The multi-faceted, afternoon affair is where mushroom and wine lovers come together for the display, discussion, and digestion of the venerated shroom. A new feature is the addition of cinema.
Dried and fresh, mushrooms presented are “local” varieties including Chanterelles, those brought in from Oregon such as Hedgehogs and Black Trumpets, and cultivated favorites like Oysters, Portabellos, and Shitake. Peruse an impressive exhibit of edible and inedible mushrooms with commentary by Dr. Bob Cummings, Professor of Biology at Santa Barbara City College and noted mushroom expert. Topics range from wild mushroom identification to the impact of foraging on native resources. “With the rains we have been having, the collection of mushrooms we harvest locally should be remarkable,” noted winemaker Stephan Bedford. Bedford’s extensive collection of mushroom related books and field guides will also available to those interested in expanding their fungus knowledge.
From forest to fork, guests are invited to graze from the bounty of shroom related appetizers served with Bedford wines. The fare ranges from simply grilled buttons and complex layered patés, to wood-fired flatbreads and wine-infused curry prepared by the Bedford Culinary Kitchen headed by Stephan Bedford. Bedford wines include a dry Riesling that will enhance with ethereal subtleties of some of the subtler mushroom varieties, and for those with more expressive flavor, the Carignane and their signature Syrah are well matched.
After the mushroom fest, guests are welcomed to view the Japanese, sci-fi, cult classic “Attack of the Mushroom People” also known as “Matango: Fungus Terror,” where shipwrecked survivors are transformed into mushrooms. This rarely seen film, released in 1963, was directed by Ishiro Honda who is more well known for his Godzilla and Mothra films.
The fungus festivities begin at 2:00 pm at the Bedford Winery Tasting Room and Courtyard located at 448 Bell Street, downtown Los Alamos. The cost is $35 per person all inclusive, with special pricing for Bedford Wine Club Members at $25 per person. As their most popular event in the ‘Food for Thought’ series, the affair usually sells out, so advance reservations are recommended. Call 805 344-2107 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is a mushroom?
Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies produced by some fungi. There are over 14,000 varieties of mushrooms and over 3,000 in North America alone, with varying colors, textures and flavors. Though they seem to sprout up overnight, it usually takes days or weeks for one to develop, and only if the soil, temperature and moisture conditions are right. In our neck of the woods, expect to see them in spring, 7 to 10 days after a good rain in mild weather. Unless you are well educated in all types of mushrooms, particularly in identification of poisonous ones, it is wise to purchase your mushrooms from a reputable grower or grocer rather than hunting them yourself.
For thousands of years, Eastern cultures have revered mushrooms for their health benefits. Mushrooms are low in calories as well as saturated fat, sodium, and very low in cholesterol. It is also a good source of dietary fiber and protein. Their composition offers antioxidants to strengthen the immune system and a powerhouse of nutrients to protect against some cancers. They contain vitamin C, folate, iron, zinc and manganese, vitamin D, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, potassium, copper and selenium.
The ancient Egyptians believed, according to the hieroglyphics of 4600 years ago, that mushrooms made them immortal. The delicious flavor of mushrooms intrigued the pharaohs of Egypt so much that they decreed mushrooms were food for royalty and that no commoner could ever touch them. This assured themselves the entire supply of mushrooms. In Great Britain a ring of mushrooms on the ground, known as fairy rings, is where faeries come to dance and frolic after a rainstorm. However, humans who dare to enter such a ring may find themselves asleep for a hundred years, or worse yet, whisked off to the land of the wee folk, never to return. In China and Japan, mushrooms were associated with longevity and strength - partly because some of the most popular mushrooms that grew there such as Shitake and Maitake, were known for stimulating the immune system. In various other civilizations throughout the world including Russia, Greece, Mexico and Latin America, mushroom rituals were practiced. Many believed that mushrooms had properties that could produce super-human strength, help in finding lost objects, and lead the soul to the realm of the gods.