Mushrooms are in season right now. And I’m fortunate enough to have Chef Andrei Litvinenko on staff, who has been hunting mushrooms his whole life. As we begin our celebration of the ingredient here at Kendall-Jackson, I asked Andrei share his experience hunting mushrooms. Enjoy, Justin.
Each fall, the chefs at Kendall-Jackson enjoy foraging for wild mushrooms. We wait for the first rains that bring a bounty of wild mushrooms to our local forests and then we head out to our favorite picking locations.
Some of our most successful trips have been to Salt Point State Park on the Sonoma Coast. This is one of the few state parks that allows mushroom foraging and is quite popular. Of course, we also have our own personal “secret spots” that are highly guarded and shared with only a select few.
The highly prized Boletus Edulis a.k.a. King Bolete, Porcini, Cep or Beliy Grib is the first to appear each year. Chefs love to cook with this king of mushrooms, known for its rich, earthy flavor and firm texture. It is wonderful grilled, baked or simply sautéed in a little butter.
Chanterelles (golden and white) are another local mushroom that we have a passion for collecting. They are also delicious and highly prized. In Russian, we call them Leseechki or “Little Foxes”, because of how difficult they are to find sometimes.
Please note, many wild mushrooms are poisonous and many poisonous varieties look very similar to common, harmless varieties. You should never eat any wild, foraged mushroom unless you are absolutely certain it is safe to eat. Our chefs have been foraging for years, and have been trained to identify those mushrooms which are safe to forage from those which should be avoided. You should not attempt to forage for mushrooms unless you are accompanied by an experienced forager, with the knowledge and training to help you identify those mushrooms that are safe to eat, and those which should be avoided. Foraging should never be attempted by an amateur. Each year, someone tragically, and needlessly, dies from eating the wrong mushroom.
Chef Andrei Litvinenko is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy. He was born and raised in San Francisco in a Russian immigrant family. He grew up working in the family restaurant where he learned to appreciate eastern European cuisine,and grew to love cooking.