Monday, December 31, 2012

The beauty of a barter economy

Our neighbor, Sean, is an expert mushroom forager, and we've benefited from his generosity before, when he showed us how to forage for chanterelles in an undisclosed Topanga location. But how to pay him back?

When I read Sean's blog post about a bumper crop of wild mushrooms he gathered in Northern California, I made what I hoped would be an offer he couldn't refuse - trade some wild mushrooms for an assortment of weird British snack food and candy. Irresistible!

Small Teeth and Fizzy Bones bought at our Bethnal Green Off-License
Last night Sean and his family came by for some New Year's bubbly and a crack at the hoard of British goodies. He brought a paper bag with these beautiful mushrooms.

These are matsutake - "pine mushrooms."  They grow in conifer forests in the northwestern United States - Oregon, Washington and northern California. They are firm, white-fleshed, and have a unique aroma. Sean held up one huge mushroom and said "Smell!"

It was like a moist Northwestern forest, underlaid with an almost cinnamon-like spiciness. In Japan connoisseurs pay up to $100 a pound for the Japanese species, and Japanese buyers pay almost as much for the American species to be shipped across the Pacific.

But these weren't for sale - they were ours for the price of several packets of Walkers Prawn Cocktail  and Smoky Bacon crisps and some gummy fizzy bones!

Sean showed me how to clean and prepare the mushrooms - and then he fixed us a small appetizer of sauteed matsutakes in butter, served with pasta. The pine-y spicey flavor still remained, mellowed by the butter and cream.

He also brought another treat - a puff-paste roll filled with creamed langoustines.

We supplied the champagne, which went well with Sean's treats, and some sparkling apple juice for the kids. We ate all the crisps, and after sampling some of the candies, each child was allowed to take home a packet of his or her choice.

W. chose gummy teeth, while F. is still deciding

And we were left with these beautiful matsutakes to experiment with. I'm looking for recipes!

Pretty good bartering, I'd say!


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Happy New Year!

Claudia from Idiot's Kitchen said...

YES to the mushrooms and especially the langoustine puff pastry. I think I might pass on the candy intrigued as I am by the small teeth....

Happy New Year!

Sean Colgin said...

Can't wait to hear what you guys do with your matsutakes! I served the last of ours last night as duxelles (minced and sautéed with shallots) inside a puff pastry with goose rillettes.

Janet said...

First, I love your new header!

Those mushrooms sound amazing :-) And did you try Walkers Ploughman's Sandwich flavor? YUM!

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

piney, spicy flavor... sounds delicious!