Fall is mushroom time on the Long Beach Peninsula of coastal Washington. The beach toys are put away and ice cream is no longer the most sought-after food. Instead, in fall, it’s all about cranberry harvest, wild mushrooms and mushroom hunting on Long Beach Peninsula.
If you love a multi-course gourmet mushroom dinner with wine pairings or want to wake up to a breakfast frittata made with wild mushrooms, you’re in for a treat. Innkeepers and chefs go all out during the six weeks of the annual Wild Mushroom Celebration on this beautiful ocean peninsula.
Foraging for wild mushrooms on the Long Beach Peninsula
The mornings are misty with coastal fog; you’ll enjoy wrapping up in something warm and cozy during October and early November. It’s a fun time to go into the woods, basket in hand, with a mushroom expert.
You can’t find mushrooms just anywhere. Fungi flourish on the forest floor in many places on Washington’s southern coast every fall. That unmistakable damp sea air rolls in from the Pacific Ocean engulfing the Peninsula in moisture. Mushrooms love it!
If you know what you are doing or are with an expert, you can find quite a few different types of mushrooms.
Regional varieties include the King Bolete mushroom, a beefy bulbous fungi considered a choice edible and sold in stores under its Italian name, Porcini. Other local mushroom varieties include Oyster, Russula, Lobster, Fly Amanita, White Matsutake, Chanterelle and the rare Prince.
And, you can’t just harvest mushrooms when you see them. Some locations don’t allow random foraging. Most allow you to harvest only what you can use for a meal.
Locals often consider the region’s choicest foraging spots closely guarded secrets.
David is an accomplished chef and artist. And he knows his way around the forest floor. We quickly found a few varieties of mushrooms and some were edible. David showed me how to carefully cut my chosen mushrooms with a knife, leaving the plant intact. When you harvest, you use a basket or a porous bag so that spores are dispersed and new plants can grow.
Across the Columbia River, however, Oregon’s Fort Stevens State Park offers a Guide to Mushrooms on its website. Not only does the pamphlet have pictures of edible mushrooms, it outlines the rules for hunting them as well as provides you with an equipment list. At Fort Stevens, they allow harvesting in day use areas and you can take just enough for your evening meal. Each year, Fort Stevens State Park offers mushroom hikes with a ranger – a great way to get started in the sport of “shrooming”!
Gourmet dining with wild mushrooms
Imagine the surprise of coming down to breakfast at the historic Shelburne Inn and finding the mushrooms you harvested the day before, sautéed and presented on your breakfast plate. The chefs at the Shelburne Inn source locally, and during mushroom season, offer a special mushroom dinner, and often a beer pairing. This year the multi-course meal features chef-inspired wild mushroom dishes paired with Pike Brewing Company beer.
The award-winning Depot Restaurant has been putting on gourmet mushroom dinners annually for 14 years now. For a true celebration of wild mushrooms, you can’t go wrong with Chef Michael Lalewicz’ artfully prepared mushroom dishes. This year, the restaurant features small-vineyard Italian wine pairings. The Depot Restaurant is a must-do when you visit the Long Beach Peninsula any time; it’s a cozy, romantic spot set in a historic Clamshell Railroad Depot. You’ll enjoy upscale dining while relaxing in a casual atmosphere. After dinner, walk down to the beach!
Look for special mushroom dishes and local restaurants up and down the Peninsula. Adrift Hotel’s [pickled fish] restaurant, overlooking the beach and ocean, has more than fresh fish coming out of their kitchen during the Wild Mushroom Celebration. They offer rotating wild mushroom specials for the entire month of October. Ask for a window table and you may just find yourself facing an ocean view while you dine. Go early enough, and that view might also include a herd of elk.
Bed-and-breakfast inns on the Long Beach Peninsula
The Peninsula’s beautiful bed-and-breakfast inns welcome the mushroom lover during fall.
1) Boreas Inn
Boreas Inn, the tastefully decorated two-story inn within steps of the ocean, is known for their multi-course gourmet breakfasts. Innkeepers Susie and Bill host a special weekend package for mushroom fans. It includes a two-night stay, a wine dinner at the acclaimed Depot Restaurant and a special five-course brunch with local mushroom expert Veronica Williams. It’s often sold out, so booking a year in advance is recommended.
2) Shelburne Inn
The Shelburne Inn, established as a retreat on the Washington coast for visitors from Portland, Oregon, has operated continuously since 1896. It’s filled with antiques, stained glass windows and friendly people. The Shelburne is a great place to stay while you explore the trails of the Long Beach Peninsula and take in the sea air.
The Inn has a pub and a formal restaurant. My mushroom expert friend and inn co-owner, David, is often found taking meal orders and chatting with guests. He’s the go-to person for mushroom questions there. And don’t forget about their special mushroom dining event.
3) Charles Nelson Guest House
On the north end of the Peninsula (the length of the whole peninsula is easily driveable in 45 minutes or less) you’ll find the Charles Nelson Guest House. This beautiful bay-side historic home has only three guestrooms (large with baths) and is ideally situated for those who want to explore the trails at Leadbetter Point State Park and visit historic Oysterville. And not to worry – you can still enjoy dining in Long Beach and Seaview as it’s a straight shot into town, taking less than a half hour.
Ginger, co-owner of Charles Nelson Guest House, is known for her farm-to-table breakfasts. She sources eggs from her chicken coop and serves Willapa Bay oysters on request. Two of her rooms have Willapa Bay views, so you know exactly where your oysters come from.
Mushroom recipes from the Long Beach Peninsula
Sometimes, no matter how much you might want to visit, you can’t. We gave you the Eggplant Parmesan recipe from the fabulous Don Alfonso cooking school in Italy. Here now are three Long Beach mushroom recipes to try:
- Deliciosa Mushroom Soup from The Shelburne Inn
- Wild Mushroom Frittata from The Shelburne Inn
- Boreas Inn Wild Mushroom, Chive and Sausage Shortcake from the Boreas Inn
What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?
- Fall and winter on the Long Beach Peninsula are opportunities for storm-watching.
- Paved and wooded trails provide options for light hikers as well as those wanting a challenge.
- The Long Beach Peninsula is rural but is home to some world-class chefs who go all out during the Mushroom Celebration.
- Reservations are needed for special mushroom dinner events.
- Bring waterproof gear for mushroom hunting on Long Beach Peninsula and other outdoor activities.
- Mushroom foraging should only be done by those in the know or by tagging along with a local expert. Some mushrooms are poisonous.
IF YOU GO
- The Long Beach Peninsula of Washington is just a short driving distance from the Portland and Seattle areas. The Peninsula lies 20 miles north of historic Astoria, Oregon, across the Astoria-Megler Bridge. No matter which route you take, the drive to the Long Beach Peninsula is beautiful. For more information see the Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Center website.
- The annual Wild Mushroom Celebration is a six-week event featuring mushroom-hunting hikes with experts, mushroom-inspired menus at local restaurants and lodging packages at lodges, inns and vacation rentals. The 2017 celebration runs from October 1 to November 15.
As is common in the travel industry, the author’s meals and accommodations were subsidized for the purpose of review.
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