Monday, January 19, 2015

Cooking Foraged Foods with Incredible Local Chefs

Forage - ˈfôrij,ˈfärij (verb) - to search widely for food or provisions

Do you forage? When I first mentioned this assignment, a friend from high school asked for clarification. "'Traditional Foraging' as in the fields and woods? Or 'Urban Foraging' like the hipsters do in SF dumpsters?" she queried.

Hmmmm...the former. I don't even know what a hipster is.

So, after I packed a picnic lunch for my boys and friends as they headed out to the archery range, I drove down the coast yesterday. If I had to work on a Sunday, at least this was my commute...

My assignment was to photograph the five local chefs who were doing cooking demonstrations with foraged foods. I have to admit that watching the chefs was simultaneously inspiring and intimidating. I was duly humbled by their talent and skills. They were truly incredible.

Class participants were divided into five groups, then they were treated to a cooking demonstrations by each of the chefs. We watched Chef Justin Cogley of Aubergine make a Fennel and Seaweed Jam.

I cook with seaweed, but I would never have foraged Turkish towel from the beach and made a jam with it. It was just delicious - salty and toothy. I can imagine it on a piece of poached fish or maybe as a condiment to Chef Justin's abalone.

Chef Yulanda Santos of Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn shared her Sorrel Granita, pairing it with a bit of vanilla ice cream as a pre-dessert. "Pre-dessert?" asked one of the attendees.

More of a palate cleanser before your actual dessert, explained Chef Yulanda. What a crisp, bright dish!

I learned that wood sorrel, Oxaylis, is the true name of what we called 'sour grass' when I was a kid. I have eaten plenty of those plants, but I never thought to cook with them. Chef Yulanda sniped the stems, blended them with a simple syrup, froze it, and scraped it to make her granita. 

Chef James Anderson of Affina Carmel prepared a mushroom risotto with three different kinds of mushrooms. Note - Affina does not have a website or even a sign on the street, but they do have a twitter account!

Chef James used hedgehog mushrooms, yellowfoot mushrooms, and black trumpet mushrooms, cooking them till they were crisp. It was a tremendous contrast to the creamy, goat cheese-dotted risotto.

Big Sur Bakery's Chef Jacob Burrell surprised me - maybe - the most by choosing sea water as his foraged ingredient.

He used the foraged sea water to boil baby potatoes, steam mussels, and poach fish. Then he composed a plate with the different components.

And last, but definitely not least, was Chef Brad Briske of La Balena Carmel. I told Chef Brad that my sons would be very upset to discover that I ate a Chef Brad creation without them! We adore La Balena.

Chef Brad utilized stinging nettles from his friend's yard to create these verdant pillows of deliciousness. I have read his recipes for stinging nettles before but still wasn't brave enough to try it myself.

Now that I've seen him do it, I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.

What an absolute delight it was to watch these chefs create with foraged ingredients! Maybe that will be my stated culinary adventure for 2015: forage. I've eaten miner's lettuce and sorrel - straight. I've never cooked with it. You might be seeing more of this from me...not the hipster version. This version - foraging from the woods and local natural environments. It's fascinating and resourceful. Who's with me??


  1. You have such a fun job....I am jealous!!

    1. Thanks, Wendy. It's really my FUN job. I have other jobs that aren't quite as fun. ;)


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