It’s not every day you find yourself wandering round the woods hunting for mushrooms with a top chef and the promise of an afternoon quaffing champagne.
How does that even happen, you might be wandering? After all, mushrooms and champagne probably don’t spring to mind as natural partners. Until Krug came along.
The humble mushroom is the latest focus of the world-famous champagne house’s ‘Single Ingredient’ campaign, which has seen the production of ‘From Forest to Fork’ – a book that explores cooking with mushrooms and pairing mushroom dishes with Krug Champagne thanks to some of the world’s best-known Michelin starred chefs.
In short, 18 amazing chefs – including the UK’s own ‘Yummy Brummie’ Glynn Purnell – have taken up the challenge to create mushroom-based dishes that will make a glass of Krug Grande Cuvée taste even better than it already does. The book includes their dishes, as well as some fun interviews on what it is about mushrooms that they love so much.
So that’s how I ended up in woodland just outside of Birmingham with Purnell himself and expert forager James Wood, from Totally Wild UK, searching for mushrooms to learn how this humble fungus is about far more than an easy risotto shoved on a vegetarian menu.
We meander through the woods, finding far more than I had imagined would be hidden away in such an obvious part of the UK. From ‘Jelly Ears’ that resemble teeny tiny little mouse ears to ‘Turkey Tails’ and ‘Glistening Ink Caps’. Between us we carry two little wicker baskets – one with our edible spoils and the other with those it’s safer not to touch.
Emerging from the trees, we find ourselves in a woodland kitchen, complete with chilled Krug, where we watch Purnell cook up a rustic version of his own dish for the book, ‘It’s A Bit Tight In Here, There’s Not Mush-Room!’ as we sip on Krug Grande Cuvee 164eme Edition.
We have it with fillet tail of Herefordshire beef, barbecued by Purnell in the simplest way to cook a piece of meat. Our mushrooms are glazed with Marmite and parsley and served with a delicious Montgomery cheddar foam.
It’s all about fond memories and story but also about the way the umami flavours work with the champagne. According to the experts at Krug champagne, Krug Grande Cuvée is an ideal match for original, refined gastronomy. And how better to prove such pairings than with freshly foraged mushrooms, a top chef, and a dining room in the woods?
In case we have any doubts, we’re whisked back to Purnell’s restaurant in Birmingham to try the refined version of the dish as part of a six-course tasting menu paired with various Krug offerings in a private dining room that is adorned with all things mushroom, transporting us back to the woodland right there in the centre of the city.
The menu moves from homemade bread and goat’s butter, through the mushroom dish we tried in the woods to a chicken liver parfait with pickled shimeji mushroom and dehydrated oyster and enoki. Red mullet with creamed celeriac and chargrilled king oyster mushroom is paired with Krug 2004, while roast venison with pommes dauphine, and winter black truffle with a yellow brittle gill sauce is teamed with Krug Rose.
Our dessert is ‘Faux’ Mushrooms and chocolate, rounding off an epic day that has seen the mushroom take centre stage. It isn’t the first time Krug has picked a usually innocuous ingredient and made it the subject of such special treatment. The mushroom follows in the footsteps of the potato in 2015, then the egg in 2016.
In the same way the mushroom is never just ‘a mushroom’, Krug believes it’s the complexity of Krug Grande Cuvee that makes it so special. “Blending so many different wines across so many years allows me to express a fullness of flavors and aromas that would not otherwise be possible with the wines of one single year,” says Eric Lebel, Krug Cellar Master. “The generosity of Krug Grande Cuvée allows everyone to find something in it that stirs their emotions.”
With the single ingredient campaign, Krug’s aim was to make the ordinary mushroom extraordinary.
It certainly did that.
- From Forest to Fork is available exclusively from Majestic stores as a gift with a bottle purchase (RRP £150-£265) between now and spring.