An early flight out of Tucson had us in Connecticut by 5:30pm.
After a 20 minute drive to get to Manchester, we enjoyed a nice dinner with Brian’s family. Brian spent the night in Manchester and I stayed with my girlfriends down in Mystic, CT.
We spent our Sunday mornings separately and met up at 12:45pm at the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center for the 15th annual Wild Mushroom Festival. The admission this year was $20 each and it came with 10 food tickets. You could purchase more tickets for $1.
Most food items were 2 tickets with a few bigger items at 3 and a couple small dessert items at 1. This is our 3 or 4th time attending and the festival has gotten better with each year. Better organization, more food vendors, clearer listing of the “mushroom walk” tours and more interesting lectures.
- This was the first year we made it on a mushroom identification walk. In previous years, the only way to find out about a departing tour was to catch wind of the time from others at the event. You’d end up waiting by the meet-up tree for 30 minutes and nobody would show up. It was disappointing and often resulted in missing out on delicious food items that ran out before you made it back into food item circulation. There was a giant chalkboard this year with all the times clearly noted.
- It was a pretty quick stroll but we had the opportunity to see “Big Laughing Jim” (a possibly hallucinogenic mushroom) growing in the wild as well as a “Lentinus” [probably ]Lentinellus ursinus]. The Lentinus was not edible but we were all encouraged to taste a small bit (apparently that is a technique used by mycologists to identify mushrooms – taste a little and then spit it out). Funnily enough, our mushroom guide did not instruct us to spit it out. The affect was an incredible burning or hot sensation on a very localized point on your tongue where the mushroom bit had rested a moment before you swallowed it. The hot feeling continued for several minutes after swallowing with an ever expanding hot zone on your tongue. I can’t image eating a whole mushroom. Despite being told over and over again that it wasn’t edible, nearly every single person asked if it was okay to cook with. Or put in a salad. It kind of makes you think that ‘edible’ is open to interpretation.
- There weren’t many other stand-out attributes to the walk. It was nice to mosey around in the cool forest and look for mushrooms. It would have been better with small groups and more wild mushrooms in the immediate vicinity.
- The food was incredible and some of the best we’ve had there. Don’t think ‘raw mushrooms’ or ‘amusement park vendor food’. These were the area’s finest restaurants serving up creative dishes with mushrooms in the spotlight. Memorable items –
- The sauteed mushrooms (mushroom was ‘Hen of the Woods’) on crostini was fabulous! The thin, wavy, softly flaky nature of the mushroom meant the pieces took on the oil and ‘lemon garlic finishing sauce’ to perfection. The texture was melt in your mouth and the flavor was spot on. Incredible. Thank you Gray Goose Cookery.
- Oyster mushrooms with spinach??? The seasoning was impeccable. This was Brian’s favorite thing there to date.
- Mushroom ice cream (not sure on mushroom type) – high fat, maple or coffee ice cream with mushroom chunks. Absolutely delicious!
- Vegan mushroom quiche – memorable in that it should be avoided. Almond flour is a destructive force in flavor appreciation. It totally masked the flavor of the mushroom and was pretty boring.
- Mushroom cornbread with cranberry/strawberry sauce – not very mushroom-y but very satisfying alternative sweet dish.
- Venison stew with mushrooms – so SO good. Big chunks of meat with mushrooms.
- Pureed mushroom stew – nondescript but incredibly delicious. Everybody walking around with a bowl of it was exclaiming about how great it was.
- Both of the lectures looked really interesting but we missed them because we had to leave to catch our airplane. They were “Mushroom ID” and “Cooking with Edibles”, presented by “The Three Foragers”.
- There was also live fiddle music playing most of the time. Incredible
We dashed off shortly after 3pm and were dropped off at the airport at 4:30pm. We discovered shortly after that our flight was 1.5 hours delayed. As a result, when we landed in Dallas, we had missed our connection by 30 minutes. Thankfully, we were able to get a hotel voucher from the gate agent and we caught the last airport shuttle of the night.
After a 5 hour overnight nap, we woke, walked to breakfast, caught the last two seats in the first shuttle and arrived at the airport around 7am. We were on standby for the 9am flight and had confirmed seats on the 2pm. We got VERY lucky because the first 2 parties (of 2 people each) on standby no-showed and then we got the remaining 2 seats. Hurrah!
A very speedy but satisfying trip. Definitely worth it.
Travel food $133
Mushroom festival $ 50
Hotels $ 80
Past Mushroom Photos