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Great places to indulge in Mendocino's wild mushroom madness

Great places to indulge in Mendocino's wild mushroom madness
One way to experience Mendocino's mushroom madness is by foraging for candy caps, which Nancy Bennett turns into ice cream at Cowlick's Ice Cream. (Nancy Bennett / Cowlick's Ice Cream)

November is wild mushroom season in Northern California’s Mendocino County. Varieties like candy cap, chanterelle, porcini and hedgehog start to pop up — and so do mushroom hunts, mushroom cooking classes and the Mushroom, Wine and Beer Festival. A word of warning: Don’t go foraging on your own. There are thousands of varieties that grow in the area, but only about 500 types are edible. Best to go with a pro.

Forage for funghi

You may find chanterelles on a foraging walk at UC Hopland Research & Extension Center.
You may find chanterelles on a foraging walk at UC Hopland Research & Extension Center. (Visit Mendocino County)

Go out with experts in search of mushrooms on the 5,300-acre campus of the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center. The 10 a.m.-to-noon hunt Nov. 4 will take you on an educational walk through woodlands; tickets cost $20. You can stick around for the Harvest Celebration dinner that will feature local wine and mushroom-themed dishes (5 to 7 p.m. Nov. 4, $60 per person). Info: Hopland Research and Extension Center’s Harvest Celebration, 4070 University Road, Hopland; (707) 744-1424

Cook them up

Learn how to use fresh wild mushrooms in cooking in an Assaggiare Mendocino class.
Learn how to use fresh wild mushrooms in cooking in an Assaggiare Mendocino class. (Visit Mendocino County)

Spend half a day looking for wild mushrooms and then learning how to cook with them. Assaggiare Mendocino, which offers catering, consulting and cooking classes, leads a session that’s part field work, part kitchen work. Dishes will be paired with local wine, beer and ciders. It starts at 10 a.m. and lasts about five hours; $65 per person. Info: Assaggiare Mendocino, 17451 Jade Court, Fort Bragg; (707) 961-9687 or email info@assagiare.com.

Party with locals

Ravens Restaurant is located in the Stanford Inn in Mendocino.
Ravens Restaurant is located in the Stanford Inn in Mendocino. (Stanford Inn)

What goes better with wild mushrooms than local brews and vino? The Mushroom, Wine & Beer Festival runs from Nov. 3 to 12 with hosted events all over Mendocino County. Download the free brochure, which comes with a handy map of the area and a full list of events, including winemaker dinners. The famed vegan Ravens Restaurant at the Stanford Inn in Mendocino serves a five-course dinner with a mushroom-centric menu and local Yamakiri Winery wines. $95, reservations required, 7 to 9:30 p.m. Nov. 11, www.ravensrestaurant.com, (707) 937-5615. Jaxon Keys Winery and Distillery serves a dinner with its wines plus dishes tied to the funghi frenzy from 4 to 8 p.m. Nov. 11. $125, www.jaxonkeys.com, (707) 964-9010.

Take time for tea

Tea is served in the vintage farmhouse at Glendeven Inn.
Tea is served in the vintage farmhouse at Glendeven Inn. (Glendeven Inn)

Don’t worry, the tea isn’t mushroom-flavored. The Glendeven Inn will be serving a traditional tea with creations by the chef made especially for the festival using locally foraged chanterelles, porcinis, candy caps, and others. Swing by the 19th century former farmhouse from 3 to 5 p.m. Nov. 5 and 11. Tea service costs $25 to $35. Info: Glendeven Inn, 8205 N. Highway 1, Little River; (707) 937-0083

Try a lick of this

Find ice cream made from wild candy cap mushrooms at Cowlick's Ice Cream.
Find ice cream made from wild candy cap mushrooms at Cowlick's Ice Cream. (Nancy Bennett / Cowlick's Ice Cream)

Hand-made ice cream is always a treat. In keeping with the spirit of the harvest, you can try the mushroom-flavored ice cream at Cowlick’s in Fort Bragg. It’s made with locally harvested candy cap mushrooms. A single scoop of artisan ice cream costs $3.60 and an extra 50 cents for a house-made waffle cone. Don’t worry, you can always switch to Rockiest Road or Mint Chocolate Chip if it’s a bit much. Info: Cowlick’s, 250 N. Main St., Fort Bragg, (707) 962-9271

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