CHICAGO (WLS) --Until recently, if a local chef wanted to find local mushrooms, they'd have to go foraging in the woods themselves. But a new business on the South Side is not only growing exotic mushrooms, they're also selling to some of the city's best chefs.
Walking into Fruiting Mushrooms, in the basement of The Plant - a mixed-use food and beer production facility in the Back of the Yards neighborhood - is like walking into a chemistry lab.
"There is sterilization, pasteurization and you have to keep it in a very clean environment. And we are very conscious about not using a lot of energy, a lot of water," said owner Belkacem Elmetennani.
Elmetennani grows two types: Lion's Manes, which look like icicles growing on cauliflower and come from sawdust that's been inoculated with the mycelium fungus; they require a cool, moist environment with high humidity.
"I create the perfect weather for the mushrooms to grow," he said.
In the case of his Oyster mushrooms, that means higher temps, lower humidity and a lot of oxygen.
"And I mix that with spent grain from a brewery that we have in the building and I inoculate it with mycelium and give it the right environment," he said.
Just two miles away, satisfied customer and chef Kevin Hickey of The Duck Inn prefers using these locally-grown varieties.
"Mushrooms a lot of times are being shipped from all over the place, they're wet, they get dirty," said Hickey. It's very hard to clean them when they're wet...his come, they're beautiful, ready to go, very clean."
Hickey sautees both Lion's Manes and Oysters, then serves them over a farro risotto, garnished with spring garlic puree, some mushroom "chicharrones" and popcorn.
"It's earthy, but it's very fresh-tasting so it's not overwhelming. It's not like a Portobello where it's got that dense, meatiness. It's kind of light and crisp," said Hickey.
Even though Fruiting Mushrooms has only been in business for about a year-and-a-half, they're continue to get their customers one at a time; and Hickey says as long as they're just two miles away and they produce mushrooms this good, he's gonna keep them on the menu.
1400 W. 46th St., Chicago
The Duck Inn
2701 S. Eleanor St., Chicago
EXTRA COURSE: Breaking down Duck Inn's farro risotto