JUNE 2017 – When you think summer food, thoughts generally turn to fresh fruit, seasonal produce and, of course, outdoor grilling. While that may lead to images of burgers, hot dogs, brats and more, you shouldn’t discount the bounty that is mushrooms. These fungi, which come in a wide variety, are great to throw on a grill. But here at the Cindy’s, our chef de cuisine, Keith Potter, loves to roast his mushrooms and also prepare them in a style called conserva where you lightly cook cleaned mushrooms in seasoned olive oil and herbs that are lightly scented with smoked paprika and sherry vinegar. Potter pairs the earthiness of the mushrooms with farm spinach, bacon lardoons and honey thyme vinaigrette — and always serves mushrooms alongside his steak preparations.
Before he can even think about how he’ll prepare the mushrooms, he first needs to procure the best possible product. And for that, he turns to River Valley Mushroom Farm in Burlington, Wis. This 40-year-old mushroom farm, which was started by former restaurateur Bill Rose and his son, Eric, began from the need to have farm-fresh Midwest mushrooms at a time when many restaurants used the canned variety.
Over the decades, River Valley established itself as one of the main sources for its five mushrooms varieties — portabella, crimini, white button, shiitake and oyster — grown at their indoor farm year-round. River Valley grows its mushrooms in 14-day cycles in a 35-ton batch of sustainable compost that’s produced from agricultural by-products and carefully pasteurized during the mushroom growing process. Further, River Valley uses absolutely zero chemicals, preservatives or growth enhancers so you know you’re getting a 100 percent clean product. The farmers pick about 15,000 pounds of mushrooms each week — that’s a lot of ‘shrooms!
In addition to eating River Valley mushrooms at Cindy’s, you can also find them at River Valley Farmer’s Table in Ravenswood at 1820 W. Wilson. This market and restaurant serves a bounty of local products — everything from cheese and meats to spreads and spirits.