Morel hunting is a diversion that gets enthusiasts frenzied enough to blindfold their friends in the woods and post ecstatic fungi porn on the internet.
It’s an addictive enterprise. Once you have your mushroom “eyes” on and your brain begins to understand what it’s seeking, the matrix-like pattern tends to emerge like magic. The hunt starts to feel like hitting jackpots on slot machines.
Some chefs have already won the mushroom lottery, and others are playing around with ramps and fiddlehead ferns, two other wild and evasive early spring edible obsessions.
Here’s where to get a taste, before they’re all gone, usually by the first blast of June sunshine.
Morel Feast 2017
Celebrate the mighty morel in an outdoor festival, with culinary inspirations by chefs Steven Brown of Tilia, Jim Kyndberg of Radisson Blu, Kacey White and Charles Sotts of Town Talk Diner, plus a surprise guest chef. Also, all-you-can-eat butter-fried morels on saltines (while supplies last), craft beers from Indeed, and live music and entertainment.
Friday, June 2, 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
3010 Minnehaha Ave., Minneapolis
Purchase tickets here.
The Bulldog N.E. ramp chimichurri butter burger
The Bulldog Northeast retains its cred as one of the first spots to take bar food super seriously and prepare all scratch everything. It may not seem like a big deal now, but this was once truly innovative. They’re still at it, this time with ramp chimichurri slathered on one of their superior burgers. If you’ve never had ramps, the wild leeks are assertively garlicky, sweetly oniony, and altogether their own thing. At Bulldog, get them pureed into a chimichurri with lemon ricotta and garlic honey and served on a chive bun. It’s a hot item, so ask for it by name this “Tuesday night or Wednesday.”
401 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
At the newly updated Loews hotel — if you haven’t recently been, you should take a look, the place has truly improved under chef Tim Fischer — spring things are in full effect. “I forage my own,” says the chef, who has clearly been geeking out in a huge way. A huge, delicious way. A couple get-them-while-they’re-good dishes include warm morel and watercress salad with fresh lilac and grilled ramp dressing; and fiddlehead fern salad with summer truffles and a Banyuls ramp vinaigrette. (Banyuls is a fortified dessert wine.) Fiddlehead ferns are Seussian little veggies, rolled into themselves in a bashful yet charming pinwheel. The flavor is all springtime earth: asparagus, spinach, and mushroom, yep, rolled into one.
601 N. First Ave., Minneapolis
Ever locally and seasonally focused Lucia’s has all sorts of these things brewing, including ramp pizza, ramp and goat cheese dumplings, ramp and nettle cannelloni, and even ramp leaf Sriracha (pictured above). In the deli, grab and abscond with ramp pesto and ramp and heirloom potato salad.
“Fiddleheads don't get any special treatment besides [being] occasionally pickled. We just cook them simply, typically with dinner vegetable entree since they’re spendy,” says chef Alan Bergo. Morels will get Bergo’s grandma’s treatment, dredged in flour and egg, then fried in lard.
“They’re served as a small plate, and basically chicken fried,” he said. Also, watch for ramp jam. “It’s killer.”
Pro tip: Lucia’s supply of peak season morels will be arriving “this week.” As always, it’s best to call ahead, and know that the menu at Lucia’s changes by the moment, so if you’re emotionally attached to any of the above dishes, also call ahead.
1432 W. 31st St. Minneapolis
Victor’s on Water
Ramps are finding their way onto yet more pizza at Excelsior’s best-kept-secret Italian spot Victor’s. Get your ramp fix on their "Green Eggs and Ham" pizza, with ramp pesto, mozzarella, fontina, Minnesota-raised Tollefson bacon, and a poached farm egg.
205 Water St., Excelsior
L’etoile du Nord
The most Belgian restaurant in Minnesota is hiding in postage stamp-sized Bayport, Minnesota, where they take shifts in seasons extremely seriously. And morels they take really, really seriously. They host an annual pop-up dinner around the beautiful ‘shroom, called “For the Love of Morels.” Unfortunately, it's all sold out! But there is still hope for getting your mushroom fix. The restaurant will be serving morel-focused dishes throughout the week of May 22.
320 Fifth Ave. N., Bayport
A special buttermilk fried quail is on the menu now at Saint Dinette, which they’re describing as “not too gamey, but fun to eat because of its size.” Served with pickled ramp, ranch dressing and lemon, think of it as a fresh take on fried chicken. “Clean, simple and not too fussy,” chef Adam Eaton tells us.
261 East 5th St., St Paul
The Golden Fig
Want your own bounty to play with at home? The Golden Fig gourmet store will have ramps, fiddleheads, and morels for sale this week and beyond, plus two cheeses infused with morels. Also pick up a jar of their ramp and morel butter that the shop makes in-house using rich, exceptional local butter from Hope Creamery.
Call ahead to ensure that what you seek is in stock and ready for you.
790 Grand Ave, St. Paul
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