If you’re a mushroom fan, don’t miss the 37th Annual Santa Cruz Fungus Fair this weekend where you can watch cooking demos, get recipes, and hear experts at Louden Nelson Community Center in downtown Santa Cruz. Prices and fair hours can be found at the end of this article.
The event is so popular that this year it’s been expanded from two days to three days, beginning on Friday afternoon instead of Saturday morning. It features lots of great food from various vendors; last year selections included mushroom lasagna, cheesecake with candycap mushroom glaze, and India Joze Thai 3-mushroom soup (I had one delectable $4 bowl and could have eaten so much more!). Plus, the festival has many informative displays where you can learn more than you ever thought possible about mushrooms. A special habitat display area, beautifully arranged, will showcase hundreds of mushroom species commonly found in the Santa Cruz/San Francisco/Monterey Bay area.
The fair is hosted by the Fungus Federation of Santa Cruz, a non-profit organization that aims to expand the understanding and appreciation of mycology (study of mushrooms) and to assist the general public, related institutions, and societies to further this goal. Its biggest event is the annual Fungus Fair.
MUSHROOM COOKING DEMO INFO:
Friday, January 7, 6-7pm: Oswald chef/co-owner Damani Thomas will do a demo and talk on opening night of this year’s festival. He is an incredible chef and this is bound to be an engaging, informative program. Read more about Oswald, including the popular downtown Santa Cruz restaurant’s three-course fixed-price Wednesday evening meals.
Saturday, January 8, 3-4:30pm: Chef Todd Spanier, who runs a business gathering “wild foods” including mushrooms and huckleberries, and getting them into markets and restaurants – including getting his morels into Chez Panisse. Read more about Spanier at the Fungus Fair web site’s program/speaker section.
Sunday January 9, 3-4:30pm: Jozseph Schultz (founder/chef of restaurant India Joze) is doing a demo and audience members will get to taste samples. Schultz’s travels include Bali and Turkey, and he is a talented cook and storyteller. Here are some of his recipes; he’s authored cookbooks such as “India Joze International Mushroom Cookbook.” In addition to running India Joze (read more on this fabulous restaurant), Schultz teaches many classes including ones at local New Leaf Market and UC Santa Cruz.
Other fungus fair highlights include mushroom identification (bring your own and have experts tell you details!), vendors selling mushroom-related books, jewelry, and ceramics, and lectures by individuals such as Fungus Fair founder / mycologist / author David Arora — see complete schedule — plus a Kids Room with hands-on activities such as making clay mushrooms and dying fabric with mushroom dyes. Arora’s most recent publication was as a major contributor to a special ethnomycological issue of Economic Botany, a journal published by the New York Botanical Garden. His interests range from mushroom harvest and usage around the world to mushroom ecology, taxonomy, cuisine, foraging culture and storytelling. All of these subjects will likely be covered during presentations entitled “The Wheel of Fungi” (11am-12:30 Saturday, 1-2:30 Sunday). The Saturday and Sunday presentations have the same title but will not cover the same material. Arora says of them: “Without giving too much away, I will be giving something away.”
One of last year’s culinary demo guests was wild-mushroom chef/Oregon restaurateur Jack Czarnecki, and I really enjoyed his presentation. Read more about Czarnecki and his 2010 Fair appearance here — includes cooking tips. Also, get Czarnecki’s recipe for salmon cakes with mushrooms and truffle mayonnaise.
See all you mushroom lovers this weekend!
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4-7pm Friday January 7; 10am-5pm Saturday & Sunday January 8-9
Call (831) 684-2275 for more information or see festival site
Admission: Friday $5 for everyone
Saturday-Sunday – $7 Adults, $5 Seniors & Students, free for kids under 12
Louden Nelson Community Center, 301 Center Street (at corner of Laurel) – some street parking available at center; another option is further down Center Street near the police station