Stephan Bedford handed me an eight-page bibliography comprised entirely of books about mushrooms: mycological texts as well as the histories of mushrooms and mushroom cookbooks. He was in the midst of getting ready for the next event in his “Food for Thought” series, and as with each preceding event, he had completely immersed himself in the research. The Mushroom and Wine Festival was number six in the most recent incarnation of the educational/culinary series, but Bedford tells me that he and his friends have always been doing something like this.
Upon setting foot in his tasting room in Los Alamos, one might think he was a mushroom aficionado, but chatting with him led me to learn that he was just more of a general enthusiast. Maybe it’s because he has a science background or maybe he just loves research, but Bedford’s friends see him as an amateur historian. The stacks of mushroom books on display are all his — and he brings in similar-sized stacks for every event. He tells me he is a “bookaholic” and begins reciting his favorite book shops in Santa Barbara; when pressed for names of shops in cities on my own agenda, he names too many for me to write down.
He got his start in the wine business as a chemist, analyzing ripening parameters for other winemakers and wineries. Eventually, Bedford began making his own wine, and in 1990 he created Bedford Winery. As a self-proclaimed fundamentalist, Bedford harnesses old world, natural production techniques into his wine to yield a product that ultimately is more food-oriented. So it’s no wonder that these food and wine events have been a part of his inner circle for sometime now; his passion for food is in his wine.
To Bedford, the “Food for Thought” series is about sharing this devotion for wine, food, and the world behind all of it. He tells me that he sees it as “an opportunity to research and share the history, type, and application of the ingredient — saffron or potatoes — and how it impacted different cultures around the world. And we want to celebrate that.”
Celebrate they do. There are displays of edible and inedible mushrooms, three wine-tasting stations set up amidst a crowd of fellow ‘shroom lovers, and a cooking crew, comprised of friends and other amateur chefs, pumping out plate after plate of mushroom-centric dishes. Bedford never leaves the side of his homemade steel-barrel pizza oven, crisping up flatbreads (like the wine-soaked morel one that I managed to grab a piece of before it disappeared into the crowd) and basking in the success of the event and probably thinking of the next.
Bedford Winery will observes Abraham Lincoln’s 203rd birthday with a “President’s Day Celebration: Songs Lincoln Loved” event on Saturday, February 18 at 2 p.m. Historian Darroch Greer will being the past to life and then Susie Glaze, Steve Rankin, and other musicians will play pop songs from the 19th century and Civil War era. Stephan Bedford and his culinary team will also prepare an “Old Tavern Supper” with historic recipes. Tickets are $25 per person and reservations are requested. Call (805) 344-2107 or visit www.bedfordwinery.com.