Mushroom should have the texture of wine corks.
• They shouldn't be wet — normally a sign of spoilage — but they should be slightly moist.
• They shouldn't be dry enough to crack; they should be moist enough to flex when you bend them.
• They should be fragrant, too. There should be a scent slightly reminiscent of apricots.
• They should be stored in a tightly sealed plastic bag with a paper towel to absorb any excess moisture.
Those are the tips from mushroom expert David West as mushroom season begins on the West Coast.
Two of the best, he said, are matsutakes and chanterelles. The matsutake is still not very well known, but it is one of the most treasured ingredients in Japanese cooking. It has a powerful, hard-to-describe perfume (it makes me think of cinnamon and pine resin with a little ripe cheese thrown in).
Fresh chanterelles are getting more plentiful and easier to find. But they're tricky to handle. They dry out and lose their fragrance quickly. You want them to be firm, not soft.