Working on a very long post, soon to appear, concerning wine label regulations, I had the opportunity to check back in on the dreaded Los Angeles Wild Mushroom ban, previously subjected here to howls of derisive laughter. As a result, I was pleased to learn through the Southland Farmers' Market Association that the ban has been quietly withdrawn by County authorities.
The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services recently took the unprecedented action of banning sales of wild mushrooms in certified farmers' markets. The reason given was that the source of the wild mushrooms was not 'an approved source' according to their definition. David West, a Southland member and long time vendor of wild mushrooms at the Santa Monica Certified Farmers' Market was essentially put out of business. Protests from customers and calls to the County Supervisors advising them that all wild mushrooms come from the same source added pressure on the Department of Health Services. In the end, the Department backed off its ban on wild mushrooms in Los Angeles County. The reason they gave was that it was a State matter to develop standards for approved sources of wild mushrooms. We think the Department simply got in over its political head on a decision that made sense to no one. See Southland's letter to the Director of Health Services and the most recent Los Angeles Times Article. Much credit for the change in the Department's decision goes to David West, who was persuasive in getting customers and supporters to call and write on his behalf. Laura Avery, Southland President and Supervisor of the Santa Monica Farmers' Markets, championed David's cause and was significant in getting the word out to radio listeners and market participants.
As if in honor of the occasion, the Los Angeles Times Food section today offers the effusions of high-powered chef Scooter Kanfer-Cartmill in praise of morels:
Years before she ever thought about becoming a chef, Scooter Kanfer-Cartmill worked as a scenic artist in the film business. On location in Iowa, she went with friends to the Iowa State Fair, where she noticed a crowd gathered at one booth. 'I got in line to see what was going on,' she says. 'When I got to the front, there was this farmer selling deep-fried morels. He said he had so many morels growing on his property that he was feeding them to his pigs. For $3 I got this whole newspaper cone filled with French-fried morels.'
So now, come spring, she orders 'gray ash' morels, those that grow out in burned forests, from her mushroom dealer. 'They're bigger and meatier than other morels,' she explains. 'They're über morels.'
Kanfer-Cartmill dredges them in flour seasoned with salt, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne pepper, dips them in an egg wash, then rolls them in bread crumbs seasoned with nutmeg and thyme. Next she deep-fries them in peanut oil and puts them in a parchment cone. Finally they get a sprinkling of sea salt and thyme leaves and a dash of malt vinegar. That's luxury.
Let the drooling commence.