.Fungus Fair turns 50

The annual Santa Cruz event celebrates a half century of mushrooms

Deadly and delicious. Magic and mouthwatering. Ubiquitous and mysterious.

Welcome to the world of the Fungus Federation of Santa Cruz, whose love language for mushrooms includes all of the above and the taglines like “Keeping the fun in fungus” and  “When it rains, it spores.”

Now that the mainstream holiday activities have passed, the FFSC is settling into the real celebration, and this year marks a biggie. After springing forth back in 1974, the Santa Cruz Fungus Fair is now in its 50th—yes, five zero—installment.

The re-created woodland forest that displays hundreds of wild mushrooms remains a main draw, but there’s a lot more going on than that.

A peek at the lineup proved tantalizing. Some talks that tingle my shroom senses in particular: “The Magic Mushroom Class,” “Exploring the Unknown: Cryptic Mushroom Diversity In Your Backyard,” and “Medicinal Mushrooms – Traditional Usage and Modern Science.”

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Meanwhile Chef Chad Hyatt oversees the 10th After Hours Mushroom Dinner with wine pairings by Frank Virgil of De Vincenzi Cellars.

More at ffsc.us.

EAT UP THE INFO

Bonus mushroom news, arriving right on time: The recent passage of Assembly Bill 261 means the California golden chanterelle is officially CA’s state mushroom, joining the likes of the California redwood (official state tree) and the golden poppy (state flower). The bill itself is actually a pretty fun read, announcing in part, “Long loved by Californians, scientists recently recognized it as a unique endemic species. Thus, Cantharellus californicus is a symbol of the rich and special biodiversity of California.”

BIG NEWS BREWING

Female-powered Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing Company started making Westside proud with its organic ethics and progressive instincts way back in 2005, before the city’s now thriving craft beer scene was a thing.

Now it’s been sold. Which scared me at first blush, until I learned the new leadership will involve Adair Paterno of internationally celebrated Sante Adairius Rustic Ales and Brad Clark of Private Press Brewing. SCMBC co-founder Emily Thomas, who describes the brewery as her third child, has been friends and colleagues with Paterno for a solid decade.

“We believe that Adair and Brad will innovate, expand our reach and continue providing our loyal customers with exceptional craft beers,” Thomas says.

NOTES AND NUGS Early returns from late December debut The Midway from chef Katherine Stern are good, thanks to farm-to-fabulous dishes like crispy Fogline Farm pork belly with pickled vegetables, jalepeño, herbs and brown rice.…Eat for the Earth screens Forks Over Knives, which explores the disease-preventing powers of a plant-free diet, for free (please RSVP), Jan. 22 at Sundean Hall, eatfortheearth.org…The Dry(ish) January grind is real here. My recent taste test rankings amid the so-called “sober-curious” drink market, in ascending order: 3) Lagunitas NIPA; 2) Sierra Nevada Hop Splash; 1) Athletic Run Wild IPA…An awesome connective hub awaits at Environteers.org, where locals can plug into helpful updates and great opportunities to volunteer/hang/participate in Santa Cruz-centric and eco-savvy happenings, which often involve foodie-friendly side effects…A final mushroom update: Yours truly will be down at the Big Sur Foragers Festival Jan. 20-21 serving as a judge at the Fungus Face Off. Happy mushrooming.

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