By Mary Boyle
To say that Mequon resident Steve Shapson is a fan of mushrooms is an understatement: he loves them so much that he is the President of the Wisconsin Mycological Society, a group that provides education in identification of edible and poisonous mushrooms, and an outlet for fungal-focused hobbies, including cooking and preservation, home cultivation, artistic endeavors, and more.
Dan Wiken, Executive Chef and Owner at the Twisted Willow restaurant in Port Washington, is also a fan of fungus, and has bartered mushrooms with Shapson on several occasions. This mutual appreciation led to their collaboration on the 5 Course Mushroom Dinner, held at the Twisted Willow on March 5th, which served to illustrate the versatility of this forage-able food, as well as the ability for Ozaukee's favorite farm-to-table restaurant to show what could be done with them.
Over 60 people attended the dinner, where nearly everything -- from the drinks to the dessert -- was graced with mushrooms, beginning with a Sweet Potato Waffle. This take on a Southern dish utilized fried oyster mushrooms, instead of chicken. A bourbon sorghum syrup and roasted hazelnuts tied the dish together beautifully.
Each course was paired with a drink, created by Twisted Willow Bar Manager, Joe Buth, beginning with a Porcini Manhattan. This was an adventurous concoction for a true mushroom lover, but it did pair well with the dish.
The Shaved Mushroom Salad was my favorite of the evening, not only for the beautiful presentation, but for the amazing combination of flavors. A variety of exotic mushrooms, including crimini, lion's mane, king trumpet, and enoki, were utilized in this dish, which was served over a smear of honey mascarpone. This was paired with a Mushroom Flip; a fizzy, sweet beverage with a delicious head of foam.
Paired with an interesting Portabella Shrub, the third course was Seared Scallop over a forest mushroom whole wheat couscous, and oyster, crimini, and shiitake mushroom raisin goulash with baby greens, which was simply delicious.
The main course featured Porcini-Crusted Veal Loin with kabocha squash and shiitake mushroom ravioli and broccolini. The Rioja Bordón" Gran Reserva 2005 paired with this dish was also used in the demi glace on the veal, which made a lovely combination.
Yes, even the dessert featured mushrooms: in this case, a Maitake & Nameko Forest Mushroom Bread Pudding served with vanilla bean ice cream and saffron milk cap salted caramel, which was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and just the right amount of sweetness. This was paired with a Wild Mushroom Cortado; a warm espresso and milk beverage that went quite well with the dessert.
Near the end of the evening, Shapson presented Chef Wiken, Buth, and Chef James Flatley with a Lifetime Membership to the Wisconsin Mycological Society. "The folks at Twister Willow are so nice," Shapson said, "and we wanted to support them by starting the mushroom dinner."
With any luck, this will become one of Twisted Willow's annual dinners, as it exemplifies their ability to showcase local ingredients, as well as their mastery of flavor combinations. In the meantime, learn how to forage for, and even grow your own, mushrooms, as well as how to identify the poisonous ones, by attending one of the many lectures, workshops and forays hosted by the WMS. Learn more at their website: http://www.wisconsinmycologicalsociety.org/