Brush off the mushrooms with a barely damp paper towel. Cut the creminis into thick slices. Remove the stems from the portobella caps, cut the caps into thick slices and halve. In a medium pot, heat the stock to just below a simmer.
In a wide, deep pot such as a Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high. Add the mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 clove minced garlic and sauté until the mushrooms are browned, soft, and give up their liquid. With a slotted spoon, transfer the mushrooms to a small bowl and set aside, then pour the mushroom’s leftover liquid into the saucepan along with the chicken stock.
Reduce heat to low and add another 1 tablespoon olive oil to the Dutch oven. Wait a minute to ensure the temperature of the pot decreases (this will prevent the garlic from burning). Add 3 cloves minced garlic and sauté just until fragrant, about 15 seconds, watching carefully so that the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the spinach, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, stirring to combine. Cover the pot and let steam for 2 minutes, then uncover, increase the heat to high, and stir for another minute, just until the spinach wilts. With a slotted spoon, transfer the spinach to a bowl and set aside. Discard any excess liquid that has cooked out of the spinach.
Reduce heat to medium. Add butter and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and heat until the butter melts. Add the sliced fennel and chopped onion and cook stirring often, until the vegetables soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the barley and stir to coat with the butter and olive oil. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring often, then add the dried thyme, bay leaf, remaining garlic clove, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook 1 additional minute. Add the wine. Stir and cook for 2 minutes.
Add 2 full ladles of the stock to the barley. Stir and simmer over medium heat until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Constant stirring isn’t necessary, but do watch the pot and stir often. Continue adding the stock, 2 ladlefuls at a time, until it is all absorbed and the barley is creamy, but maintains a bit of chew, 25 to 30 minutes total.
To serve: Ladle the barley into bowls, then top with the spinach and mushrooms. Enjoy immediately.
*Pearl barley is barley with the hull removed and is widely available in most grocery stores. **Alternative method to save time (but increase dishes): Saute the mushrooms, then the garlic in a second pot, while the barley is cooking in the first. This multitasking will result in a faster dinner, but one extra dish to wash.
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