One of the summer’s blockbuster movies is refreshingly understated yet visceral with an important umami-laden character. In the opening scene of Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled, a young girl hums while collecting chanterelles in the woods. Mushrooms are mentioned throughout the movie. There are a few, here and there, on her foraging walks. During the past few weeks in Georgia, however, the forest floor (and front lawns) is blanketed in the golden hued mushroom polypore.
This gold rush is simply due to science. A mild winter and early spring temperatures helped hasten mushroom season. They follow morel season, usually March through early May, but this year the elusive fungi appeared in abundance beginning late February. Drenching rains, followed by days of stifling heat spawned blooms of golden chanterelles.
Chanterelles love moisture, shade, and decaying organic matter. Their season in North Georgia is usually late spring through late summer. They grow near the base of hardwoods and are easily identifiable. They are easily harvested with a sharp knife (not pulled by the cap like the scene in the movie). Leaving stems in tact assures later growth.
(Photo: Chef Ryan Smith)
Social media is as inundated with images of piles of chanterelles as the timberlands. Chef Daniel Chance of W.H. Stiles Fish camp recently posted piles of chanterelles he foraged while on a walk in the woods. On a posting of Gamushroomclub.org, member “Todd M.” noted on June 26, “picked 20 (pounds), another 20 the next day, another 46 the next, more yet.” We noticed at the same time Muss and Turner’s with chef/owner and ardent forager Todd Mussman, had a bounty. On the menu currently—foraged chanterelles with cream Vermouth and celery butters over crusty toast.
(Photo: Chef Daniel Chance)
Here are some of the other ways Atlanta chefs are serving the prized honey-hued shroom with its umami-woodland flavor.
Ingredient-driven St. Cecilia in Buckhead had a couple of options of late. Executive chef Craig Richards’ menu included a chanterelle risotto brimming with shrimp and greens of chickweed, mizuna, baby sorrel, and watercress as well as chicken with baby artichokes, potato puree, and roasted chanterelles.
At the new Westside location of Bacchanalia, chef Joe Schafer features Florida hoppers, large and crisp shrimp, with onion, chanterelles, and hazelnuts.
While he probably has something fermenting for later months, chef Zeb Stevenson at Buckhead’s Watershed has a smoked pork loin accompanied by a summery mix of chanterelles, field peas, corn, corn milk, and basil.
Fish-centric The Optimist showcases Atlantic halibut with corn, chanterelles, and pickled blueberries.
To go pair with many of their beers, Wrecking Bars Terry Koval serves the most sublime handkerchief pasta with chanterelles, leeks, green beans, squash puree, and nasturtium folded in and sprinkle with lemon oil and chili flakes.
Avid forager and sous chef Clifton Lawley’s Instagram is chockfull of mushroom hunting. On he and Executive chef Brian Wolfe’s menu at Kimball House there is a duck breast with onion, cabbage, chanterelles, apricot, kohlrabi, and kimchi.
Avondale Estate’s Rising Son serves a most comforting and earthy skillet chicken with chanterelle risotto and pan jus.
Seven Lamps’ chef Drew Van Leuvan serves a yellowfoot (a type of chanterelle) gnocchi with browned butter, sage, toasted bread, and Asiago cheese.
Josh Hopkins at Empire State South in Midtown is fully utilizing the mushroom. A recent menu included ravioli with lemon and chanterelles; a trout entrée served with little tomatoes, tomato water, chanterelles, banana peppers, and watercress; and a bison sausage with chanterelles, green onion, Shishito peppers, and squash blossoms.