Sorry to make you wait for Part II of MmmMmmMmmushrooms. To recap MmmMmmMmmushrooms – Part I, Jeff and I and our friend, Ron, and our niece, Vanessa, attended the 28th Annual Mushroom Festival in Kennett Square, PA this past Saturday. Up to this point in the adventure, we’d made our journey from the Harrisburg area to Kennett Square, figured out a plan to meet up with Vanessa, successfully rendezvoused, and begun tasting food. So far we’d tried arepas and Roasted Mushroom and Gorgonzola Hummus.
After a brief stroll through The Market at Liberty Place on State Street we cooled down a bit and worked off the Roasted Mushroom and Gorgonzola Hummus we had shared. We continued to wind our way through the crowds and to look at the offerings in each booth. As you might imagine, we saw many interesting mushrooms along the way.
Just before we reached the entrance to the mushroom exhibit, we stumbled across a booth offering Mushroom Mac & Cheese…..how can you resist that? You can’t 0r at least we could not! We shared one order with four forks and while we were eating there was no shortage of ‘mmm’s’ and ‘oh’s’…..it was terrific – it was hands-down my favorite food of the day. The mushrooms were easily detectable – earthy and warm and the mac and cheese was creamy and salty with a crispy, crunchy topping.
We made light work of the mac and cheese and headed for the mushroom exhibit, where we learned about the substrate or growing medium for mushrooms. We saw and learned about different varieties of mushrooms and, of course, had some laughs and took some great pics!
Shitake mushrooms are the most popular in Asia. They look like little parasols and, in my opinion, have a somewhat spongy texture in your mouth.
The Pom Pom Lion’s Mane mushrooms were so interesting to look at and to touch. They were quite soft and furry. We were not able to eat these at the festival (at least that I saw) and I’ve never tried one, but my research tells me they have a chewy texture and taste faintly of seafood.
Oyster mushrooms are dove-gray in color and they have a delicate flavor. I recently used them – along with some other types of mushrooms, in a Roasted Mushroom Soup with Apple Cider Stock, which was heavenly.
We also saw two other colors of oyster mushrooms – yellow and pink. They were beautiful!
We saw portabellos and criminis and porcinis, oh my! And of course, we saw white button mushrooms – called agaricus – which is the most poupular mushroom consumed in the US. But we also saw my favorite mushrooms – maitakis or hen of the woods mushrooms, which I had for the first time several months ago and have been using ever since.
Maitakis are typically found at the base of oak trees, but can be found at the base of other trees – like maple or elm – as well. They have many names in addition to maitake or hen of the woods. In Japan they are known as “dancing mushrooms” and the Italians refer to them as ‘signorinas’. They are also referred to as ‘sheep’s head’ or ‘cloud’ mushrooms. I have had and made these mushrooms simply pan-fried in butter with salt and pepper and they are delicious.
I’ll be honest with you, it was quite warm under the exhibit tent; so although we were learning under there, we were also happy to exit! When we left the tent, we were right at the booth where you order mushrooms to take home with you. The set up they have is quite convenient. You can order and pay for your mushrooms inside the festival at any time (for us it was great to do it just after we had learned about all the different varieties), but you don’t have to pick them up until you are on your way out – and conveniently, the pick-up location is right near the exit! We decided to bring home some enokis, some maitakes and a large box of portabellos, which we shared with Ron.
All that learning about mushrooms made us hungry for another nibble – fried mushrooms….but we glammed it up some by ordering crispy portabello “fingers”. They were quite crisp and very meaty tasting. I really enjoyed the horseradish sauce with which they were served – it was a nice complement to the mild mushrooms.
We continued to explore the festival. We tried on some hats, which made us giggle! And we had worked up a thirst, so we set about finding something to quench it. A homemade soda sounded terrific, until we found out that in order to get the soda you had to buy a mug for either $12, $15 or $20. Now I have been known to splurge on food before, but I was appalled by the idea of a $12 soda, let alone a $20 one. So we opted to share a lemonade – $5 with $2.50 refills!
Our final treat of the festival was ice cream….according to Jeff, “There’s always room for ice cream. It just melts around everything else.” And truthfully, as I mentioned earlier, we each only had one or two bites of each thing we ordered, so it really was a nice way to have lunch. We had time and a nice walk in between our “courses”. Jeff and Nessa and I shared the Cream of Mushroom Ice Cream and Ron opted for Strawberry. While the Cream of Mushroom Ice Cream was good, it didn’t taste mushroomy. It was like vanilla ice cream without as much sugar as usual and with a few brown flecks in it.
Although some of us had hoped to take a mushroom farm tour, we were newbies at this festival and didn’t realize you need to buy your tickets in advance. So by the time we said goodbye to Vanessa (who opted for a nap instead of a farm tour) and got to the ticket booth, they were sold out of tours for the day. Oh well, it wasn’t meant to be.
But since we were not ready to call it a day and head home, we decided to journey around Lancaster County on the way home. We wound through back roads and passed farms and farm stands and we bought some apples, pears, peaches and other goodies. The following are a few of my photos from after the festival.
With Ron’s permission, I am also sharing a few of his photos from the day. He loves snapping pics as much as I do – so we always have fun with our cameras when we are together.
Our final stop of the day was Iron Hill Brewery for a quick dinner. I know you’re probably thinking, “How could you possibly eat again after all that fair food?” But it really wasn’t that much food when you divide it by four people and we worked up an appetite traversing the countryside! I had a salmon wrap and I cannot even remember what Jeff or Ron ordered, but my food was good – not great – but perhaps that was because I was comparing it to all the yummy dishes we’d sampled earlier in the day. The only photo I managed to snap at the restaurant was of our drinks – maybe I was more thirsty than hungry!
All in all, it was a fun and educational day that hopefully will become a tradition. We had no trouble parking or navigating the festival so next year should be even easier. We know now that we should pre-order our farm tour tickets. We already have the 29th Annual Mushroom Festival on our calendars for 2014! I’d love to run into you there!!!!
What’s your favorite mushroom recipe or dish?