|Wild mushrooms burrow in piney forests|
I want to get to know its darkest forests and rugged, changing landscapes; the long expanses of green that are interrupted by neither town nor fence - with the exception of a crumbled down wall or stone farmhouse here and there - the idea that you can drive for hours and still discover corners, valleys and rivers that you've never seen before.
And mostly, I want to eat, everything I can - from the more classical slow roasted meats and cured hams and sausages, to gamier meats like boar, venison and partridge; and not forgetting the area's wonderful cheeses, produce and legumes. But what I want most of all are its wild mushrooms - those secrets from the forest that can only be found in the autumn and that for me can't be replicated anywhere else but in this magical place.
Fortunately, I'm a lucky soul. Lucky enough to have just gotten back from the third edition of "Soria Gastronómica", the International Mycology Conference that's held in the Castilian city of Soria every two years. This congress, dedicated to all things relating to gastronomic applications for wild mushrooms, is a feast for the senses and a challenge to the waistline. This year's edition, which was held on October 29-30th, hosted presentations by over 20 chefs - mainly from Castile-Leon, but also representing Madrid, Cantabria and a few far flung countries like Sweden, India and Canada - was no different, featuring cooking demonstrations, round-table discussions, tasting opportunities, and hunger-inducing talks on topics such as: The Sweet World of Wild Mushrooms (Elena Lucas Gonzalo, Restaurante la Lobita in Navaleo, Soria), Sensations: Mycology in its Habitat (Pedro Mario and Óscar Pérez, Restaurante El Ermitaño in Benevente, Zamora), Gastromycology in Bierzo (Lydia Álvarz Marqués, Parador de Turismo in Villafranca de Bierzo, Leon), and Avant-garde Techniques Applied to Wild Mushrooms (Óscar García Marina of Baluarte in Soria), to name just a few.
|Elena Lucas of La Lobita|
|Óscar y Pedro Mario Peréz of Restaurante El Ermitaño|
|Black trumpet mushrooms on seared red tuna. It sounded strange but really worked. At Trashumante.|
|Wonderfully simple and flavorful, at Trashumante|
|Boletus carpaccio with pistachios at Trashumante. Delicious and the best wild mushroom carpaccio I've ever had.|
|Duck ham, strawberries, sprouts and wild mushrooms at Convento Espacio Grumer. I love that succulent leaf in the background.|