| Recipes |

Jeff Smedstad Isn't Afraid Of Foraged Flavor

Like canning, foraging is making a comeback in popular culture and in the rarified airs of gourmet cooking. Urban foragers, such as those featured last week in this New York Times article, are driven to use food that's going to waste in foreclosed property. 

But here in Arizona, traditional foragers have been picking through the brush for years to bring fresh ingredients out of the wilderness and into the kitchens of local chefs.

We asked Chef Jeff Smedstad of Sedona's Elote Cafe how he came to use foraged ingredients. 

"Actually, I met a dude in a Circle K who said he had been foraging mushrooms," Smedstad admits. The mushroom guy liked Smedstad's restaurant and wanted to offer him some of his found bounty. Smedstad's not shy, so he gave the mushrooms a shot and loved them. 

Years have passed but the chef still loves the challenge of working foraged foods into his menu. 

Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free.

Since that Circle K introduction, Smedstad has built a solid reputation as a chef who appreciates the difficulty of hunting for untouched patches of wild berries and mushrooms. Foragers bring him everything from morel mushrooms to the spinach-like lamb's quarters and he works to incorporate the very best of these into his daily menu. He says he pays prices comparable to what might be charged at a farmers' market, but the bonus is that he gets first crack at any juicy finds. 

There are some obvious safety concerns associated with using foraged ingredients. To combat these dangers Smedstad says he only buys from people he knows. 

"I have two main mushroom guys.... If you aren't connected with them I ain't touching your 'shrooms," he says, adding that he also only works with varieties of mushroom he's intimately familiar with. He's cooked with the morel, lobster and chantrel varieties for decades now. 

Last week, a guy named Steve Becker showed up with a basket of wild Himalayan blackberries. These particular berries came from Oak Creek, which runs right by the Elote Cafe. The blackberry ice cream Smedstad made with them sold out in two hours. 

Wild Himalayan blackberry ice cream sound fantastic? Tomorrow we'll give you Chef Smedstad's recipe and Steve Becker's tips for finding your own berries.

Follow Chow Bella on Facebook and Twitter

Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.