The Wine Palate
July 29, 2006
It is porcini season and time to start hunting.
As a long-time mushroom lover I was overjoyed to hear that porcinis grow in the Uinta Mountains. Porcinis are the grand master of all mushrooms. With its dense meat and abundance of flavor, these mushrooms are the jewel of any great meal and a natural pair for many wines.
To add to their mystique they cannot be farm raised. They only grow wild and the Uintas are a hot bed for them. Unfortunately, being the city slicker that I am, I had no idea how to look for porcinis, let alone where. So this week I asked a friend to take me out and show me the hot spots.
I can’t tell you exactly where we went to find our porcinis, as I am sworn to secrecy, but I assure you they are out there. He wanted to blindfold me but I felt that was too much and he agreed to a gentlemanly handshake and I was sworn-in to the porcini hunter’s society.
Though I cannot reveal the exact location of any of the porcini hot spots, I can give a few pointers for your next hunting expedition. First, you know you are close when you get attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes. Like mosquitoes, porcinis love moist ground with good tree cover. Second, they often look like a rock so be careful not to step on them and keep your eyes open. Third, search around rotten tree stumps; they seem to like it there. Fourth, bring bug repellent, did I mention the mosquitoes? Fifth, get yourself a mushroom field guide, as many mushrooms are deadly.
You may be asking yourself, "What do porcinis have to do with wine?" Well, while searching for the noble shroom, I realized I was examining the terroir of the land. Terroir is the French term that encompasses all of the aspects of the land that influence the flavor and style of a wine. The soil composition, climate, aspect, and even the animals that live off the land, all contribute to the terroir. Porcinis and wine also have one more really important commonality, they taste so good together. Porcini mushrooms are great in many forms. You can sauté them in butter with just a little fleur de sel and black pepper, toss them on a bed of spinach and you are good to go. Try it with a nice rich Sancerre.
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Others still prefer to slice and grill their porcinis. Then of course there are the casually indulgent few that like to put them on their pizza and the overly indulgent few that like to make black truffle and porcini risotto. However you like your porcini, remember that the hunt is on and to watch out for other mushroom hunters, they are kind of crazy.
Zev Rovine is the sommelier and resident cheese monger at the Spotted Frog Bookstore Cafe and Wine Bar where he teaches weekly wine classes. His wine education comes from the American Sommelier Association in N.Y.C. and he tries his very best not to spill the Pinot on the bestseller section. If you have any wine queries or comments he is easily contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .