William Dissen, chef/owner of The Market Place, holds a 30-pound maitake, also known as hen of the woods. The mushroom was found yesterday in a “secret location” in north Asheville by Tom McGruder, part of Dissen’s “forager network.” And he’s pretty happy about it. “I really geeked out on this one. I’ve never seen one that’s 30 pounds — and all edible. Typically, they only go up to ten pounds. It’s the biggest freaking mushroom I’ve ever seen.”
The maitake mushroom is native to this area, and is available primarily in the fall and is often found growing near the trunks of oak trees. Its dense flesh is coveted in Asian cuisine. Dissen and company will use the fungus for wild-mushroom ravioli, served with a roasted-pumpkin puree, chevre from Spinning Spider and preserved lemon. “We also have specials we run from time to time, like a mushroom gratin with shallots, garlic, white wine and a Parmesan-herb crust,” Dissen says.
Want to eat it? The Market Place is located at 20 Wall Street. The restaurant is open for dinner at 5:30 p.m. every day except for Sunday.