‘Walk on the Wild Side,' Fungi Fans, in Mendocino County

It's the mushroom-iest time of year in the lovely and loamy region.

Tsvetomir Hristov

What to Know

  • Mendocino County brims with fungi goodness in the wintertime
  • A number of local places have special seasonal dishes, packages, and outings created just for mushroom mavens
  • The Inn at Newport Ranch is home to the Forage for Incredible Edibles package, which include a hunt around the property's lush woods

JANUARY IN CALIFORNIA? Depending upon where you land, it can be frosty (hello, Tahoe) or sunny (Pasadena's Rose Parade, quite often) or warm (the desert resorts rock the swim scene, even in winter) or even a bit golden (since fall color doesn't wrap in the southern part of the state before Christmas). But around Mendocino County? Life is downright loamy, thanks to the fungi-fun fact that the area makes room for mushroom fans as a new year begins. For all sorts of splendid, straight-from-the-forest-floor specimens start popping when the clime turns colder, meaning a forager might encounter a stupendous spray of chanterelles, or porcini, or other gourmand-pleasing goodies. And to welcoming mush-mavens to the picturesque region?

THERE ARE WINTER PACKAGES, created around outdoor adventures, tasty hunts, and the chance to find your own fungi with a knowledgeable guide at the lead. Mushroom Exploration Tours and Nature Walks, at Stanford Inn by the Sea, "includes a one- to two-hour hike with a guide tracing the surrounding forests and streams," a fascinating ramble that is open to "both guests and non-guests" (the people at Visit Mendocino invite interested parties to think of it as a "refreshing winter reboot," which totally tempts as the new year begins). If you do spy chanterelles, you might want to make for Ravens Restaurant, which has a dish on the menu featuring these local gems (as well as polenta and a port reduction, yum).

MORE PACKAGES ARE SPROUTING, including the Mushroom & Garden Foraging package at Mar Vista Farm + Cottages, which boasts a "morning forage" to help up your super-savory scramble game, as well as the mushroom-heavy "haunts" in the surrounding woods. And at the Inn at Newport Ranch? The Forage for Incredible Edibles involves a fascinating four-hour exploration in the loamy locations around the property, one that includes an option to create your own take-home mushroom log. There is, in short, more mush-a-tude around Mendocino County than you'd find in a sizzling, oil- and garlic-rich pan of candy caps, and seizing the sweater-up moment is part of the year-starting adventure. For all of the fungi-fantastical happenings around marvelous Mendo, slip into your waterproof boots and wade in this direction now.

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