In the fall, I visited Sooke, B.C., a glorious place for woodsy walks and oceanside adventure. I was with my friend Natasha and we were staying at the seaside luxury resort called Sooke Harbour House, which has got to be one of my favourite places on earth. Not only did co-owner and host extraordinaire, Sinclair Philip, treat us like queens by making sure we were well fed and lubricated -- he dined with us nightly -- but he also went hiking with us and hooked us up with local mushrooming legend, Michel Jansen Reyno. Michel, a dashing figure in silver hair, purple neckerchief and woolen pants, also wore a talisman for safety when he hunted mushrooms in the steep, mossy woods.
On his signal, somewhere between Sooke and Port Renfrew, we got out of the car, darted across the highway and dive-rolled into the forest. (We weren't trying to be dramatic; our mushrooming spot was top secret.) It was a great outing, and we emerged with a pail's worth of chanterelles, and even more mushrooming knowledge.
I recall this outing because I received an email from Sinclair Philip this week. The subject heading said: Russula fragrantissima, and I almost deleted it because I thought it was one of those Russian spams selling porn.
But it was, in fact, from Sinclair. He had sent out a little group email to tell all about the impressive large mushroom he had just found at Blueberry Flats. Sinclair knows as much about mushrooms as I know the days of the week (read: almost all of them).
He goes on to say that "the button looked a lot like a new potato. The distinct smell, first of almond extract and shortly after the strong fragrance of maraschino cherries is amazing! The Russula fragrantissima, or Fragrant Russula, doesn't look like the other Russulas I have seen around here. It's too bad it's poisonous."
Here's a photo of one of the mushrooms we bagged in Sooke, where it was chanterelles as far as the eye could see.