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AFAR Experience Seattle – Misadventures in Foraging

After an exploratory morning at MOHAI and a fun stop at Love City Love, theAFAR Experiencers broke out into individual excursions for an afternoon of more intimate encounters with Seattle. There were a lot of interesting options to choose from, but my heart stopped when I saw the name Langdon Cook.

Langdon-Cook
Photo credit: Seattle Magazine Vimeo

In May 2012 I came back from having the meal of a lifetime at The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, and I began following news stories on the chef, Blaine Wetzel. During that time he was nominated by Food & Wine magazine as one of the best new chefs for 2012.

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In the interview, he mentioned Langdon’s blog Fat of the Land and I became a faithful reader. I am currently “devouring” his second book, The Mushroom Hunters on my commute and now have a constant hankering for morels…but I digress.

Grilled Shitake mushroom
Grilled Shitake mushroom from my meal at Willows Inn

When I saw that Langdon was leading a forage in a nearby forest, I signed up toute suite! He is a foraging rock star and I wanted to meet him!

Mind you we are talking Seattle. In March.

You guessed it. Rain.

Because we had had a full morning and midday of activities I didn’t think about wearing the raincoat that hung in the closet in my hotel room. Instead, I wore my down jacket (yes, down feathers are just awesome for the rain…), my converse, and my Ona camera bag.

And of course, it was pouring down rain.

But who wouldn’t want to wander the woods with this handsome devil?

Langdon-Cook
Photo credit John Valls

Langdon graciously led us through Seward Park, a park still within Seattle’s boundaries with deep forest growth. He pointed out as best as he could the varieties of edible plants, flowers, and berries available to us should we choose to return during the proper seasons.

He teased us with amazing recipes for various harvests, so much so, that we began to insist he invite our small group back for dinner!

We peppered him with questions as we walked the forest paths and learned about the [mostly] hidden ecosystem of mushroom pickers that support regional restaurants and farmer’s markets from Vancouver to Northern California, it is the fascinating subject of his latest book.

Soon we left the path and despite the rain coming down pretty hard, I was doing a pretty good job of not being my normal clumsy self.

Until I wasn’t.

One big step too many and my Converse lost its footing and down I went. Into a giant mud puddle. My whole right backside was covered in mud.

Yep, just me.

Wasn’t hurt and what could I do? So I just went with it.

I had a great time. I learned a lot. And I got to meet a local hero, someone who I admire and who turned out to be a super nice guy.

Mud and all, it was my favorite part of my AFAR Experience Seattle trip.

How about you? Have you ever foraged? Have you ever eaten a foraged meal?

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52 Comments

  1. I’ve never eaten a foraged meal. It sounds like you has a great time despite your wardrobe choices and muddy rear. I promise I’m not laughing, just smiling. That was very nice of him to do the dinner, there is nothing more exciting than meeting someone you have always admired and you had a full day with him. Even with the rain the location is beautiful, it must have been inspiring.

  2. Andi, the MacCallum House in Mendocino holds a foraged wild mushroom winemaker’s dinner every November. Eric Schram is the wild mushroom personality/forager who gives a little talk about each mushroom that is used in Alan Kantor’s creative dishes. Mmm mmm good! Wines are from Graziano Family of Wines. A deliciously excellent evening!

    1. @Amanda, from what I have seen there are people like this everywhere! Also, so many chefs are doing stages under Rene Redzepi at Noma in Copenhagen and returning to their native lands to open restaurants based on foraging, I bet there is someone in your area.

  3. I lived in Seattle for almost a year…I wonder why I never tried a forage!??!! And I happen to love hiking! Thank you for your post…gives me the thought of trying this out perhaps in the northern part of the bay area where we have more luscious forests. Or maybe I should visit Seattle again. 🙂

    1. @Cara, I lived up there for several years myself, my parents even longer and didn’t know about it! That is why I love AFAR, for these types of experiences!

  4. What a cool experience! I am not an outdoorsy person by a long stretch, but I would happily traipse through the woods if there was tasty food in it for me at the end! 🙂

    1. @Natalie, we didn’t have the chance to do any cooking, but we joked about it. But Langdon does lead excursions that end up with cooking everything you gathered on the beach, I want to do that!

    1. @Alexa, it was really fun and Langdon also does outings where you gather food and cook it on the beach with a big party!

  5. I’ve never done this, but probably would for the pictures depending on the path! This AFAR thing sounds amazing. I’m jealous because I’ve always wanted to visit Seattle. I think I’d love it there. I think I’d probably love to live there, too.

    1. @Lix, it is definitely an area of the country that I want to eventually live in. I went to high school there and want to get back in the future. Love to visit there as often as possible.

    1. @Chelsea, I was really surprised too. I lived up there for several years and was completely unaware of this area!

  6. Wet, cold and muddy — all for your culinary crush. 🙂 I love that you picked yourself up and kept going. It sounds like you had an amazing adventure, met a chef you respect, and learned about mushrooms. Good for you!

  7. Alas! I have yet to forage or forage a meal!! I have so much living yet to do! PS Love your blog! PSS That handsome devil of yours seriously looks like a model in that picture.

  8. Andi, it would have been me to fall on my backside too! Sounds like an amazing walk – I’d love to know more about foraging. I’d like to think i’d know how to survive in the wilderness if it ever happened (hopefully not!)

    Katie <3