Wild Mushroom Hunt, Chicken of the Woods

Mushroom Hunting

By Stephanie Heinatz, Friend of the Inn at Warner Hall

It couldn’t have been more than a couple of days after I shooed my 2-year-old son away from a wild mushroom growing in our front yard that Chef Eric Garcia from the Inn at Warner Hall asked if I’d be interested in going wild mushroom hunting.

“Sure,” I said, eager and excited about learning something new, but also wrought with parental hypocrisy. Here I was, having just told my son that wild mushrooms could make him super sick, and I was agreeing to traipse through some unknown woods to pick decomposing matter growing wild on dead trees.

Steve Haas, Virginia’s wild mushroom expert and owner of the Richmond-based Steve Haas Mushrooms, cultivates a wide variety of gourmet mushrooms in a chemical and pesticide free environment. He sells them at markets throughout the region and to fine restaurants all over the East Coast. In fact, that’s how Chef Eric met him. Chef Eric has used Steve’s very prized mushrooms for meals at Warner Hall.

Steve also believes strongly in education and showing people the beauty in mushrooms. That’s why, when he’s not growing his own, he leads people on mushroom forays.

Most people – at least those who don’t chastise their children for touching wild mushrooms – associate mushroom hunts with the western part of the country. But, as Steve says, Virginia is home to thousands of acres of “old growth hardwoods” that provide the hearty environment for the mushroom kingdom’s most prized varieties to grow.

The chilly, rainy, fall day Chef Eric and I met Steve at a wooded area in West Point couldn’t have been more perfect for mushroom hunting.

And Steve’s first lesson couldn’t have been more perfect for putting my mind at ease.

Most people were raised to be afraid of mushrooms, he said. While you should have a healthy respect for them, always obeying the golden mushroom hunting rule of “if you can’t identify it, don’t pick it,” the fungi foraged in the woods can provide some of the best eating.

Mushroom hunting, I quickly learned, is a peaceful, relaxing walk through the woods. During a three hour hunt – which could have been made shorter had I not locked my keys in my car before starting out – we made our way down trails, across creeks, over fallen trees and through piles and piles of leaves.

We learned that where a mushroom grows helps identify the type of mushroom. We learned to look for hardwood trees – poplar and oak – and avoid the pine. We learned to look down at the ground as well as up – mushrooms will grow up trees as well as along the ground and across fallen limbs. We learned that the tops and bottom of mushrooms are just as important as the color. Some varieties of edible mushrooms have a non-edible twin, with the only identifiable difference being the way the gills and pore of the belly of the mushroom is constructed. We learned that a poisonous mushroom can grow, literally, right next to one being used in cancer research.

And we learned that the colors of mushrooms – oh, the colors! – can be as vibrant as flowers.

As Steve said, during this hunt with Chef Eric, we hit the mother load of mushroom hunt finds – nearly 40 pounds of bright orange, chicken of the woods (pictured above).

I brought a big hunk of the chicken of the woods mushroom home to cook up. But before it hit the hot butter, I handed it to my 2-year-old and told him all about mushroom hunting and Steve’s golden mushroom rule. He looked at, turned it over in his hands and ran his fingers all over the bright orange covering for no less than five minutes – an eternity in toddler time.

“There’s a phobia about mushrooms as the big unknown,” Steve told the Richmond Times-Dispatch recently. “But children are interested in them, so we can encourage them to look at the amazing colors, shapes and sizes while we teach them mushrooms’ place in nature.”

Want to see more images from the mushroom hunt? Visit the Inn at Warner Hall’s Facebook page here

    • Warner Hall Entry Drive

      Great Gloucester! – Now through Dec. 15, 2018

      Spend three nights in splendid Warner Hall style now through Dec. 15, 2018 and we’ll give you a $75 gift certificate to your choice of our favorite participating Gloucester restaurants, markets & shops. To name just a few: Bangkok Noi Thai Cuisine, Brent & Becky’s Bulbs, Goodman’s Antiques,  Juan’s Mexican Café and Cantina, Kelsick Specialty Market, Lulu Birds Kitchen, Nuttall’s Store, Olivia’s on Main, Patriot’s Grill, Scoot’s BBQ, Little England Mercantile, The Silver Box, Smith’s Florist, Sweet Tooth Café and Bakery, Tony & Milena’s, Up South!,  Ware Neck Produce, Yolanda’s, York River Oyster Co.

      You must enter GREAT GLOUCESTER in the guest notes when you make your reservation online! This special can not be combined with any other special. Only one special applies per stay.

      Click HERE to select your room and make your reservation now!

    • Dog Days of Summer 2018 Lodging Special

      For each online reservation made between Aug. 17 and Aug. 31, 2018 with a two day stay period through October 31, 2018,  the Inn at Warner Hall will donate 15% of lodging proceeds to the Gloucester-Mathews Humane Society. Additionally, guests that bring a 5lb. bag of pet food to check in / out will be entered in a drawing for a free overnight stay on Valentine’s Day.

      You must enter LOVE THAT TAIL in the guest notes when you make your reservation online!

      Click HERE to select your room and make your reservation now!

    • Gloucester Wine Festival – Sept. 22, 2018

      Great wines are waiting to be discovered at the 9th Annual Gloucester Wine Festival – Sat. Sept. 22, 2018.  Reserve your stay at Warner Hall for the weekend and receive two free tickets to the Wine Festival!

      Join fellow wine enthusiasts for a tasting of top Virginia wines & fine foods. Learn more about the art of wine making and tasting. Shop with local artisans and vendors and enjoy exciting live music while strolling the grounds of the internationally acclaimed Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.

      You must enter SEPTEMBER IS FOR WINEing in the guest notes when you make your reservation online!

      Click HERE to select your room and make your reservation now!

    • BrewJam Festival – Oct. 20, 2018

      Brew up some excitement this autumn over the weekend of Oct. 20, 2018. Spend two nights at the Inn at Warner Hall and we’ll give you two free tickets to Gloucester Main Street’s BrewJam. Sip some tasty “Brews” and spread your best dance “Jam” moves with friends who enjoy great music, craft beers and delicious food.

      You must enter BREW IT UP BABY! in the guest notes when you make your reservation online!

      Click HERE to select your room and make your reservation now!

    • OHHHHH For the Love of Oysters – Nov. 3, 2018

      Spend the weekend at Warner Hall and we’ll bring a taste of the Urbanna Oyster Festival to you here at the Inn! Experience the warmth & ambiance of one of our signature Boathouse Bonfires while feasting on tasty hors d’oeuvres, soups, salads and of course, OYSTERS!

      Saturday, Nov. 3, 5 – 8pm.

      $20 pp incudes Wine, Beer and live Bluegrass music!

      You must enter LOVE OYSTERS! in the guest notes when you make your reservation online!

      Click HERE to select your room and make your reservation now!

    View All Specials
    • There’s no doubt, it makes our day to know that keeping Warner Hall and its history alive for all to enjoy is so meaningful to all, from the descendants of the great men and women who lived here to the guests who lodge here. We recently received this lovely note of thanks and had to […]

    • We are certainly sad to see this vacation of ours come to an end. How lucky we were to have found this place. Warner Hall is exactly what the B&B experience should be. You have combined all of the essential elements of the perfect getaway. We will be back, many times I’m sure! Thank you! […]

    • Warner Hall not only equaled but exceeded our expectations. The warm Southern hospitality, the gracious surroundings, and the incredible cuisine combined to create a memorable birthday for Donna and for our friends. An outstanding evening of fellowship and food! You have paid attention to detail in the restoration, decoration and in the reception, hosting, “ghosting” care […]

    • Gloucester Main Street Bank Building

      Gloucester Main Street Re-Visioning Iconic Bank Building

      Restoring iconic buildings and breathing new life into them is, as you know, something that the Inn at Warner Hall greatly values. It’s our responsibility to preserve our past, and at the same time, grow into the future to build stronger communities. That’s why Innkeeper Theresa Stavens is honored to serve on the Feasibility Oversight […]

    • Summer and Fall 2018 Lodging Specials and Event at the Inn at Warner Hall

      Make your reservations online to qualify for these SUPER SPECIALS and BASK IN THE SUMMER AND FALL BENEFITS of a visit to Warner Hall! Please note that all applicable price adjustments will be made by the Innkeepers as reservations requests are made and accepted. Great Gloucester! – Now through Dec. 15, 2018 Spend three nights […]

    • A Night of Romance at Warner Hall Starring Elijah Rock & The Virginia Symphony Jazz

      A concert like no other that has come to Gloucester will close out this year’s Gloucester Arts Festival later this month, right here at Warner Hall! On Saturday, June 30, starting at 6:30 p.m., Elijah Rock, a triple threat entertainer breathing new life into the Great American Songbook from coast to coast, will join the […]

    View Blog