Coastal Foraging In Southern California…(a.k.a. Going Coastal)

My job got a whole lot more awesome…if that’s even possible!

I set aside one day per work week¬†completely¬†devoted to foraging for Alma Restaurant. This usually involves going out into the wilderness somewhere to find edible items to bring back to Chef Taymor. This trip I went coastal ūüėČ

carp coastsb coast

I had to head a bit north of LA; unfortunately much of the direct LA coast line is too polluted to forage. But venture a bit north of LA and the coastline is  very much alive and full of beautiful edible products. Like the sea grass growing here:

seaweed rocksea grass

I was amazed how many varieties of seaweed I encountered. Each having their own unique texture and flavors.

sea lettuce seaweed salad

Some were more briny than others, some were more tender and delicate. The  minerality of the seaweeds also varied depending on whether or not they were growing in sand or on rocks.

seaweed salad 2

Just as vegetables in the garden differ in size, flavor, and texture,  so too did the sea vegetables I harvested.

seaweed loot

I feel as if I have just discovered a whole new world in coastal foraging and I feel so blessed to live in such an abundant and fertile region of the US!

birds car

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

~Marcel Proust

Foraging in Santa Barbara, CA

5am wake up calls are made less sucky if it means you get to forage in Santa Barbara all day. Having lived in Santa Barbara for almost 10 years, I have a pretty good lay of the land.

My first foraged item of the day were these beautiful apple succulent tips. These tiny little guys are just as their namesake; crisp, tart, and refreshing!

applesucc  applesucc2

Next up were these wild radish blossoms. Not only pretty, they add a nice spice as a garnish!

radishflower2

There is a sloping hillside on the ranch that I foraged on, it is shaded and cool. Everything that grows in this area is lush and green. I was so excited to find these little fiddle head ferns along the base of the hillside!

fiddlehead

The climate couldn’t have been better, a mild 70 degrees in February. As the light shone through the¬†canopy of trees, I came across a beautiful field of wild nasturtium.

nasturtiumnasturtium2

And adjacent to that was another field, full of wild New Zealand spinach (also known as Tetragonia tetragonioides). This is a beautiful field green, that is tender and crisp.

nzspinach nzspinach2

Next stop was the top of the hill, overlooking the Pacific. Just a half mile up the road and the climate changed drastically from the shaded hillside. It was much warmer, and there was wild mustard everywhere!

mustard   mustard2

Even my dog Moo was getting in on the foraging action! Except I think he was trying to forage lizards :p

mooforage

We headed back down the hill to the Cherimoya orchards to look for some Santa Barbara snails!

Cerimoya are a beautiful fruit with white, candy-like flesh. They soften as they ripen, just like a banana.

cheri

We also came across these almond blossoms. They smell sweet and almondy, just as you would expect the flower from this tree to be =]

almondblossom

And finally…JACKPOT! We found our Santa Barbara escargot, fed off of organic cherimoya trees. Hopefully these guys will like their new digs in Venice.

snails

My car was packed to the brim with all of my foraged treasures. I’m so excited to share a piece of this beautiful place with diners in LA!…but not excited to get back to the traffic =-/

radishflower traffic

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”

~Jawaharlal Nehru

Mushroom Foraging in Mendocino County, CA

In late November of 2012 I had the fortune of attending a guided mushroom foraging expedition with Forage SF: http://foragesf.com/

DISCLAIMER:  If you have never foraged before, especially for something as potentially deadly as mushrooms, it is imperative that you go with a trained guide.

The location was about 3.5 hours north  of San Francisco, in Mendocino County. My good friend Clifton Su, also a cook, joined me. We stopped at Model Bakery in Saint Helena to grab a couple of coissants for the long drive ahead of us. I will say this, albeit totally delicious, coissants do NOT make the best road trip food. By the end of the crusty, buttery treat, my car looked like a coissant storm had rolled in and left a nice dusting of flakes behind.

coissant

After about 3 hours on the highway, we turned off into the hills. The paved road quickly melted into a gravel path, which turned in to a dirt trail winding its way in to the back country of Mendocino.

the drive in the hills

Our small group gathered at an old cabin in the woods to talk about our gameplan.

cabinbox shroom skull

Because Clifton and I were inexperienced mushroom foragers, we relied heavily on the knowledge of Kevin, our guide. His words to live by, “Little brown, put it down!” Meaning most little brown mushrooms with gills¬†underneath¬†are inedible and¬†poisonous.

kevin magic

This was a truly magical experience. Spending hours trompsing around a forest, basket in hand, on the lookout for wild mushrooms!

me

SUCCESS! Porcinis and Chanterells

porcini perfect chantrelle

Oyster and Coral

oyster coral

Witches Butter and more Coral

witches butter more coral

Clifton and I had a day to remember!!

Big Daddy Porciniasian clif  Porcinis

We must have been good hunter-gatherers as cavemen because we came back with some serious bounty

Loot our bounty

As the sun began to sink low into the winter sky, we headed home. Exhausted and hungry, we stopped for dinner in Healdsburg at Scopa and had one of the BEST pizzas ever

the drive home pizza scopa

I can get use to this foraging thing ūüėČ

“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”

~Albert Einstein