Culinary Director Kyle Mendenhall Finds Colorado Connection Through Foraging

 

Growing up in California, I always liked the outdoors. But when I combined the outdoors with cooking, it was really two passions coming together.

Since I was a teenager, my family has had a cabin in Colorado. Our land is located between Rifle and Grand Junction, perched right at the edge of the incredible Grand Mesa National Forest. It’s the sort of off-the-grid place with no electricity that I try to make it out to every summer with my family.

It was at the cabin that I first discovered how much I loved foraging. Finding special ingredients that naturally occur here in Colorado—like chokecherries—is the perfect combination of cooking and the outdoors. Every late summer or early fall, my mother would harvest wild chokecherries near our property and use them to make chokecherry jam. At a recent ZOLO Grill farm dinner, I paired her chokecherry jam with elk tartare, garlic chives, crispy shallots, and purple shiso leaves as a nod to my upbringing.

Foraging is just a great way to connect with the land, and it’s also incredibly special when you can go out and look for an awesome, sought-after ingredient right here in our backyard. Take porcini mushrooms: there are only a few places in the world to find them, and they’re a great way to show what Colorado has to offer.

On September 25th, I was fortunate enough to participate in a panel on fungi at the Dairy Arts Center in Boulder after the screening of the incredible film Fantastic Fungi. As a nod to Colorado’s amazing foraged mushrooms, we ran a Mushroom Tostada as a special at ZOLO Grill all week.

We made fresh tortillas with the earthy porcini mushrooms and topped them with a mixed mushroom saute, marinated royal trumpet mushrooms, black beans, Colorado corn, pickled onion, and chipotle aïoli. It was great to get to celebrate the wild foraged bounty of Colorado with such a delicious dish.