From the rolling hills of Yorkville Highlands to the Pygmy Forest of Van Damme State Park, the seasonal forage for local porcinis, chanterelles and candy caps hits a high note this fall in Mendocino County. Straddling historic Highways 1 and 101 with nearly 2,500 sq. miles of coveted live oak and redwood forest, the region is a natural hotspot for some 3,000 mushroom varieties. Add a cache of artisanal chefs, 85 wineries, an evolving craft beer and hard cider scene and the annual salute to Mr. Fungi sprouts into action November 1-10, 2013.
The bounty of the county rolls out with wild mushroom foraging excursions, farm-to-table mushroom-infused menus, educational seminars, art exhibits and annual Skunk Train trek and cook-off deep in the depths of the Noyo River Canyon and forest. To cap the adventure, regional restaurants and lodging properties from Boonville to Willits, Mendocino to Point Arena are offering special menus and packages.
Credit: Paul Kozal
KEY EVENT: MUSHROOM, WINE & BEER TRAIN (November 2, 2013)
For the ultimate outback experience only accessible via train, hop aboard the iconic Skunk
Train. Departing from both Fort Bragg and Willits, the adventure includes fungi hikes, wine tasting and culinary capers making a move with mushrooms. A Mighty Mushroom Weigh-Off, finale cook-off and judging as well as a presentation by local mushroom expert Eric Schramm wrap up the day. (10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., $95.00/inclusive; www.skunktrain.com.)
ROOM AT THE INN
From “Shrooming” packages to “Fungi & Girl” spa getaways, visitors can tap into deals across the county. Check in and check out with a stay at the new Heritage House Resort in Little River (opened 9/13/2013) ($189.00/dbl.), bunk down in an 1886 former water tower at the Abalone Tower & Weller House Inn ($300.00/2 nights, dbl.) or soak up the local culture with Little River Inn’s “Mushroom Mania” ocean-front cottage package ($139.00/dbl.). Other top haunts include Baechtel Creek Inn & Spa’s “Fungi & Girl” package including two spa treatments, premium guestroom and passes to the annual Mushroom, Wine & Beer Train event ($499.00/dbl.) and Dennen’s Victorian Farmhouse just outside of the village of Mendocino offers a flat 25 percent discount ($135.00/dbl.). Restrictions and blackout periods apply, based on availability. Deals: http://www.visitmendocino.com/mushroomfestival.
POWER TO THE PORCINI
From stuffed mushroom ravioli with Pennyroyal Farm Laychee goat cheese and truffle creamto Porcini pizza at the new Stone & Embers or full tasting menu at Stanford Inn’s award-winning Ravens’ Restaurant, the options for putting a fork into friendly fungi abound. Throughout the county, 32 restaurants are offering special menus during the festival. In addition, two passports are offered featuring 40 wineries and breweries showcasing special mushroom pairings, events and entertainment.
Rain means wild mushrooms, and nowhere are they more prevalent than along the coastal forest and dense redwoods of Mendocino County. During the festival, guests can take to horseback, bike rides, kayaks and mycologist tours. Top treks include:
Ride with the Hunt… Mushroom Hunt, that is… at Ricochet Ridge Ranch
“Mushroom Hunt” horseback rides every day during the festival.
Ricochet Ridge Ranch; 707.964.9669; www.horse-vacation.com
Liquid Fusion Kayak Mushroom Paddles Nov. 3 & 10 (3-hour guided adventure)
Tour the calm waters of the Noyo River in search of wild mushrooms while you enjoy the quiet solitude of the Noyo River, fall scenery, colorful migratory ducks, and mysterious mushrooms. Fort Bragg; 707.962.1623; www.liquidfusionkayak.com
Hunt for the Wild Mushroom Mountain Bike Ride
Put the fun in “fungi” with daily bike tours with local experts. Nov 2-3, 9-10.
Mendo Bike Sprite, Fort Bragg; 707.962.4602; www.mendobikesprite.com
Mushrooms at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens
Join staff mycologist Mario Abreu for a series of weekly mushroom workshops and walks at the Botanical Gardens. Fort Bragg; 707.964.4352×16; www.gardenbythesea.org
Beginner’s Mushroom Identification Walk, Talk and Tasting with David Arora
Nov. 16 10:00 am–4:00 pm Become more knowledgeable about wild mushrooms with David Arora, author of Mushrooms Demystified and a leading authority on their uses worldwide.
Gualala; 707.884.9065; www.studio391.net
Photo Credit: Paul Kozal