Monday, September 27, 2010


Finally. I awoke this morning to a magical pitter-patter on my air conditioner. And the forecast for the next 10 days includes 4 or 5 days with increased chances of precipitation. Our NY weather persons haven't been exactly accurate this year, but the sight of several nimbus icons in close succession has taken the edge off my morning at least.

I've just returned from a few days at the NEMF (Northeast Mycological Federation) foray up in the Hudson Valley. Conditions were very dry and the numbers of species collected I'm sure were below average. But still, there were enough edibles found for a very successful mycophagy (mushroom cooking) demonstration (I helped run the fryolators for making deep fried chicken-of-the-woods (Laetiporus sulfureous) and I improvised a successful frittata out of Entoloma abortivum (the shape and texture of these fungi remind me of sweetbreads), bear's tooth (Hericium erinaceous), and about 3 dozen duck eggs.

But today I'm back in pre-production mode, with 7 days left to prepare for our first day of shooting in Milan, NY. There's a lot left to do.

My thanks and deepest appreciation to all the mycologists and fellow "muleskinners" I met at NEMF this year. Your shared knowledge, interest, and encouragement for Now, Forager has been invigorating. ¡Viva Sam Ristich!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Giant Puffball Update

We shot our puffball footage, and as promised, here are a couple of different frame grabs.

This Calvatia gigantea was a real beauty--and it fried up nicely in panko bread-crumbed cutlet (shout out to Gary Lincoff for his preferr
ed culinary application).

A scene from "Lucien and the Giant Puffballs" (with apologies to Roald Dahl).

On our way to shoot, we found another log covered in oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus). The cultivated varieties are nice, but I find the flavor much more intense when they grow in the wild.

Roasted in a hot oven (400-425ยบ) in Spanish olive oil is my preferred cooking method for these.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Rehearsing with Giant Puffballs

This post's image will be featured on cloth bags and t-shirts that we'll give away as 'thank you' gifts for our upcoming Kickstarter fundraiser. Stay tuned!

We were in Prospect Park yesterday for a rehearsal--co-director Julia Halperin, co-lead Tiffany Esteb, and myself. We played a game of cribbage (which figures into the narrative) and set out to check some spots in the park where I've seen Giant Puffballs (Calvatia gigantea) in past years.

It's still way too dry around NY--the precipitation predicted with Hurricane Earl missed us entirely. So I wasn't too optimistic.

We wandered a bit, checking my spots for other wetter-season mushrooms along the way. Everything was dry and dead. But I had heard reports over the Labor Day weekend of puffball discoveries up in the Palisades and had even spotted a patch alongside a busy NJ highway on Saturday afternoon (never pick puffballs near a roadside--they accumulate lead from exhaust fumes of days gone by).

When we finally got near my sacred puffball grounds, my greatest fears were confirmed. A giant puffball alongside the trail...turned to fluffy white shrapnel by someone's foot. Now, I can understand the temptation--giant puffballs are about the size of a soccer ball. To a kid, it might seem the natural thing to do. But to a mycophile, mushroom kickers are not cool.

I stood there among the fungal carnage, staring down into the shreds and chunks of perfectly white, homogeneous flesh that would have been so nice fried up in crispy Panko cutlets. Then Julia let out a little gasp. A few feet away, just on the other side of a low wire fence, was another perfect puffball--bigger than my head.

We hunted down the trail further, and found another three large and lovely GP specimens to overfill our baskets. Plus a log with about 2 lbs of absolutely fresh and perfect oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus).

After rehearsing, we walked back to Grand Army Plaza with heavy baskets and tired arms. We stopped to watch the West Indian Day Parade with all the beautiful people and flashy costumes going by. But even with all that glitz, our mushrooms caught a few eyes.

I'll post some puffy pics later, after we shoot some B-roll.