This September marks the 21st Annual Mushroom Harvest at Sorrentinos’s! What that means: all of the restaurants (they have five locations in Edmonton/St. Albert + Bistecca) will feature special mushroom-themed menus, mushroom-themed cooking classes, and offer mushroom foraging excursions. Basically, they’ll be eating, sleeping, and breathing fungi all month long and want you to do the same – yum!
To celebrate the Mushroom Harvest, I was invited to their menu launch. I went with my friend Razanne (who was also celebrating her birthday that night – Happy Birthday!). We tried sample sizes of items featured on the Harvest menu and learned about different mushrooms from the Alberta Mycological Society – a non-profit organization “whose members are fascinated by fungi.”
Here is a breakdown of the different mushrooms being used by Sorrentino’s this month:
- White button mushrooms. Most common and most readily available. White mushrooms refers to the larger mushrooms of this type that are over an inch in diameter. When a recipe calls for button mushrooms, they mean the smaller ones.
- Crimini. Criminis are also called roman, Italian, brown, or classic brown. They’re similar in size to button mushrooms but are firmer, and a lighter cocoa colour. Their flavour has been referred to as meaty.
- Portobello. These are actually large crimini mushrooms. Portobellos tend to lose water and when they do, the savoury mushroom flavour gets more concentrated.
- Porcini. These are larger flat mushrooms, wood brown in colour on a domed cap. The smaller mushrooms are better because they have more of an intense flavour.
- Shiitake. These mushrooms indigenous to Korea and Japan and are taken from a ‘Shiii tree.’
- Lobster. The Japanese translation of lobster mushrooms is ‘maitake’ which means ‘dancing mushroom.’ That’s what these do – they grow in clusters (on top of other mushrooms) and have a robust meaty flavour.
- Oyster. They frow in larger flat caps similar to shiitake but are lighter and more delicate in flavour and texture. Oyster mushrooms usually have no stem. As they grow larger they lose their delicate flavur and are tougher and more meaty.
- Chanterelles. These are trumpet-shaped, most popular (and most recognized) ones are a golden, orange-yellow colour. They have a meaty but clean mushroom flavour and are more expensive.
Martin Osis from the Alberta Mycological Society told us a few mushroom facts throughout the night which I thought were pretty interesting. For example, Martin says mushrooms should really be in the meat section (not the vegetable) section in grocery stores as – ecologically – they’re more closely related to meat than plants. Mushrooms are high in protein and low in calories. Mushrooms are eaten all around the world but obviously depending on where you are, they’ll have specific mushroom preferences and cook the mushroom in different ways.
What’s interesting about mushroom use in North America is that the native North Americans hardly used mushrooms at all. Martin says it’s because since mushrooms are low in calories, it wasn’t worth getting out for a hunt because you just wouldn’t get the same pay back in calories as you would with other food, although they did pick mushrooms for medicinal purposes.
Depending on the type of mushroom and the kind of cuisine, you’ll find some mushrooms almost always appear in broths/soups, while others work better in heavy creams. Some are great for frying, while others would be terrible to taste fried (orange lobster mushrooms stand up very well fried so you’ll see that a lot here in North America).
For our Zuppa, Insalata and Antipasti we tried a shot version of the Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup – sherry infused, cream drizzle with a Parmigiano tuille ($9 for full size), a Mushroom Salad – butterleaf lettuce, earn mix of crimini, button, yellow chanterelle mushrooms, pancetta, goat cheese and lemon vinaigrette ($12 for full size), the Wild Mushroom Fritelle with porcini aioli ($12 for full size), and the Stuffed Portobello – garlic, goat cheese pesto, pine nuts, honey balsamic vinaigrette with mixed greens ($12). On the menu that you can try but we didn’t: the “More Mushrooms Per Favore” – wild mushroom mix of portobellini, oyster, button, crimini, shiitake, yellow chanterelle and lobster mushrooms sautéed lightly with lemon garlic butter ($13 for full size). My favourite of the four was the Stuffed Portobello and the Mushroom Salad. I was also obsessed with the Parmigiano tuille (I would buy bags of those tuille if I could).
Next we tried the sample size of the Risotto – creamy Carnaroli rice with lobster mushroom and grilled shrimp, Parmigiano-Reggiano ($23 for full size) and the Portobello & Crimini Ravioli – egg pasta stuffed with oven-roasted Portobello and crimini, onions, roasted garlic, mozzarella and Parmigiano with sautéed mushrooms, garlic lemon butter, white wine sauce crumbled with crispy pancetta ($23 for full size). The ravioli was excellent though the risotto was nothing to rave about (I haven’t had the best risotto experiences from Sorrentinos in past, though this was better than previous).
For the Secondi (entrees) we tried the sample sizes of the Veal and Mushrooms – medallions of veal, wild mushroom mix, salted caramel drizzle served with truffles mashed potatoes and vegetables ($32 for full size) and the Catch of the Month – cobia filet poached in San Benedetto mineral water, sautéed with chanterelles, thyme lemon Chardonnay reduction served with truffle mashed potatoes and vegetables ($34 for full size). The veal with mushroom mix was quite good and the filet was nice and flaky – I thought both were cooked great.
We also had a mushroom dessert – a Grand Marnier rice pudding with poached candy cap mushrooms and amarone jus. Though I didn’t see it listed on the Harvest menu – I probably wouldn’t get it anyway, it was kind of a weird combination of flavours that I don’t really think worked, though Michael did say lots of mushrooms make for great desserts – I’m not sure if I’m convinced.
My definite recommendations on what to order when you go try Sorrentino’s Mushroom Harvest is the wild mushroom ravioli – it was my favourite of the night and I think the price point for the full-size is about right. Plus if you go to the South, St. Albert, or West locations on Mondays, you can get the ravoli and a 3 oz. tasting of the feature wine for just $20! I am hesitant to recommend the Secondi dishes (veal + fish) because of the price and I’m unsure how the actual portion sizes would be however both of the samples I tried were good – just unsure if it would be $32-$34 good.
If you’re a wine person (which I’m not) there are also several wine recommendations to go along with the mushroom dishes including an adorable La Marca “Mini” Prosecco ($12 for the bottle) that are supposed to pair quite well with the earthy mushroom flavours.
Overall, it was a great menu launch though small sample sizes can always be difficult to gauge how the dishes might actually be when you order it for real.
Bonus: You can also take the Mushroom Harvest home with you. Sorrentino’s is selling packets of their mushroom soup base for $10 so you can head home and make your own wild mushroom soup!
Here’s a recipe for Tarragon Mushroom Bisque with truffle essence courtesy Sorrentino’s!
1 cup mushroom soup base
2 cups homo milk
2 cups cream
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 diced onion
1 tsp dry tarragon
1/2 cup yellow chanterelle mushroom (chopped)
1/2 cup shiitake mushroom (chopped)
1/2 cup crimini mushroom (chopped)
1 cup white wine
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
to taste sea salt + black pepper
drizzle truffle oil
1. In a separate bowl mix soup base with milk and cream. Blend together until smooth.
2. In a heated stock pot add olive oil
3. Then add diced onion and tarragon. Sauté until onions are translucent.
4. Add all chopped mushrooms and keep daunting until from mushrooms evaporates and mushrooms are cooked.
5. Deglaze with white wine and add stock.
6. Follow with mushroom soup base mix. Stirring, bring to a boil and lower heat to bring to a simmer. Stirring occasionally, simmer for about 15 minutes.
7. Season with salt + pepper.
8. Ladle into serving bowls and drizzle with truffle oil.
Let me know what you think of this year’s Mushroom Harvest! Or tell me what your favourite mushrooms are in the comments.