Northern Michigan’s own diamonds in the rough, morel mushrooms are such a delicacy that entire festivals have been built around hunting the little fungi. Conditions are right on warm spring days following warm overnights and a recent spring shower. The season typically begins in late April and runs thru late May. Locals keep best picking spots as tight secrets, and side-of-the-road sellers can earn $20–$100 per pound of fresh morels. They’re the color of last fall’s leaves on the forest fl oor, commonly near ash and aspen trees. Make a week or weekend out of celebrating the elusive treats by touring Northern Michigan’s most famous mushroom grounds.
Scour 4,500 acres of mushroom-ripe woods at Shanty Creek Resort in Bellaire (SHANTYCREEK.COM), where the sous chef regularly spots entire crops of morels on the grounds on his way to work. Go out on your own or arrange for a guided hunt on Saturdays during mushroom season. Choose from hotel- or condo-style lodging (FROM $99) at any of the resort’s villages. Play in the indoor pool or golf four courses, opening in mid-April. Enjoy morelbased meals at the Lakeview Restaurant at the Summit Village ($16–$34; 800-678-4111) or Lulu’s Bistro in Bellaire ($10–30; 231-533-5252), with complimentary shuttle service provided by Shanty Creek.
Get a jumpstart on the morel season by heading to the self-proclaimed mushroom capital of the U.S., Mesick, during mid- to late-April, or wait to visit during the Mesick Lions Mushroom Festival, May 7–9 (horse pulls, fl ea market, Grand Parade and ’shroom hunts). Whether April or May, stop into Sparks Restaurant (231-885-1675) for a Mushroom Picker’s Kit ($6), which includes a local hunting map for finding the area’s humongous fungus. Check into the mom & pop Mushroom Cap Motel (231-885-1222, $65–$120 PER NIGHT) to rest between the picking. Share dinner with locals at the Mushroom Bar (231-885-1371, UP TO $16). Return to Sparks in the morning for pancakes—the owners make their own maple syrup. If you get skunked, stop by the corner of M-37 and M-115, where from mid-April on you’ll find pick-up trucks with beds fi lled with morels for sale. Nobody has to know. MESICK-MUSHROOMFEST.ORG.
We’re telling you about this now cause you’ll need to get reservations in early. Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the National Morel Mushroom Festival in Boyne City from May 13 thru 16. Listen to local musicians sing ’shroom ballads, get your picture taken with the human-sized mushroom mascot, and share recipes with hundreds of mushroom lovers from around the country. Guided hunts and a competitive hunt for those with the keenest eye. Enter your fi nds for prizes in categories including Largest Mushroom, Longest Distance Traveled, Best of Show and—yes—Best Dressed Mushroom. Get serious about flavor with the Taste of Morels, featuring morel dishes from local restaurants; a wild edibles seminar on foraging and cooking; and a morel seminar with local experts. Sup gourmet-style at the Morelfest Wine and Dine at the Beach House Restaurant at Boyne Mountain (231-582-6222 FOR RESERVATIONS, $35 PER PERSON). Stay at the Horton Creek Inn B&B, a lodge with seven guest rooms on 60 acres of quiet pines (HORTONCREEKINNBB.COM, $135–$200). MORELFEST.COM.
Lisa Doublestein writes from Petoskey. firstname.lastname@example.org