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01.21.09

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Phaedra

Picks of the Crop

By Gretchen Giles


Mushroom hunting is generally a dirty business. Those leaving from southern North Bay climes are looking at a good hour's winding drive up Highway 1 to Salt Point State Park, one of the only state lands where it's legal to pick wild mushrooms. Once there, several hours of wandering about, poking the ground with sticks and wondering over the possible edibility and/or poison content of what's been found ensue. Clumps of leaves could disguise chanterelles, that black icky thing sticking up actually is a chanterelle, and banana slugs are inevitably discovered to be far less cute than some children's songs might cast them.

Enter the Monte Rio Recreation and Park District, which hosts a Divine Mushroom Experience on Saturday, Jan. 24. "Divine" in this instance is defined as a limousine ride to Salt Point for an afternoon's hunting foray with professional mycologist David Campbell and a return to Monte Rio to indulge in a gorgeous mushroom-driven meal prepared by professional chef Maria Vieagas paired with Mat and Barb Gustafson's Paul Mathew wines, small-lot, hand-crafted vintages made from native yeasts. For just $125.

Those who like to keep their hiking boots clean can sign up solely for the four-course, wine-paired meal at a mere $50. Tickets for the day are almost gone, but Monte Rio parks district staffer Dawn Bell assures that a few are still left. The Divine Mushroom Experience is slated for Saturday, Jan. 24, from 8:30am to 4pm. Monte Rio Community Center, 20488 Hwy. 116, Monte Rio. $50–$125. 707.865.9956. . . .

Speaking of small things best picked locally, the Sonoma Valley's Olive Festival continues with the Feast of the Olive dinner, this year pairing "duets" of chefs from different valley restaurants together for a five-course meal. The only stipulation, other than it all be amazingly, gorgeously yummy, is that olives and their oil be showcased. To that end, everything from Ramekin's chef Steve Valadez's amuse-bouche to Harvest Moon Cafe chef Jen Demarest's chocolate cake feature the goodly fruit. Eight wineries pair with the food and the Olive Press' Deborah Rogers will be honored on Saturday, Jan. 24, from 6pm at the Ramekins Culinary School. 450 W. Napa St., Sonoma. $150. 707.996.1090.


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