Putting the ‘fun’ in fungi

Just got back from what was easily the best meal I’ve had in Oregon at the Joel Palmer House. Jack, the founder, is a renowned mushroom expert going way back and searches the local forests for truffles, porcinis, and chanterelles, then serves them up in his meals.

He captured the essence of mushrooms in every dish. The dishes tended towards hearty and earthy flavors but were also a bit heavy and creamy, which is just fine for winter. He toured the dining area at one point and I got to ask him what he serves in the summer and he said “lots and lots of local berries, but the dishes are best eaten when it is cold outside.” Their wine list had an impressive chunk of the entire willamette valley region to offer as well.

I really wanted to ask him how risky it was to harvest wild mushrooms specifically to serve customers, but figured it was best to skip that kind of morbid topic at a fine meal (“have you ever served fugu encrusted with death caps?” or “So what are our chances of dying tonight?” probably would have been my questions).

If you go, by all means opt for the “mushroom madness” prix fixe menu which is what I imagine is the closest you could get to judging an Iron Chef battle. There are five courses all based around different mushrooms, then a dessert that includes them as well. The portions started small and light, as they should be, but eventually grew into full sized plates. I had to practically be rolled out of the place by the end.

But it was a nice place and a great dining experience that I’ll be dragging all my out-of-town visitors to enjoy.