One of those chefs "inspired (enough) to go to the airport" to pick up fresh morels is Walter Scheib at the Capital Hilton's Twigs. In fact, he has been inspired enough to put them on the menu even after 200 pounds of fresh morels--at $9 a pound--missed a plane connection between Boyne City, Mich., and Washington, and thus arrived partly spoiled.

Twigs conducted a tasting last Wednesday of Scheib's inventions, then put them on the menu until the end of June as an American Morel Mushroom Festival. At breakfast morels are offered in omelets; at lunch Scheib also offers them in soup, quiche, salad and--the most effective recipe of all--just saute'ed with shallots, butter, wine and parsley. At dinner they team with foie gras, quail and beef tenderloins.

Fresh morels have also been appearing this month in specialty food shops such as Someplace Special and Sutton Place Gourmet. Prices have been as high as $30 a pound. On Twigs' menu morel dishes range from $2.75 for soup to $6.50 for omelet to $19 for beef tenderloin.

French morels are darker than these Michigan cousins, and have a fuller flavor, Scheib has found. While his morels have ranged from as large as softballs to small finger-size, he prefers the flavor of the smaller ones. His research has indicated that they must be thoroughly washed and boiled, and the boiling liquid strained off, before eating; though his morels arrive blanched, he takes the precaution of boiling them again for a few seconds.

After the preliminary blanching morels can be used as any mushrooms, but delicate dishes such as cream soup and simple saute'eing best capture their faint earthiness.