Getting Funky with Local Fungi - The Williamsburg Winery

Getting Funky with Local Fungi

When we started the winery 32 years ago, we were running a small farm that only a handful of people believed in. We were lucky to get early support from distributors and visitors who understood our passion and wanted to help us succeed. Their belief in us made a huge difference in our success, and it inspired us to look for opportunities to help others build their dreams.

That’s one reason we started working with Jake Greenbaum of Urban Choice Mushrooms. Jake first met Chef Ian when he was cooking at Millie’s Diner in Richmond a few years ago. Chef Ian particularly loves Jake’s oyster mushrooms because they’re beautiful and fresh. We also love supporting a small business owner who has passion and a dream.

Urban Choice’s mushrooms are known for their high quality. In his warehouse space in Richmond, Jake grows and stores them at the ideal temperature and humidity so they don’t dry out or crack. They arrive at our kitchen in such pristine condition that Chef is often inspired to create a dish that features the mushroom in the center of the plate.

“Any time we are using a nicer mushroom we try to build something around it,” Chef says. “We don’t like to doctor it up too much. For example, we were just frying the lion’s mane in clarified butter. That was a component of our rockfish dish a few months back.” 

For our Valentine’s menu, Chef Ian used Urban Choice’s oyster mushrooms alongside a roasted pork loin. On the current tasting menu, Chef kicks off the five-course meal by featuring king oyster mushrooms in the first course.

He sautés the oyster mushrooms over high heat until they have a slightly charred, crispy edge. Then he plates those with baby turnips and smoked carrots tossed in a salty onion-butterscotch sauce, along with an apple-fennel preserve. It’s a rich combination of smoky-sweet flavors that highlight the earthiness of the mushroom, and pairs perfectly with our Trianon, a reserve Cabernet Franc.

“King oyster mushrooms have stems that are a lot fatter than other mushrooms, and you can get nice big slices out of them,” Chef says. “I like them because they have a meaty texture, meatier than a Portobello and not as spongy. They don’t bleed or get runny like a Portobello.” 

The brilliant color of Urban Choice’s yellow oyster mushrooms inspired Chef to experiment with some more unusual techniques. The mushrooms don’t hold their bright color when cooked over heat, so Chef Ian decided to cold pickle them with champagne vinegar, local honey, salt, cinnamon and black peppercorns. The pretty mushrooms sometimes show up as a sweet/sour condiment on our charcuterie boards or as a garnish on some of the dinner dishes.

Chef Ian looks forward to experimenting with more mushrooms as Urban Choice expands. “Jake is in the beginning of building his business,” Chef says. “He’s out all week long selling mushrooms, and then he comes back to the warehouse and he’s on a forklift doing something in the rafters. He’s very serious about it, not just a fly by night guy trying to earn bar money. He’s really putting in the work now, and I think he’ll become one of the largest mushroom farms in the area.” 

Whatever direction Jake takes his business, you can be sure we will be there to support him. Not only because he provides an excellent product, but because we respect his enthusiasm and hard work. You may not think “farm” when you think of mushrooms, or grapes, but we both get our hands dirty every day. For us, that’s what growth is all about.

Urban Choice Mushrooms – Butterscotch | Turnip | Chevre | Smoked Carrot | Fennel Conserva

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