Mushrooms freshly foraged at The Joel Palmer House. ##Photo by Andrea Johnson


What’s in season? Fall fungi

By Natasha Bailey

Mushrooms rate as some of the Northwest’s finest hidden treasures, delicious morsels nestled in the vibrant wilderness of Oregon, where the perfect pairing, Pinot Noir, reigns supreme.

When it comes to cooking and matching wine with these earthy delights, many people feel confused where to begin. However, Chris Czarnecki, owner and executive chef of The Joel Palmer House in Dayton, knows a great deal about local fungi and their distinct flavor profiles.

For many years, Chris, led by his father, mushroom master Jack Czarnecki, has harvested wild mushrooms, a passion running deep in his family to this day. He notes, “There are thousands of mushrooms that grow in Oregon, but which ones are actually palatable? White and gold chanterelles, maitake, morels, porcini and a bunch more, but those are probably my favorites.”

Some people consider mushrooms a garnish or simply an ingredient — in salads, pasta, stews, stroganoff and more — but they can also shine in the spotlight.

“We use mushrooms so that they are the star of the show,” Czarnecki says. Fungi-forward meals prepared inside his kitchen include Joe’s Wild Mushroom Soup, Heidi’s Three-Mushroom Tart and Jack’s Wild Mushroom Risotto featuring Slippery Jacks, porcini and button mushrooms. “What people don’t understand about mushrooms, or wild mushrooms in particular, is that they each stand out on their own. They all have their own unique characteristics.”

When preparing mushrooms, Czarnecki says, “Butter and onion is a great way to start any recipe,” but when asked about his cooking process further, he elaborates, “The holy trinity of cooking with wild mushrooms is: soy sauce, sugar and salt. Soy sauce really brings out the character of the mushroom.”

The most tantalizing part of making mushrooms a meal lies in the wine paired with it. Czarnecki says, “[If you know Joel Palmer’s cellar], it’s Pinot Noir for sure.” The restaurant’s vast collection of Oregon bottles remains one of the finest in the state. “Pinot has a gorgeous subtlety to it that pairs really well with mushrooms.”

As autumn descends with mercifully cool evenings and harvests of all kinds, now is the perfect time to dig into mushrooms, and The Joel Palmer House is the place to do it. If you’ve never dined at the Willamette Valley mainstay, you are missing out, because in addition to mushrooms, truffles also share the stage, but they’re a whole ’nother story and treasure of their own.

Let the trees be your fun-guide

Douglas fir: Bolete, Chanterelle

Pine: Bolete, Hedgehog, Matsutake, Chanterelle, Slippery Jack

Oak: Bolete, Blewit, Black Trumpet, Honey, Oyster, Chanterelle

Western hemlock: Bolete, Matsutake, Chanterelle

Sitka spruce: Bolete, Slippery Jack

Aspen: Oyster, Honey, Aspen Bolete

Birch: Chanterelle, Bolete, Hedgehog


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