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Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on January 24th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 46 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 46

Fungi jumping

Attack these mushrooms--before they attack you!

BY RYAN MILLER

This is a story of contrasts. Of gourmet food and wine paired with campy horror. Of a popular ingredient that can be foraged for in the wild or cultivated with kits from Costco. Of something that grows from rot and decay, transforming death into life.


ALL SHAPES AND SIZES:
Mushrooms of all kinds will fill Bedford Winery’s Mushrooms Gone Wild event.
PHOTO BY KATIE O'HARA

This is a story of mushrooms.

 “I like looking at mushrooms,” said Stephan Bedford of Bedford Winery. “Edible ones and inedible. I like seeing what’s there. It’s like wildflowers. I like identifying them: What’s growing there, when does it grow, how is it growing?”

This passion for the plants—well, no, they’re not actually plants at all—led Bedford to start the Mushrooms Gone Wild event the winery. Now it its seventh year, the event draws foragers, mycologists, foodies, ethnobotanists, and curious attendees.

Why do they come? First and foremost is the food. This year—one that Bedford says has been rainy and therefore should have produced a remarkable local collection—will feature chanterelles, which flourish where this area’s iconic oaks stand. Hedgehogs and black trumpets from Oregon will also hit the table, as will cultivated oysters, portabellos, and shitakes. The fungus will be grilled, made into patés, added to wood-fired flatbreads, and mixed into wine-infused curry. Bedford is planning to make a blue corn masa polenta and to pair some Mexican finds with hominy.

“And that should be very good,” he said.

Dr. Bob Cummins, a professor of biology at Santa Barbara City College and mushroom expert, will provide commentary.


Make room for mushrooms
Bedford Winery’s seventh annual Mushrooms Gone Wild event is set for Jan. 26 starting at 2 p.m. The all-inclusive cost is $35 per person (though Bedford Wine Club Members get in for $25). Come to 448 Bell St. in Los Alamos. Attack of the Mushroom People will screen after the fest. Reservations are recommended for the entire event. Call 344-2107 or e-mail tastingroom@bedfordwinery.com.

Bedford said mushroom-related topics range from which wines to pair with the subtle-to-strong growths to the ethics of foraging: “Taking a couple is good, but you don’t want to totally just rob an entire area.”

He’s also busting out some historical (“or antiquated, some people would say”) cookbooks with recipes that really show off the star ingredient. And a star it is, at least in Bedford’s eyes. He spoke of mushrooms’ beauty, of the way chanterelles in particular typify the Central Coast and dot the rolling hills, of this region’s abundance of regional markets and places to find exotic and unexpected and delicious items to add to a dish.

But there’s a darker side to mushrooms, too. A side that can only be seen in a monster movie that makes Godzilla look like an A-lister. A side revealed—to the horrified screams of innocent victims—in Matango. Also known as Attack of the Mushroom People, the 1963 Japanese film finds “seven young people shipwrecked on a mysterious island”—as the trailer’s sensational font describes.

Starving, the survivors are forbidden—By whom? Does it matter?—to eat any mushrooms, though in their hunger they begin to betray each other. Terror ensues, culminating in human-sized mushroom-things pawing at the shrieking actors.

 “I remember it from when I was young, and I thought it scared the heck out of me for sure,” Bedford said.

He added the film component for the first time this year; some archivist friends of his were able to find a copy of the cult—well, classic may be a bit of a stretch. Even if you’re not a fan of camp, you’ll probably enjoy the truffle-salted popcorn.

Bedford said the Saturday event will sell out, but he keeps the displays up for Sunday visitors. Guests are encouraged to drop by that day, too, for a continued open house and conversation with staffers who know their way around a fungus.

Executive Editor Ryan Miller is neither plant, nor animal. Send comments to rmiller@santamariasun.com.