Monday, May 19, 2008

Truffles, Morels and Asparagus, Oh MY!

My little pal Maggie (border collie) and I took a quick road trip from southwest Montana to Oregon this last week for a taste of spring. When we left home, the leaves on the trees had not even opened yet and it had been cold. I couldn't take one more day of looking out the window at naked trees and a colorless palette so off we went in search of forests, foods and friends, doing the entire drive in one day...some 780 miles or so!

The next day my friend Janette took me to a private property of a friend of hers to dig truffles. We tried all morning to get Maggie the wonder dog into truffle mode showing her what they looked like and having her sniff them and then rewarding her with liver cookies....she loved the cookies...not so much the truffles! Within only a few minutes of arriving at the hallowed spot, we started finding them. This was my first foray into the field of truffles and I was very excited to say the least.

After hearing my friends talk about truffle hunting all winter it was finally going to me my turn! So we gently lifted up moss and peaked underneath and there they were those adorable little nuggets just waiting for us to find them.

Maggie kept us herded up, we herded up the truffles and then headed out to say hi to the owner and then go check out some morel spots.

We never did have any luck tromping around in logged areas but I did see some indicators that they may be coming. I'm not used to walking in logged areas so it's not my forte. I feel at home walking in burns from previous forest fires to pick morels and so I still wanted to go check a burn on the eastern side of Mount Hood.

A few days later after we spent some time prepping for and throwing a party for Janette's friends and colleagues, we headed on an all day excursion over to Mount Hood and beyond to this burn I wanted to see. We finally got there after a long drive and right out of the car, one step into the burn and I spotted my first morel! Wow, what a great feeling. Then another and another...well, long story short, they were there, but not in great quantities at least at the level we were looking. The problem was the spot was very, very steep terrain and we would need to be 3/4 billy goat to make it up that hill. So, we traversed back and forth zig zagging and picking a few morels and even drove up the road looking for another spot. Unfortunately, we could tell it had already been picked pretty hard and unless we were willing to go trekking up that cliff, we were not going to find many morels. Also, that was the day it decided to get incredibly hot, into the upper 80's to low 90's so it was tough going. We managed to find enough for a feast however, so decided to head home.

Oh, did I say feast? Yep...we made a pizza with caramelized onions, ribeye steak and morels...oh and popcorn smothered in melted butter and grated truffles...super yum....(did I mention Janette is opening a restaurant in Dallas, Oregon? L'Attitude Point One check it out soon)

Well, after a full week of foraging for mushrooms and playing with friends, it was time to head home. The weather had turned to stifling hot with temps up to 100 (so it said on my car thermometer) as I drove along the Columbia River Gorge on Saturday afternoon. That's just too hot for anything! We spent the night in a motel in Conner, WA and I could just see it on Maggie's face, can we go home now?

The next afternoon, Sunday, we completed the trip back to SW Montana and low and behold, spring had sprung in my absence and the trees had finally opened and all was right with the world once again. Montana experienced some of that heat wave and that was all it needed to kick spring into full speed ahead.

We stopped on the way from town to my house and checked my local wild asparagus spots that were all starting to produce, so in about 5 minutes I had picked a pound of fresh wild asparagus and was going home with my fresh oysters I got at the Portland Farmers Market on Saturday morning, my bag of truffles, bag of morels and all kind of goodies I bought along the way so it was going to be one of those I'm happy to be home, let's party moments. I chilled a nice dry rose, opened the oysters, cooked some asparagus and made a little creamed morels over toast points and sat on my redwood deck enjoying the beautiful leafy green cottonwood trees that came out to play while I was gone. Life is good and so is having great friends to play with, good food and a place to lay your head at night. Home sweet home.