Once upon a time, in a land of mythical beauty, there was a little village, nestled in acres of vineyards, atop a little hill in the countryside. The village might have been the quaintest of the land, but oh what a view! Most spectacular it was after a summer storm, when the clouds would part, and the first rays of sun would sweep over the fields, revealing thousands of shades of green and gold as far as the eyes could see.
The village was also the tiniest of the land, with only a handful of houses and a local restaurant to serve the few families that lived there. Unlike many other such restaurants in small villages, this one was no longer run by the family that originally opened it. Uncharacteristically, three dopey elves from a neighboring land had visited the restaurant one day and, noting the need for new management and taken by the quaint village and its beautiful scenery, decided to settle and run the restaurant.
One day, a slightly neurotic but usually fun-loving girl who called herself the Green Gourmande (GG) wandered into the restaurant. She did not just stumble in by chance of course, but she was fortunate enough to know one of the villagers who happened to dine there frequently, and who had kindly invited her and some friends to taste the local flavor.
When they arrived, GG and her friends were greeted with big smiles and teasing jokes by the slightly punch-drunk owners, who were peculiar indeed, but warm and kind and performed their duties with joy. An extensive, delicious lunch of slightly sweet and smokey grilled meats was followed by even more extensive tasting of the regional wines.
Suddenly, the chef bounded out of the kitchen, eagerly urging us to come see what he had just picked in the forest behind the restaurant. GG and her friends were dumbfounded to see, sprawled across the kitchen counter, a pile of turgid porcini mushrooms. “Come back for dinner” said the chef “and I will serve you a little taste of these!”
Sure enough, a few bottles of wine later, GG and company found themselves sitting once again to eat at the little village restaurant. As promised, the porcini came out as a little amuse-bouche, fried and served in a warm butter sauce with garlic and parsley. The mushrooms were devastatingly good. Porcini, fresh from the forest and onto the plate, now this was a thing of fairy tales!
The following day, GG and her favorite foodie retraced the chef’s indications to the enchanted forest on a mission to find the plump porcini. The forest was drenched in rainwater, its soil flooded by enormous puddles. They slopped through the muddy sand, using a stick to peer beneath the ferns. And there, under a leaf, growing out of the moist sandy soil were the porcini they had tasted the night before. Jackpot! Finding the hidden treasures felt like an Easter egg hunt for adults!
Advancing slowly and methodically, it wasn’t long before they had filled their wicker basket with precious porcini of all shapes and sizes.
Once satisfied with their loot, GG and her companion bid farewell to the enchanted forest and made their way back home…. to make an awesome porcini risotto. Seriously, I just tried one of these babies fried in butter and it tastes nothing short of delicately seared foie gras!
The morel (I mean, moral) to the story
Now, there is an unspoken understanding among mushroom pickers that they do not reveal the location of their treasure troves. So this little village and its enchanted forest, Genevan though they may be, will remain mythical to you dear reader. Let it be a lesson though: go off the beaten path, make friends with the locals, break bread and drink their wine, and they might just point you straight to an enchanted forest.
Disclaimer – Mushroom picking is legal in Geneva within most of the region, except for certain protected areas. Technically, you are limited to picking 2kg of mushrooms per person per day. Also, mushroom picking can of course be very risky because many of them are toxic, and many of them look alike. Be sure you know exactly what mushrooms you are looking for, and don’t pick any that you’re not completely sure of. For more info, check out http://etat.geneve.ch/dt/nature/champignons-274-2002.html
Thanks to one of my Facebook followers for also providing this info about a FREE service in Geneva that will check to make sure your mushrooms are safe: http://ge.ch/dares/service-consommation-affaires-veterinaires/champignons_faites_contr_ler_vos_cueillettes-1122-3570-7397.html