West County Fungi From Gourmet Mushrooms, Inc.

Large nondescript buildings in Sonoma County often signal a wine storage facility or a winery sans tasting room. Nestled on the east side of the 116 near Occidental Road is one of these unusually curious outposts thathouses Gourmet Mushrooms, Inc. While you hardly notice the massive structure as you are heading for a day of wine tasting or recreation at the river, redwoods or cost, the contents and activity beyond the exterior are something to be seen (and tasted). You can skip to the end of this post for the Savory Mushroom and Onion Biscuit Bread Pudding recipe.

Back in 1976 David Law, a graduate student at the time, had a vision. He wanted to pioneer the cultivation of exotic mushrooms and grow more varieties of culinary and nutraceutical fungi than any other farm in the United States. David worked closely with renowned mycologist Dr. Tsuneto Yoshii of the Yoshii Mycological Research Institute in Oita, Japan.

“Dr. Yoshii was the pioneer of sawdust cultivation of Shiitake mushrooms,” explains Law, president and CEO of Gourmet Mushroom, Inc. He taught them how to cultivate mushrooms insured by a very Japanese and non-traditional way.

While the typical button mushroom that you find in the grocery store is cultivated in manure, the team at Gourmet Mushroom, Inc. uses an entirely different process, which was developed by the late Dr. Yoshii.

His foundation for the growth of mushrooms is largely made up of agricultural byproduct, which includes sawdust, soybean hulls and the husks of corn. These organic components are blended together to create the “soil” that is used to nurture the spawns that ultimately grow into flavorful and unique gourmet specialty mushrooms.

Inside the 40,000+ square foot building emanates with beautifully fascinating aromas and somewhat resembles the interior of  winemaking facility. While a crush pad is nowhere to be found, they have a receiving area where the sawdust, soy hulls and husks are delivered.  These ingredients are loaded into a large machine, similar to a press, which blends and prepares the mix tobe packed into tiny plastic containers. The containers are a small plastic version of a large oak wine barrel and serve as a vessel for the cultivation of spawns that evolve into a bouquet of gorgeous and fragrant mushrooms.

To see the process from agricultural byproduct and tiny containers housing spawns to full edible mushrooms is pretty amazing. It’s a mixture of organics, innovation and pure science.

While wine can take years to mature in barrels, the mushrooms produced by the team at Gourmet Mushrooms live in a climate controlled room for 6 to 12 weeks (depending on the variety) before being harvested, packaged and then shipped to grocery stores and some of the finest restaurants in the country. You know these fungi must be something special when names like Thomas Keller and Wolfgang Puck roll off of David’s tongue as a few of the company’s thousands of customers across North America.

Luckily for those not living close to a store that sells these amazing fungi, a number of varieties are available online. One of the most interesting species is the Forest Nameko™. This mushroom has a naturally occurring gelatin on the cap that lightly thickens soups or sauces. While the Maitake Frondosa™ with its crunchy texture and earthy flavor superbly compliments roasted meats and greens.

We often have leftover biscuits at the market and find ways to highlight the flavors within our 20 Mile Radius in the foods we serve our discerning guests.  While many love a sweet and gooey bread pudding, this version is a twist on the original. Inspired by David’s delicious mushrooms, this savory version is most tasty when it’s had a chance to cool a little before serving and uses Big Bottom Market Biscuits as the bread base.

Savory Mushroom and Onion Biscuit Bread Pudding

Makes 9 servings

Preheat oven to 350ºF and spray an oven safecasserole dish (12×8 and 2.5 inches deep or something similar) with cooking spray.

– 4 tbsp butter
– 1 onion chopped
– 1 tablespoon diced garlic
– 4 cups of assorted mushrooms coarsely chopped (we use the Chef’s Sampler, but if you cannot find these at your local grocery store try using Shitake and Trumpet mushroom).
– 1 cup of dry white wine
– 2 tsp salt
– 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
– 2 cups of heavy cream (plus additional cup if needed)
– 6 eggs, beaten
– 2 cups of shredded semi sharp white cheese
– 1/2 cup chopped parsley
– 1 tsp fresh thyme
– 4 cups of day old Big Bottom Market biscuits coarsely chopped (we think this recipe is best when you make Big Bottom Biscuits and let them sit, covered, for one day, but if you have your own favorite biscuit recipe have at it and let us know how it turns out).

Melt butter in a sauté pan over medium. Toss in the onions and sauté for about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to sauté, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes.
Add garlic and crank the heat to high and slowly pour in the dry white wine to deglaze the pan.  As the wine boils down scrape the mushroom and shallot bits from the bottom of the pan. Take off of the heat and set aside.

Beat eggs and heavy cream in a large bowl and set aside.

Line the bottom of the pan with coarsely chopped biscuits. Pour egg and cream mixture into the pan and then evenly distribute cheese as well as mushroom and onion mixture.

Cover and bake in 350ºF preheated oven for about 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes remove cover and continue baking for another 15 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.

Let cool for about 20 minutes before serving.

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