THAT MEATY NOT-MEAT SUPERSTAR: Various meats are discussed at length around the holidays, from turkey to ham, but the word "meaty" makes a bigger stand in certain spots around the state come January, when a number of fungus-focused festivals flourish. Because the food-nice fact of the matter is that meaty and mushrooms are old friends. Has another term been used as often, and as passionately, to describe how hearty a dish becomes when mushrooms are a key ingredient? It's a quirky element that suits the quirky world of the fungus, something fans can delve into further at the Napa Truffle Festival, the Big Sur Foragers Festival, and the Santa Cruz Fungus Fair, which are must-attends during the first month of the year.
SANTA CRUZ SAVORY: The fans of fungusdom gather at the Louden Nelson Community Center over the second weekend in January to discover more about "the hundreds of beautiful and fascinating species of mushrooms found in the Santa Cruz/Monterey and Bay Area." Attendees will find woodland displays of mushroomonia in its natural formations ("a re-created woodland habitat" is part of the Fungus Fair) and there are speakers to learn from and demos to eye. And shall there be wine and mushroom-y food pairings? Oh yes. Beyond being described as "meaty," the mushroom is widely considered to be one of vino's closest buddies. (Maybe it is the mushroom's softly pungent character that brings out the tartness of a pinot noir better than any other foodstuff -- please discuss, fungusians.)
ADMISSION: It's just ten bucks, on Saturday or Sunday, and five on Friday. Call it an appetizing investment in your future cooking experiments in 2015. Haven't we all vowed to cook a bit more in 2015, or at least hone our at-the-stove skills? If mushrooms are a base food for you, the building block of many of your meals, the Santa Cruz Fungus Fair can enrich -- or make meatier, perhaps -- your knowledge.