When Dining on Mushrooms Goes SwimminglyOno, You Know
October 9, 2017
Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: Lawrence Tabudlo
Fresh, seasonal mushrooms are a thing of fall splendor. Though various species of the healthful fungi we know and love do grow throughout the year, many varieties are at their peak during the fall and winter months — making mushrooms the perfect ingredient to give our taste buds a most satisfying introduction to autumn.
Just think: Warm, earthy soups and rustic risottos emanating with the natural-umami bliss of savory mushrooms. I know, I know, my mouth is watering too!
And while it is indeed the perfect time of year to stock up on mushroom-centric dishes, it’s good to note that here in the Isles, we are spoiled with high-quality mushrooms that are grown locally and sustainably all year long at Hamakua Farms on the Big Island.
From the local harvest to other intriguing varieties, let’s see how Oahu’s chefs are utilizing this glorious vegetable:
PLUMERIA BEACH HOUSE
Speaking of Hamakua mushrooms, one venue that makes excellent use of them is The Kahala Hotel & Resort, where the finest in local ingredients accent an international array of flavors throughout its handful of world-class dining spots.
Currently available at Plumeria Beach House — the hotel’s breezy ground-floor restaurant with stunning views of the ocean — is a King Mushrooms ($12, dinner menu) appetizer prepared with Alii mushrooms, also known as the Japanese eryngii variety, grown on the Big Island.
“We wanted to do something different, so instead of using portobello, we wanted to showcase local agriculture,” shares the restaurant’s sous chef, David Calvan. “I can’t say enough good things about these mushrooms. The texture is very meaty, the flavor profile is kind of earthy with a little bit of a sweet tone, and they stand up to a lot of flavors.”
To enhance that hearty texture, the mushrooms are first given a nice char from the grill; then they are finished to order with a citrusy ponzu glaze speckled with ginger and garlic. For the finishing touches, fried garlic, sesame seed and green onion do the trick.
Oh, and let’s not forget about the little surprise that has a big impact on the pupu’s flavor: “There’s rendered bacon in there to give that smoky flavor and add a little bit of saltiness,” confirms Calvan. “It’s a great appetizer that opens up your palate and gets you ready for dinner.”
Since this pupu is made with large, satisfying slices of mushroom, it’s easy to pass around the table for sharing. But with one taste of its complex flavors that burst in your mouth, I can assure you everyone will be fighting over the last piece.
When I think of autumn fare, one word comes to mind, and that’s cozy. Without a doubt, the coziest spot I can think of is Fendu Boulangerie, the sweet little bakery tucked into Manoa Marketplace, where everything is made with love, from scratch.
Though Fendu is a sweet tooth’s paradise with freshly baked cakes, pastries, pies and more, it’s also a fabulous spot for savory pizzas, panninis, sandwiches and the like, a handful of which shine with mushrooms.
“There’s such variations in their flavor, from portobello to a shiitake to a white shimeji,” says owner and chef Niel Koep, who uses local mushrooms when possible. “So that’s something nice — that you can get different flavors from different mushrooms.”
Break open the flaky French pie dough crust of Island Style Chicken Pot Pie ($13.50) for instance, and you’ll find a spoonful of creamy, oozing chicken stock loaded with mushrooms, green papaya, Okinawan sweet potato and other veggies, not to mention whiteand dark-meat chicken, to soothe your soul.
Koep advises patrons to call ahead to see if the epic pot pies are available, as they’re currently only made on the weekends and tend to sell out.
Any day of the week, however, you can get your mushroom fix in the form of Vegetarian Special Panini ($8.99), pressed to perfection with two slices of Fendu’s 50-percent whole wheat bread.
The sandwich also is stocked with bell peppers, sweet onion, mozzarella, fresh tomato and Japanese eggplant.
And when oozing cheese calls at your taste buds, go for pepper-spiced Mushroom Mania Pizza ($13.75 for 8-inch, $21 for 14-inch). Baked with Fendu’s house-made dough and pizza sauce, the pie pairs three types of mushrooms (white shimeji, oyster and shiitake) with three types of cheese (fresh mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and pecorino Romano) for an unbelievably flavorful, and comforting, bite.