Bress Wine, Cider and Produce
3894 Calder Highway
+61 3 5474 2262
This post dates back two months ago when my parents were in Melbourne. They visited once a year ever since I moved to Melbourne, and each time they come I try to think of a new place for them to explore. When The Commoner tweeted about a mushroom tour, my ears pricked up. I’m a sucker for mushrooms, have yet to do mushroom picking and have The Commoner on my eating wishlist, so why not? My parents have yet to partake in harvesting mushrooms and they haven’t been to Harcourt. A reservation was quickly made.
As the date approached, we were informed that the unusually warm and dry May week we had chosen was unsuitable for mushroom growth and that we may not be able to find any in the forest. Despite that, we remained optimistic. With Fakebooo in tow, we found ourselves driving out towards North-East Victoria.
The tour was to commence at Bress Winery, where we would start off with a quick info session, drive out to the forest for foraging and then return to the winery for a four-course lunch. We were greeted by some happy free-range feathered friends that had wandered out of their “Hilton” coop for a stroll and a peck. Morning tea consisted of warm mulled wine and rosemary chestnut cakes. I loved the cakes: they were sweet, a little sticky and the rosemary gave it a slight herby savoury touch. Our guide Matt Donnelly (of Mushrooms Annonymous) proceeded to brief us about mushroom picking. Soon enough, a convoy headed out towards some pine forests.
Pine mushrooms have a symbiotic relationship with pine trees, hence the overlapping in names. The damp mulch of the forest ground also provides a nurturing environment for other mushrooms, both edible and toxic. We were fortunate to harvest 3 pine mushrooms in the first 10 minutes of our adventure. Unfortunately our luck died out after that, but Fakebooo, my folks and I enjoyed our amble amongst the tall pines. Fakebooo harvested some wild sorrel while I tromped about on wild garlic grasses.
We returned to Bress an hour later for lunch. A wonderful scent of sautéing mushrooms in warm butter wafted invitingly. Our meal consisted of potato bread, mushroom croquette, sautéed mushrooms and slow-cooked beef cheeks. I absolutely loved the potato bread. I usually avoid carbs but the potato bread lured me back for third and even fourth helpings. It was so soft and fluffy and worth every hip and thigh-seeking calorie. Dessert was a lovely brown ale pudding, with a rather salty salted caramel.
I was slightly taken aback at the overall group size of more than 60 people; at $95 per head, I was expecting a much smaller group, which would have made for a more efficient, cosy and comfortable tour. However despite the price, and our disappointing harvest, it was still a lovely experience: walking about in the cool forests, breathing in fresh pine-scented air and escaping the hustle and bustle of everyday life.