Foraging, a growing trend, has chefs taking off their whites, sliding on some boots, and heading into the forest in search of wild edibles to showcase in their dishes. Coupled with the push for locally sourced products, foraging hits the mark.
A budding restaurant group in Baltimore has a chef that can often be found combing the local woods. Executive Chef Chris Amendola of Fleet Street Kitchen has developed a passion for foraging. He began foraging for ingredients seven years ago.
"I really just got into foraging because I love to cook and love to wander in the woods," he says. "I started looking around and began finding more and more ingredients for dishes, and before I realized it, I was going out with books."
Amendola followed famous food forager Evan Strusinski, of the Momofuku group and Gramercy Tavern, on several foraging outings, which help to solidify his knowledge of fungi and woodland edibles.
Upon joining Baltimore's Bagby Restaurant Group, it was not long before Chef Amendola was exploring the woods of Baltimore County. He guards his discoveries very closely, knowing that if harvested sustainably, these plots can continue to produce incredible wild edibles.
Some of the items he forages for that land on the menu include: ramps, fiddleheads, berries, black walnuts, and several varieties of mushrooms including morels, chanterelles, porcinis, and hen of the woods. When heading out in the woods, Chef Amendola always carries a first aid kit, warm clothes, and plenty of food and water. He's only been lost once (and not for too long), but that was enough to ensure proper preparation.
Additionally, he is adamant about not harvesting any wild edibles unless he is absolutely certain of their identity. He has extensive experience and still double checks his identification books before serving wild edibles.
"There's something truly satisfying about finding your ingredients in the woods," Amendola says enthusiastically. "It just makes the dish that much better. Simple dishes really let these ingredients shine with their natural, wild flavors."
The restaurant will host a Wild Edibles Dinner on Thursday, May 1, to feature some of his findings at the peak of the spring foraging season. Menu highlights include pan-seared rockfish with wild ramps, golden morels, and asparagus beurre blanc and Cunningham farms spring lamb with spruce, heirloom peas, glazed carrots, and lamb jus.