Category Archives: Uncategorized

Seattle Book Events

well_readTwo pieces of good news: The Mushroom Hunters was just short-listed for the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Awards (thank you local indies!), and my first TV interview will be broadcast on the PBS show Well Read. Admittedly, I didn’t sleep much before the interview (and I had a frog in my throat, the first cold of the season), but the 30-minute conversation flew by in a blink, and I thoroughly enjoyed talking with host Terry Tazioli, who is smart, curious, and an all-around good guy.

I’ll be staying close to home through the remainder of 2013, with plenty of readings and slide talks planned for the Seattle area. If you’re curious about edible fungi or the hidden subculture of mushroom pickers and buyers, stop by one of these events:

Thursday, Elliott Bay Books

elliottbayFor those of you in the Seattle area, please join me at Elliott Bay Books this Thursday, September 12, at 7 pm. I’ll be reading from The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America, showing slides, and raffling off bags of dried morels. The cafe will have shroomy bites and wine. There might even be a special guest visitor…

This past Tuesday I was in Washington, D.C., for the official on-sale date, to make an appearance on the Diane Rehm Show. You can listen to the broadcast here. On Thursday I’ll be at my local NPR affiliate, KUOW 94.9 FM, to tape a segment that will air between noon and 2 pm.

Other upcoming appearances include Wordstock Lit Fest, October 4-6, Portland, OR; and Breitenbush Mushroom Gathering, October 17-20, Breitenbush Hot Springs, OR. More events are in the works, so check back here for listings.

Razor Clam Foraging & Cooking Class

***UPDATE*** Just a few spots left.

Attn: Razor Clam Newbies! In association with Bainbridge Island Parks & Rec, I’ll be offering my first razor clam foraging and cooking class at the end of March. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but the planning required has stymied efforts. Until now.

This is a pilot program, and as such it’s a great deal. We have rented a house on the Washington Coast north of Ocean Shores for two nights, March 28-29. This coincides with morning razor clam openings on Friday and Saturday. The program will begin Thursday night with an informal “nightcap” discussion of razor clam biology, habitat, and foraging technique. The next morning we’ll dig razor clams on the beach right out back. That night we’ll reconvene at cocktail hour to go over processing (razor clams require cleaning) and then make a three-course feast with our catch. There will be an opportunity to dig another limit the following morning before checkout.

The cost—including 2 nights at the Seabrook resort, foraging instruction, breakfast on Friday/Saturday, Friday lunch, and Friday dinner—is $225 per person. Register at www.biparks.org or call Jeff Ozimek at (206) 842-2306 x115. Deadline to register is 3/17/13. Hurry, space is limited.

Win Free Tickets to Voracious Tasting

***UPDATE*** Thanks for the comments. Oysters and stinging nettles seem to be topping the list, along with some oddities like kangaroo. Whoever the “unknown” poster is in the first two comments, received at 9:26 a.m. and 9:29 a.m. respectively, you’ll need to get in touch with me in order to claim your tickets. Email finspotcook at gmail dot com. Thanks for playing everyone!

I have a pair of tickets to give away to Seattle Weekly‘s 4th Annual Voracious Tasting and Food Awards. I’m setting the bar super high…be the first to leave a non-robo, spam-free comment and they’re yours. Let’s make this quid pro quo: tell me about the last really good wild edible you ate, whether in a restaurant or at home, and what made it so good.

From the press release: “Held at the Paramount Theatre, Voracious Tasting will feature bites from 40 of the areaʼs great restaurants and food trucks, an open bar with beer and wine, and cocktails stirred by over a dozen mixologists from some of our favorite watering holes. Join us as we toast Seattleʼs diversity of delicious local cuisine at a reasonable price of $45!”

That makes this pair of free tix a $90 value. Comments open.

Huckleberry Pear Crisp

Once again we’ve blown through our winter reserves of huckleberries—and it’s not even officially winter yet. My daughter is the main culprit, though we’re all guilty of huckleberry hounding.

Each year I say we’ll spend a weekend camping in the patch in order to pick enough to last us through the year, and each summer we end up chasing some other wild hare. This leaves me as the only picker. Three hounds plus one picker under the same roof? The math doesn’t hold up. The last time we picked enough was the year we camped near Mt. Adams and the Indian Heaven Wilderness, possibly the greatest huckleberry patch of them all. I’ve been meaning to get back there ever since.

This Thanksgiving we had the traditional Pilgrim’s Paella, capped off with a Huckleberry Cobbler, one of my all-time favorite ways to enjoy hucks (besides simply wolfing down handfuls fresh off the bush). That was the huckleberry high-water mark. Now, with diminishing stores, we turn to recipes that use the berries in a mix with other fruits, such as this ride in the Way-Back Machine riffing on the first dessert I truly loved as a kid, Apple Crisp. The recipe below is a variation on that old standby, using pears instead of apples and goosing it with a cup of hucks. A shot of brandy or bourbon wouldn’t be a bad idea, either, although mine was sober.

The pears came from an ancient supply of canned goods from the year we spent off the grid in Oregon’s Rogue River Canyon. We put up more than two dozen quarts of pie cherries that year, and nearly as many jars of pears—Bartlett, Comice, and Bosc. I have no idea which variety was in this quart. I strained out the sweet canning syrup for another use, and added a couple fresh Anjou pears. The cooked huckleberries turned the filling an attractive shade of pink and the lemon zest perfectly accented the berries’ tartness. A definite keeper.

Topping

1 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
3 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp white sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon
pinch salt
6 tbsp butter
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans or walnuts

Filling

6 pears, peeled and diced
1 cup huckleberries
1/4 cup white sugar
zest from 1 lemon
2 tbsp flour

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. If raw, toast pecans a few minutes in oven or skillet.

2. Stir together filling in a medium-sized bowl, adjusting sugar to taste.

3. Mix together dry topping ingredients in a medium-sized bowl: flour, oats, sugar, cinnamon, salt. Cut in butter until crumbly. Stir in nuts.

4. Pour filling into lightly greased  9-inch ramekin or pie dish. Cover with topping. Place dish on baking sheet in oven and bake 40 or more minutes until golden brown on top, with juices bubbling. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Serves 8.

Loss of a Friend

My friend Christina Choi passed away yesterday.

Christina was a nurturing soul who loved to feed people with her food, warmth, and good spirit. During its brief run, her restaurant Nettletown in Seattle developed a devoted following and probably offered the highest ratio of wild to conventional food of any regularly operating restaurant in the country. To eat at Nettletown was to know exactly what was growing wild at that very moment somewhere in the mountains, woods, or river valleys just beyond the city. This was one of the reasons why you had to be back next week—there was always something new coming into season, prepared in an unfussy way that allowed the ingredient’s singular qualities to shine.

Another reason was Christina herself. The kitchen couldn’t contain her. She needed to come out and visit with her customers—and we needed to bask in her glowing presence.

One time I brought a class of high schoolers to Nettletown. All week we had been foraging for wild foods as part of a week-long experiential course, in the Cascades, along the shore, even in a Seattle park. Our visit to Nettletown was a reward of sorts for the effort the students had put into the class and also a reminder of how food brings people together. Christina looked tired to me that day and I was worried about her. The hurly-burly of the restaurant business seemed to be taking a toll. Nevertheless, she rose to the occasion, coming out of her busy kitchen to spend time with the kids. She talked passionately about the various wild foods on the menu and where they came from, their high nutritious value and unique flavors. Afterward, on the bus ride back to school, several of the students told me how much of an impression Christina had made on them. “She’s rad,” one tenth grader said—high praise.

I usually visited Nettletown with my notebook and camera. My plan was to write a comprehensive post about this unlikely restaurant and its food over the course of a year’s seasons, highlighting many of my favorite dishes. But just as soon as the experiment had begun, it was over. The restaurant closed at the end of August this year. In some ways I wasn’t surprised. When I asked Christina about it, she said she was exhausted and needed to take care of her health. Like her cooking, she was direct, honest, and true to herself.

After months of not feeling like her usual self, Christina finally saw a neurologist. On December 12 she was diagnosed with a 5-cm brain aneurysm and went into surgery two days later. As feared, the aneurysm burst during surgery, and more complications followed. She died on December 28 while surrounded by the love of her family. She was 34.

We will miss you, Christina, the many of us who you nurtured with your food and kindness.

The New Frontier

Plenty magazine is “dedicated to exploring and giving voice to the green revolution that will define the 21st Century.” The May issue has an article on foraging’s rising star. They title it: Foraging: the next food frontier.

Money quote: “The most basic form of survival, foraging has become a new super-hobby, bringing together food-lovers, naturalists, and eco-crusaders.” Read more.