But it does not have seafood; instead, it’s laced with meaty chunks of red Lobster Mushrooms, so called because once you see the raw mushroom, there’s no denying the color looks exactly like a cooked lobster claw. We didn’t make this up – that’s their actual name, or Hypomyces lactiflourum if you want to get technical.
And technically speaking, it’s not really a mushroom either; according to Wikipedia, it’s a parasitic ascomycete that grows on mushrooms, turning them the characteristic reddish orange color that resembles the outer shell of a cooked lobster. “At maturity, it thoroughly covers its host, rendering it unidentifiable.” Walk through a forest after a rain, when the humidity is high, and you might see bits of these bright orange babies pushing up from under the earth.
Because the host mushroom can be practically obliterated by the parasite, it’s best not to sample forest finds unless you’re well trained, though the types of mushrooms the parasite likes to hang on are generally safe for human consumption. Some say Lobster Mushrooms have a seafood-like flavor, which makes them great substitutes for vegetarians or vegans, but the taste really depends on the host mushroom.
The lobster mushrooms we’ve been getting in are pretty large, about five inches across, with thick stems, texture dense and firm. Chef Bill slices them and sautes them with an oil blend and a bit of butter for the risotto, and they mingle with chanterelles and porcini to pair with our beef tenderloin entree. But they are also great baked or fried; or try them in soups, chowders, stews or stir fries. You can add the sauteed mushrooms to omelets, frittatas and quiche for great color, and they readily absorb the other flavors well.
So we aren’t trying to trick anyone or mislead diners when our menu says Lobster Mushroom Risotto; we’re merely bringing you the bounty of the Pacific Northwest.