“Wait, where are the mushrooms?” I glanced down at the bag of cherries in my hand as the double doors smashed together and the train pulled away. Dread. Disappointment. That crackly paper bag of luminous lobster mushrooms and farmstead goat cheese was now destined for an all-day ride around Portland. I left them behind while dreaming of the hutilacoche, wild mushroom, and truffle oil huarache I recently ate at La Condesa. But it was more the distracting thoughts about this year’s IFBC. As Morrissey would say, “Typical me.” Crankier than ever, I headed back to the conference to face the “blogging as industry” onslaught.
I had felt triumphant when I saw that mushroom stand. Others might call it smug. Thirty minutes earlier, I had been sitting in a drab conference room listening to presentations about pushing magic buttons to get 25,000 or 100,000 unique views per month. Meanwhile, there was a whole world of tastes, smells, and blogging inspiration to discover in the city buzzing around us. A twinge in my gut cried out “run away!” (this happens often), so I fled to the bustling Portland Farmers’ Market full of berries, oysters, cheese makers, and foragers. Earlier I had indulged in a sublime pâté at Olympic Provisions– that sweet pork butter melted on my tongue upon contact, swirling with barnyard and mustard. At Pok Pok Noi, I reveled in the juxtaposition of cool papaya salad against a fiery sauce of bird’s eye chilis, palm sugar, and pungent fish sauce. The spiciness of the salty black land crab topping exceeded that of the actual salad. I had no choice but to extinguish the fire with a cold pint of local lager. And the coffee at Coava Roastery? Don’t even get me started. It was the most emotional coffee experience ever– brewed in a glass beaker-esque French press, releasing aromas of raspberry and chocolate. Isn’t that the kind of stuff that really inspires bloggers? Or is it really SEO, brands, and PR stuff?
So I’m naïve. I didn’t know people created blogs just to make money. Can they really eat their sidebar ads alone? And I wasn’t ready for the brand shilling. The Pork Board presentation made me feel particularly dirty, but I still lugged home one of their cute pig cutting boards, so what does that say about me? I’m not against working with brands per se, but I haven’t fully digested my feelings. On another note, I had no idea so many bloggers want a cooking show. I thought everyone who started a blog was like me– content to hide behind a computer screen.
Conferences are tough for an introvert like me. People make small talk, size you up quickly, determine if you’re worth their time. It’s not personal or aimed at anyone in particular– I’m sure I’m guilty of it as well. It’s just an observation about how conferences (and the world, for that matter) work, and I wish it weren’t that way. Yet I can’t wait to go through my pile of business cards and say “Hi” to all the lovely people I met.
So what happened after I returned to the conference mushroomless? The Saturday afternoon sessions were much more my speed. Diane Morgan’s presentation demystified the cookbook writing process, empowering me to pursue that goal maybe ten years down the road or so. I also enjoyed Kathleen Flinn’s writing pep talk, inspiring me to shake things up on this often formulaic blog. I was in high spirits by the end of the night and probably should have stopped partying and gone to bed earlier. But that’s just me being me.
These words came in a rush. Rarely does that happen. Clearly IFBC inspired me to keep blogging, but for now I’ll use it more for writing practice and taking Tastespotting-worthy photos. Other than that, let the chips fall where they may. And I felt better after realizing that at least I didn’t lose the truffle oil. Besides, I could buy wild mushrooms in Austin shipped in from Oregon. Isn’t that what our giant Whole Foods is for anyways?
Huitlacoche Huaraches with Wild Mushrooms and Truffle Oil
- 1 cup powdered masa harina for tortillas (such as Maseca brand)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/4 pound mixed wild mushrooms, chopped (like chanterelles, hen of the woods, or lobster mushrooms)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup huitlacoche
- 1/4 cup Cotija cheese
- 1/4 cup Mexican crema
- 2 tablespoons fresh epazote, coarsely chopped
- truffle oil for drizzling
1. In a medium bowl, mix together masa harina and 1/2 teaspoon salt and 3/4 cup hot water. Mix together with your hands until a uniform dough forms. Set aside.
2. Melt the butter in a skillet set over medium heat and add the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and cook until well browned, about 10 minutes. Remove the cooked mushrooms from the skillet and set aside.
3. Wipe the skillet with a paper towel. Pour in the vegetable oil and heat over medium high heat. Separate the huarache dough into three balls. Form each ball into an oblong oval about 1/2 inch thick and immediately place in the hot pan. Cook for about 5 minutes on each side, or until dark brown spots appear. Remove the huaraches to a plate.
4. Spread each huarache with a tablespoon or so of huitlacoche and then top with the mushrooms. Drizzle with a little truffle oil, and then add the Cotija cheese and crema. Garnish with the chopped epazote and serve.