rain), the people and the fungi- I'm almost at a loss of what to write so used am I to finding the bit I'm critical of and writing about that...
We had incredible guidance from Paul Sadowski of the NY Mycological Society
http://www.newyorkmyc.org/nymsfuse/news.php who agreed to join us not knowing who we are... just 'cause he loves fungi and has faith in the goodness of mushroom lovers. Everyone
gathered for a foraging walk through nearby Beebe Hill State Park (aglow with autumnal splendor!) and then Paul lead an identification discussion before cocktails and supper at Deena and Rodney's beautiful Columbia county home. I should be able to write about all the fungi we collected (some were edible and we tasted them the next day at breakfast) but I was too busy in the kitchen getting supper ready... so MAYBE one of our guests will post a comment about what you found!!!!
Cocktails were Martini's with mushrooms instead of olives, and hors d'oeuvres included homemade pickle canapes, marinated button mushrooms, glazed shiitakes and crimini confit. First course was a light dashi broth with an assortment of dried and fresh 'shrooms Deena foraged from Chinatown in NYC. Entree was spinach, chard and ricotta Malfati (dumplings) with sage scented brown butter, sautéed Portabella's, Chanterelle and Oyster's deglazed with whisky, cider glazed Kachoba squash, and herbed roasted red onions. Salad was gorgeous heirloom tomatoes whose colors echoed the forrest. It was heavy Umami (a Japanese word describing the fifth taste sense: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and the elusive Umami which incorporates foods high in natural glutamates.) Lots and lots of earthy flavors and a celebration of blustery fall. Dessert was gingered maple cake with creme fraiche, maple glazed pecans and cider caramel. While we were eating Deena spoke a bit about her experience making Apple Jack (hard cider) which we served later in the evening (along with s'mores) around a campfire...
Next morning... we had the incredible fortune to visit Ukulele Sara's island house- an 1920's speakeasy turned summer house on a tiny island in Lake Kinderhook. We canoed over for delicious mushroom and tarragon fritatta's, plum kuchen, caraway shortbreads, cream scones and good strong coffee (to help counteract the Jack wooziness from extended storytelling round the fire.) Sara serenaded with a ballad about the island's history and shared a brand new love "duet" between a dying tree and its symbiotic mycelium that she had composed in the wee hours of that very night. Folk songs followed, along with mimosa's and good cheer.
Communal Table's idea for this particular salon supper was to bring to the table the magical quality of fungi (which is it's own Kingdom of our Earth's five: animal, vegetable, multiple celled bacteria, single cells, and fungi,) and relate this to the storytelling aspects of fantasy kingdoms: fairies and ghosts and whatnot. Plus there's the whole bit about the psychotropic aspect of certain mushrooms... and the charge we feel dabbling in the potential for poison: defying death with every bite. There is certainly an element of a hunt, fungi foraging, but it goes beyond the thrill of the find- somehow there is an "otherness" that frightens, repulses and ultimately attracts. I think this aspect- being on the edge (yet eating and drinking heartily with friends) is what made this salon supper so successful. We so love to push boundaries yet are so relieved to do it safely, without consequence.