Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Mushroom Marathon

The rains continue, which means fungi will be sprouting for the next month. I've already dried some porcini and last night I put some on a pizza. The nuttiness complements the cheese nicely, and makes a fine, firm meat substitute (though I had mine with some uncured pepperoni). I put a small bicolor bolete (red cap, yellow tubes) on my lunch burrito. You could almost live here on what people kick over and stomp.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Porcini Weather

"Porcini Weather" is the title of a poem I've been working on and it's been raining and warm and muggy lately, so when I walked gingerly around the empty lot next door stretching my bad back after tweaking it playing basketball, I was pleased to see peaking through the the weeds and tall grass several chestnut-suede buttons of the delicious and nutritious boletus edulis, more commonly known as porcini in the Italian, or ceps in France, or King Bolete in English. I picked three yesterday and four today, about a third of what I found growing. Sometimes the most difficult thing to do is to leave a few alone to to their work so they keep coming back.

They're terrific in soups and sauces, pasta and risotto, or just sauted in butter, and I'm looking forward to finding something delicious to do with them, something that will accompany the chickens I smoked yesterday. Last night I contributed to a dinner at a colleague's house by stir frying a few buttons with saffron rice, butter, garlic, and shallot. Simple and flavorful. Tonight, who knows? But these four beauties will find a place on our plates.

Speaking of smoked chickens, Amy "drew" a picture to show how it's done 'round these parts and how it's spelled:

Update: Harvested half a dozen more (12-16 oz), plus an Agaricus Campestris. Smoked Chicken and porcini rigatoni alfredo last night. Risotto con porcini tonight. Omelets tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Last Day of Summer School Classes


Now go download music at Owl and Bear: Wilco, Shins, Daniel Johnston, Uncle Tupelo up now, plus a nice podcast.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Mmmmm, Chanterelles, Boletes from the Hostel in the Forest

Amy briefly describes that ecotopia, the Hostel in the Forest, in her blog, and provides a link. We had a wonderful weekend there skinnydipping in the lake, watching the summer thunderstorm from the safety of our treehouse, dodging copious chickens, and avoiding the plentiful argiope spiders that hung between the branches. I spent much time foraging for mushrooms that I hoped would bless my table, and recent rains had brought out fungus in great numbers, feeding my hopes of finding mycological treasures, especially chanterelles. The most dramatic find was a troop of amanita muscaria v. alba, the white version of the soma mushroom said to have shamanic hallucinatory properties, though it's usually categorized as poisonous. I picked a large one and gave the little Buddha statue in the tree house a rather dramatic umbrella. I also gathered a number of boletes, sauteing an all white button in butter in the Hostel's communal kitchen, but its extreme bitterness disappointed, meaning I was likely dealing with some kind of Tylopilus. Another violet/black with white spore tubes also proved to be bitter, while a spongy pink-capped, yellow spore-tubed variety I began slicing had too many maggot holes to bother with. I soon gave up, leaving the remaining specimens in the cooler for further study at home.

We left Sunday afternoon, Amy to her friend Dottie's in King's Bay, as she was flying out of Jacksonville to NY to attend a retreat, and me with Dottie's boyfriend Thad, who plays lead guitar for local country punk heroes Ninja Gun, currently hard at work on their second album. On the way out, I spotted a spray of chanterelles along the ditchbank. Thad stopped and I gleefully gathered young, tender chanterelles from two locations just before the gate, and we were on our way, listening to Ween, Giraffes, Soft Boys, and GBV all the way home.

On Monday I decided to use the chanterelles and I kept it simple: linguine in butter with chopped garlic, chaterelles, sea salt, pepper, and freshly grated parmigiano reggiano. Delicious. The next night, I examined the boletes, tested one, and found it to be delightful, perhaps a butter bolete. At any rate, I sauted it to accompany a ribeye steak and the leftover chanterelle linguine. Mushroom mission accomplished.

Note: reports on mushrooms that I found and/or cooked represent my personal experiences, and in no way should be taken as recommendations for readers. This is not a guidebook. Eat wild mushrooms at your peril.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

By the Roadside, Night Driving in Small Towns

By the Roadside, the debut album from Night Driving in Small Towns, deftly blends classic folk country sounds with a contemporary vocal style that'll have you settin' on the front porch, tappin' your barefoot toes, sippin' sweet iced tea. The themes are love-gone-wrong-don't leave-me-now-I'm-better-off-without-you country/folk familiar, but the arrangements are understated, flavored with bluegrass instead of twang to set off Andrea Roger's dulcet contemporary vocals.

"Whiskey" starts it off with an empty bottle and an empty heart, but its light and still drunk and the looming hangover isn't hurtin' yet as uplifting rhythms swirl around the classic heartbreak epiphany, "The only one you love is you." "Close Encounters" put them in Rolling Stone's top 25 unsigned Myspace bands, and it anchors the album with Colby Wright's upbeat mandolin underpinning Andrea Rogers' honeysweet voice. "Close encounters of the first kind,/ Brief encounters of the close kind/And then you run away" cleverly summarizes those brief relationships she's sick of; she wants this one to stay. "Little White Dove"'s folk gospel yodeling optimism may just save Christianity from Christians, since it cheerfully steers away from the ideological judgmental gloom that seems to pervade much of the faith these days: "Oh, I know Jesus saves,/ so bring on the rain,/ I can build a boat/ and I can float away." It truly hearkens back to a time when people used words like "hearken," when folks went to church to hear about the spirit and sing uplifting songs and live and let live. It instantly belongs in every church coffee house hymnal and would feel right at home on Prairie Home Companion (Somebody call Mr. Keillor).

If the first half of the album is about innocence and its loss, the second half completes the Blakean circle in its explorations of experience. "'Cast Your Love Around" is about a lover who does and "Infidelity" wryly explores the perfect relationship: "The only one for me/Is infidelity/‘Cause I know he’ll be/Faithful to me." The album concludes with "Waking Up," slower, wiser, in a lower register, its images clear and deft: "A fallen leaf/Fluttered by my windshield today/And I mapped out its decline/Likened it to mine." But this, the saddest, slowest song on the cd, ends in cautious optimism--"Your hands just touch me/And I feel OK/Your voice just whispers/Give it one more day"--finishing this fine first effort with a healthy dose of mature realism. South Georgia songwriters Rogers and Wright (mandolin, guitar) are backed up admirably by Sage Cady (bassist), Daniel Gonzalez (guitars), and Tyler Shores (drums, harmonica). All in all, this is a terrific first cd.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

This and That

Owl and Bear is currently posting live shows from Mark Lanegan, Jeff Tweedy, Low, Built to Spill (a little quiet, but includes a sweet cover of Eno's Third Uncle"), and Tortoise.

My friends Night Driving in Small Towns have put out their first CD, By the Roadside, which I'll review here soon. Influences include Rilo Kiley (and Jenny Lewis) and Gillian Welch.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Interdependence Day

Tomorrow my friends Mike and Nancy shall be wed in St. Augustine. Mike and I came to Valdosta at the same time, two artists (he works with clay; I work with words) moving cross country to teach at this quiet, regional university with modest resources and a low profile. We met auspiciously at the cookie table during orientation, reached for the same macaroon, glances all Lady and Trampish , and we began a conversation and a friendship that continue. I moved out alone, leaving behind my California, my friends, and most of all, my son, who couldn't see himself in South Georgia. This Wisconsin kid came with Nancy, his model-lovely vivacious girlfriend from Cleveland who didn't know what she wanted to do here. Moving here was a huge change for her, but she took a chance on love, an almost cheesy chance, but given the Wisconsin factor, perfect. She found her calling in real estate, and found her heart with Mr. Schmidt. Congratulations.

This toast is for you both, a magnificent pinot for you, Mike, and a silky chardonnay for you, Nancy. May the fireworks soar higher and shine a little more brightly for your happiness tomorrow.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Cool stuff elsewhere

The Owl and Bear is currently posting live show recordings from Bonnaroo (four sets), Wilco, and Uncle Tupelo. They're flac files, so you might have to modify your WMP to listen.

John Guzlowski is famous for being a new blogger at New Works Review.