November 1, 2012

Wild mushrooms, Castile-Leon and an edible crush

Wild mushrooms burrow in piney forests
There is something about Castile-Leon that makes my heart pound. Though a cultural and neurological center of Spain for centuries, boasting some of the country's finest universities, palaces, museums, restaurants and cathedrals, I'm drawn to this vast area for its great unknown and the sense of wildness that I feel when I'm here.
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
And while I am slowly picking away at my full report on this fascinating conference for Foods From Spain, I will leave you with just a few photos of some of the nibbles I was able to try as part of this amazing trip. Most are from Soria's Restaurante Trashumante or the Convento Espacio Grumer in nearby Almazán. More to come.

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.


Sarah said...

Great article. Very vivid descriptions, I can feel your passion. Looove wild mushrooms and the whole culture around it.
On a dise note, Trashumante is kind of a unfortunate name dont cha think...:)

Sarah said...

side note! damn corrector!

gastronomican said...

Thanks for the comments. I totally agree on the Trashumante observation. I had to read the name of the restaurant 5 times to make sure I wasn´t mistaken!

Soria y tu said...

I eat a lot of times at Trashumante and this is the name that we use to call to a road of sheeps.
Soria y tu. Restaurantes en soria

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