Restaurants with chanterelle specials are as plentiful as this year’s harvest. The cool, wet fall has been perfect for a bumper crop of chanterelles in the nearby mountain passes. The woodsy, savory mushroom is being served in a number of ways that accent its beautiful earthy flavor. These mushrooms are only available for a short time in autumn and will disappear as the freeze hits and winter arrives. Many restaurants are getting their supplies from local foragers.

To get a sense of where these tasty fungi are found, I accompanied a friend to forage for chanterelles. The best places to find them are kept secret, but this year’s bounty made many a shroom hunter a little more generous. I discovered that chanterelles in the Cascades can be golden, white or black (which has a bit nuttier flavor than the others). My hunt then continued to restaurants serving chanterelles as a special this autumn.

Chris Leyman, chef de cuisine at 900 Wall, describes the chanterelles as having a browned butter flavor. Fall specials with chanterelles include a hearty, yet not heavy, risotto and a kale salad. The risotto is cooked in a smooth mushroom broth made from button mushrooms; the chanterelles are sauteed in butter, lemon and leeks. The tartness of the lemon and leeks cuts through the buttery richness of the chanterelles to enhance the mushroom’s unique flavor. The simple dish was a divine homage to these special mushrooms.

The fall kale salad special has fresh ingredients that include sweet, sour and savory: locally foraged chanterelles, charred green cabbage, a pancetta and mustard vinaigrette with locally-sourced kale sitting atop a seasonal butternut squash puree.

Mushrooms and steaks are a frequent pairing and can be found to suit your budget. Rockin’ Dave’s offers steak with foraged mushrooms that include shiitake and oyster mushrooms along with chanterelles. The mushrooms, cooked in a tarragon sherry, are served on the steak over horseradish mashed potatoes. The horseradish is a great complement to bring out the flavors of the mushrooms in this steak entree for under $20.

Bos Taurus serves chanterelles as a side to top their steaks. We chose a rib eye from Cedar Farms in Arizona with a side of chanterelles sauteed in butter, shallots, garlic, rosemary and thyme. The mushrooms are finished off with a mushroom bordelaise made from chanterelle scraps and matsutake mushroom stems cooked down with port, red wine and beef stock. It’s a little heavier than most chanterelle recipes.

Chanterelles seem to go with any type of protein. At Drake they were served with Hokkaido scallops on the night we dined there. The sweetness of scallops was enhanced by slices of delicata squash, butter braised confit carrots and a hint of maple gastrique. The scallops were then topped with the chanterelles in miso butter sauce. Light, sweet and savory with the complement of miso to pull out all the flavors; it was another mouthwatering favorite.

The Jackalope Grill’s Tim Garling talked with me about his first experience with chanterelles. “I have fond memories of days in Paris when I was going to culinary school. You go to the markets in Paris at this time of year, and they have small mountains of girolles (French for golden chanterelles) for sale. I stopped at a grocery story on the Champs Elysees… I got some pancetta and crème fraîche, lemon, shallots and pasta. And made pasta for all my friends.”

It’s a recipe that is reflected in his chanterelle mushroom toast. The chanterelles sit on a thick slice of Sparrow’s rustic bread, topped with a cream sauce similar to the one Garling made for his friends in Paris. A touch of Tabasco brings that surprise bite that cuts through the cream and brings out the umami flavor of the chanterelles. Fresh thyme from Jackalope’s courtyard garden emphasizes the woodsy flavor of the mushrooms.

Second-year students at the Cascade Culinary Institute design dishes based on what’s local and available for the season. This quarter they are offering a burger for lunch to honor Julian Darwin, who founded the school in 1992 and retired two years ago.

“The thing that I love about mushrooms in general … is they tell a story.” Instructor Chef Thor Erickson explains. “And this burger tells a story of Julian Darwin … as it has all his favorite things.”

Darwin makes cheese at Windy Acres Dairy in Prineville and likes foraging for mushrooms. The burger is topped with chanterelles sauteed in butter, a slice of the 9-month aged cheddar that he makes, and a roasted shallot curry aioli, because Darwin was always a fan of curry.

Each of the flavors shout out individually but seem to work together served on a pretzel bun. You can get it at the Elevation restaurant on the COCC campus, which is open for lunch on Thursdays and Fridays in October.

— Reporter: barb@barbgonzalezphotography.com

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