Both of us grew up in mushroom-embracing households. Frankly, we find it difficult to believe that there are people in the world who don’t like mushrooms. To celebrate our favorite fungi, Chef Zach chose a broad variety of mushrooms from our local Whole Foods to put into a delicious and rich risotto.
4 cups of hot chicken stock
1 1/2 cups of arborio rice
1 1/2 cups of dry white wine
8 oz. of any sort of collection of organic mushrooms, cleaned of dirt
1 medium white onion, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese
4 large trumpet royale mushrooms, cleaned of dirt and sliced
4 morel mushrooms
1 oz. of dried porcini mushrooms, soaking in 2 cups of hot water
3 tbs. of butter, divided
2 tbs. of kosher salt
2 garlic cloves
A small amount of extra virgin olive oil for sauteing
After 10 minutes of soaking, remove the porcinis from their soaking water and transfer them to a food processor. Reserve about 1 1/2 cups of the soaking water from the top (any silt will have settled to the bottom). Using 1/4 cup of the clean soaking water, add a little at a time to the porcinis as you pulse them in the food processor to make a paste. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-low heat. To this, add the chopped onion and whole garlic cloves. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent, but you don’t want to brown or caramelize them. At this point, remove and discard the garlic, and add the rice. Cook for about 3 minutes to lightly toast the rice, still over medium-low heat. Add the remaining clean soaking water and the wine to the onions and the rice; continue cooking, stirring occasionally and making sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.
In a separate saute pan, combine a little bit of olive oil and 1 tbs. of butter. Melt together over medium heat. In this pan, saute the whole mushrooms for 6-7 minutes until slightly tender, being sure not to overcook them. Set aside when done.
The liquid in the risotto pot will continue to reduce as it cooks, so add chicken stock as necessary. This will occur somewhat frequently, so be watchful. As time goes on, you will have to stir more frequently.
When the rice is mostly done, add the porcini paste, parmesan, 2 remaining tbs. of butter, sauteed mushrooms, and salt. Cook for an additional 4-5 minutes to reach full doneness.
After a long day of personal and professional errands, we ended up in Walnut Creek for a late dinner and the Walnut Creek Yacht Club was still open. Living in Oakland now, we had to seize the opportunity to dine here while in town, and we had been looking forward to tasting their famous super fresh seafood for some time. Having a very close relationship with a seafood purveyor, all the seafood is guaranteed never frozen, in neither transport nor preparation. The story on the back of the menu says that 99% of the items are made in house – our attentive, informative, and friendly waiter Tony attested that just about the only things not made in house are the ice cream from The Latest Scoop of Berkeley and the bread from Acme Bread Co.
There’s lots of “extra rigging,” or side dishes, and since Zach’s entree came with set sides, he added the gratin to try. As a jalapeño and cheddar fan, he thought this was a cheesy gooey delight, and very spicy but with natural bold jalapeño flavor. Don’t get us wrong, it’s not overly spicy but it’s definitely not mild, either.
Zach’s monkfish was well portioned, succulent, and with a texture between scallop and lobster. It was tender enough to “melt in your mouth” and the crisp, perfectly rendered panceta added a little saltiness to each bite to enhance the flavor. It came with a mushroom-herb risotto cake, which was crispy on the outside but with a soft center and deep, rich mushroom and thyme flavor. It was “everything you would want in a risotto” but fried and with that wonderful mushroom flavor permeating throughout. The mushrooms, like the asparagus, were hand picked by Joe Rubino Produce, and you can’t go wrong with supremely grilled local asparagus. The sauce was tart and tangy with a red wine base and a slight earthiness from pink peppercorns. Overall it was a very well-balanced dish
August’s piece of grilled rainbow trout had beautiful sear marks, and the taste was just as beautiful. The texture was moist and flaky, and every nibble disappeared. She thoroughly enjoyed the two sauces she chose from the myriad, stone ground mustard & dill and citrus scallion butter. Under the delicious fish were four polenta fries with a zingy lemon aioli. Crunchy outside with a typical polenta-texture inside, these were pleasantly surprising and distinctive. An added bonus was the garnish pile with pickled onions; she doesn’t know if they were supposed to be more than a garnish, but they were good.
There’s no way for any boat, and clearly not a yacht, to get to Walnut Creek. We always wondered why this restaurant/bar would be called “yacht club,” and we learned that it is indicative of the atmosphere that owners Ellen McCarty and Kevin Weinberg wish to create. The seafood, though, is the main attraction and it never fails to put on a show.