If you see people stomping happily around the woods in the damp, you can bet they’re out there foraging, in search of tasty ’shrooms to stuff in ravioli, plop on pizza, stock in stews, and roast with lovely meats.
The harvest urge is irresistible, with some 3,000 types of fungi thriving in the North Coast area through the September through May season. Yet, because only about 500 kinds are safely edible, it’s much better to leave the hunting to the experts, and the cooking to the chefs who can tell the difference between candy cap mushrooms (good, tasting a bit like maple syrup) and death caps (lethal).
One such expert is renowned mycologist David Arora, who is hosting a mushroom appreciation trip at Timber Cove Inn Jan. 4-6, where he will lead 20 lucky explorers on a trek around the woods near Fort Ross Vineyard.
And one such chef is Timber Cove Inn’s Ben St. Clair, who will prepare an elaborate mushroom dinner as part of the getaway, working with porcini, chanterelles, morels, clam shells, hedgehogs, and whatever else suits his fancy.
A few reservations are still available for the adventure, which includes two nights’ accommodations in a plush room at the cliff-side inn, a mushroom hunting trip, the dinner paired with Fort Ross Vineyard wines, discussions with Arora, packaging of excess fungi gathered during the hunt, and a commemorative menu of the evening.
Just a few of the dishes include a salad of warm chanterelles tossed with crispy pancetta, toasted pine nuts, Redwood Hill smoked goat cheddar; and a plate of local cheeses and pickled wild hedgehogs.
Fear not about any fungi mishaps, either. Arora knows his topic. The Northern California resident wrote “All That the Rain Promises and More …” plus “Mushrooms Demystified,” and began teaching about wild mushrooms in the early 1970s.
Details: “Forage for Fungi” at Timber Cove Inn, Jan. 4-6, 2013. Cost starts at $649 per couple. 21780 California 1, Timber Cove/Jenner, 707-847-3231, timbercoveinn.com.