Asheville forager featured on CNN Travel, shares mushroom secret

ASHEVILLE – Asheville forager unearths rare truffle, craft beverage collaboration delivers ideal summertime drink and a summer school adults will want to attend.

Asheville expert mushroom forager Alan Muskat shared a secret he’s been hiding in the forest for years.

CNN Travel talked to Muskat about his discovery of what he said is one of the rarest truffles in the world. Without revealing the exact location, Muskat forages what he’s named the “Blue Ridge truffle” in the forests along the mountain range. The truffle also grows in Japan, he said.

“It probably has no name there because it’s only been reported in the scientific literature as being found 12 times ever in Japan and fewer times than that here until I found it and started finding it more often,” Muskat said. “There’s no common name for things that are so rare because they are so uncommon.”

Foraging guide Alan Muskat looks up to talk about some chicken of the woods mushrooms he found on a short hike in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017.

Rare, local food finds

In 2007, Muskat discovered the Blue Ridge truffle but didn’t share his findings until recently. He entrusted his secret with Eric Morris, executive chef at Wicked Weed Brewing’s Cultura and Funkatorium on the South Slope, who CNN Travel interviewed.

“I don’t find them very often so it’s not like I’m routinely selling them,” Muskat said. “I’ve brought them to a few chefs to get their opinions.”

Morris compared the texture to French and Italian truffles and the flavor to a mix of toasted hazelnut and parmesan cheese. He’s shown on the video preparing a cauliflower sabayon dish using the rare truffle.

How often the chef gets the truffles depends on the season and Muskat’s ability to find them.

“I think it’s fair to say that the reason it’s so rare is likely due to habitat loss and things like agriculture and development,” Muskat said.

Truffles are underground mushrooms and highly sought after as “people tend to worship what’s rare,” Muskat said.

Muskat is protective of the discovery of the truffle because of their high market value. There are some truffle hunters who will seek them out without regard to the environment, potentially damaging to the species and habitat.

The reason he shared his discovery is to bring attention to the importance of protecting the environment and the habitats in which truffles exist.

“I feel like we’re in an environmental emergency and if you read any of my writings online it addresses that,” Muskat said.

Muskat, founder of No Taste Like Home, offers public foraging tours for truffles and wild foods. The tours are interactive and educational and demonstrate the proper way to forage without harming the environment. It also serves to show the vast offerings of the Appalachian mountains.

“Hopefully the truffle just points to what we have in general. We have over 500 wild foods here and they’re far easier to find and you can even make more money selling common things than rare things,” Muskat said. “The truffle is more of a distraction to the variety that we have here. If we focused on it, it would be a mistake. The point is, it’s just one example of the abundance we have. That if we just eat the same 12 things that we usually eat, like corn and potatoes and wheat, we really miss out on that variety. I want to encourage a more general appreciation of what’s out there for free.”

Alan Muskat, a mushroom and wild food specialist living in Asheville.

Alan Muskat, a mushroom and wild food specialist living in Asheville.

For details on No Taste Like Home, visit notastelikehome.org.

Watch the CNN Travel video at cnn.com/travel.

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Bring on the bubbles

A new refreshing drink is on the market, emerging from a collaboration between two Asheville beverage businesses.

Devil’s Foot Beverages and The Whale’s Hop’d Lemonade was designed as a light, refreshing and bubbly drink ideal for the summer.

Devil’s Foot specializes in nonalcoholic beverages made with natural, farm-fresh ingredients sourced locally and regionally.

Devil's Foot and The Whale have collaborated to produce the new beverage Hopd Lemonade with Bubbles.

Devil’s Foot and The Whale have collaborated to produce the new beverage Hopd Lemonade with Bubbles.

The Whale: A Craft Beer Collective serves rare, exclusive beers at its bars and marketplaces in West Asheville, Greenville and Charleston and the newly opened The Whale Outpost in Haw Creek.

Hop’d Lemonade is a unique variation of the craft beverage enthusiasts’ other offerings.

It is made with fresh-squeezed organic lemons and honey and organic cane sugar from South Carolina. Citra and Azacca hops were included to give it a balanced yet slightly bitter taste. The sugar content is lower than traditional lemonades, according to Devil’s Foot, comparable from 40g of sugar to 9g in Hop’d Lemonade.

Hop’d Lemonade is available in 12-ounce cans at and of The Whale’s locations.

For details, visit devilsfootbrew.com andthewhalecollective.com.

Sip like a sommelier

Summer school isn’t so bad with a glass of merlot in hand.

The Asheville School of Wine has opened enrollment for two interactive tasting seminars, “How to Taste Wine Like a Pro” and “How to Pair Food and Wine.”

The program is approachable for levels ranging from novice wine drinkers to industry professionals.

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The non-certification seminars are in addition to the Wine Scholar Guild’s French Wine and Spanish Wine Scholar credential programs, offered in collaboration with Asheville Wine School.

Melanie Webber, a certified wine educator and sommelier, will be the instructor.

“Whether a student is an industry professional or beginning wine student, my mission is to enhance their joy of wine discovery, increase their wine knowledge and further develop their palates with a ‘no-snobs-allowed’ approach,” Webber said in a news release.

“How to Taste Wine Like a Pro” will be 6:30-8:30 p.m. Aug. 10. Students will learn how to assess wine quality using an easy-to-implement tasting system. Eight tastings will be included, and participants will engage in a collaborative bling tasting. A take-home tasting grid will be provided for further education.

“How to Pair Food and Wine” will be from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Aug. 11. Students will participate in interactive exercises while learning about palates and why certain foods and beverages work better with each other. The course includes six wine tastings, food and wine pairing exercises and more.

The aim is to assist wine and food professionals and enthusiasts to “increase their knowledge, understanding and enjoyment of the wines of the world,” Webber said.

Both sessions will be hosted at Metro Wines, 169 Charlotte St. To register, visit metrowinesasheville.com.

Tiana Kennell is the food and dining reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA Today Network. Email her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter/Instagram @PrincessOfPage. Please help support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times. 

This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Food news: Asheville forager featured on CNN, shares mushroom secret