Foraging Better Relationships: How well do you know your Mushrooms?
by Whitney Butler

Everyone is always trying to find that enlightened food experience. For a while it seemed like molecular gastronomy had taken over epicurean curiosity, as food was manipulated into almost unrecognizable edible art—an array of sensory experiences no longer just limited to taste. For many, however, the answer is a lot simpler. ‘Farm to table’ is the contemporary answer to questions concerning quality, sustainability and rebuilding a link we all once had with our food. Taking it a step further, foraging for indigenous ingredients has become a popular method of education for individuals seeking a more enlightened food experience. After winter rainstorms across California, wild mushrooms spring forth from the soil of Healdsburg— and there’s no better time to join the hunt than right now.

The ‘farm to table’ movement rests in cooperative farming, locally grown products and livestock that lives close — if not completely — in nature and arrives to the table with as little alteration as possible. Located 70 miles north of San Francisco, Healdsburg leads the way to foraging better relationships with the food we eat through various activities during Hands on Healdsburg — 50 days of unique winter offerings kicking off January 10 — encouraging us to experience food from earth to hand.

Wild Mushroom Foray

After the winter rains, a seasonal wild mushroom foray is available to individuals seeking a hands-on opportunity to forage nature’s bounty. The breathtaking hillsides of Healdsburg in Sonoma County’s wine country are the backdrop to an experience both spiritual and delicious. Discover how to recognize wild mushrooms while learning proper handling and safety techniques from chef, preservist and forager Elissa Rubin-Mahon. After the morning of mushroom foraging, gather at Relish Culinary Adventures for more demonstrations and an inspired 4-course meal, featuring the day’s finds along with other fresh and wild mushrooms and served with delicious local wines.

Hands-on Cooking Classes

Out from the wild and into the classroom, Relish Culinary Adventures provides hands-on cooking classes suitable for both experienced and novice guests with techniques including: handling, storage, preparation, rehydration and cooking. Join Chef Anne Cornell the evening of January 9 as she dishes out her best mushroom-inspired culinary advice. After class, enjoy dinner paired with local wines to enhance carefully crafted flavors prepared by Chef Cornell.

The Best of All Three

On January 10 and 11 get the fully immersive experience by leading the hunt in the hills of Healdsburg, learning how to cook wild mushrooms with an impressive variety of techniques and sit down to a carefully crafted menu for brunch or lunch. Each class can be registered for separately, and will be led by chef Elissa Rubin-Mahon. Both of these foraging experiences offer a different perspective on ‘farm to table’ trends that emerge in surprising conversations while enjoying the beauty that surrounds in this popular Sonoma wine country destination.

Maybe it isn’t practical to maintain handpicked relationships with all the food we eat, but between Jan. 10 and Feb. 28 Hands on Healdsburg encourages epicurean curiosity to flow, providing locals and visitors the opportunity to explore their own relationships with food, wine and body in the sophisticated farm-town of Healdsburg.

Would you like to get to know your food better? Register here for one or more of these delectable classes.