THAT PERSON: Cock an eyebrow at that one friend who picks all the chanterelles from the risotto for himself, or each little slice of portobello from a salad you're sharing? Most people cannot cock that eyebrow, as they themselves are mushroom seekers (and finders). Flavorful fungi is very often the best part of a dish, the dish's very reason for being, with all due respect to the basil and pasta and alfredo sauce and walnuts, or one of the other one hundred -- or one thousand? -- ingredients that go well with mushrooms. In short, mushroom mavens are legion, and many of them make for Mendocino County come the middle of autumn, when a week and a few days are handed over to the pursuit, and pleasure, of the perfect forest-floor cap. For the Mendocino Mushroom, Beer, & Wine Fest isn't just about the culinary enjoyment of the meaty (but not meat) ingredient; it's about the whole mushroom world, the search, the study of, and the deep background of the deep-ground treasure.
NOV. 7-16: Mendocino County doesn't just hand over a couple of days to the fungi; it gets a full week-plus, meaning you could join a mushroom workshop at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, meet a mycologist at the Stanford Inn for mushroom-based chitchat before making for the woods (and mushrooms in their wild habitat), join a yummy winemaker dinner, take a mushroom-themed train ride, or head out on mushroom hunts by bicycle and horseback. Finding mushroom by horseback? Well, that sounds mighty romantic, and fit for the cover of a sweeping novel. (If anyone knows of a mushroom-cookery-horseback-coastal-dramatic romance story, please let us know at once -- we might be extremely intrigued.) Hotel deals related to all of the mush-magic are pushing up through the proverbial soil, too, in advance of November, so myco mavens can find a place where other fans of fungi might have landed. But should you make new friends, and head out to dinner together, will they attempt to pick out all the mushrooms first, from the table-share salad? Better ask your waiter to double those portobellos, or, better yet, just give everyone present a dish of their own.