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Shroom With a View: You can get all kinds of perspective on mushrooms at this year's Fungus Fair.

Should Mold Acquaintance Be Forgot

Ring in the New Year with the Fungus Fair and some exquisite special dinners

By Christina Waters

You knew this was coming--the 30th Annual Santa Cruz Fungus Fair unveils itself Jan. 10 and 11, from 10am until 5pm, at Louden Nelson Community Center. A local tradition, the Fungus Fair provides eye-opening, mind-blowing (well, you know what I mean) glimpses of our seasonal fungi friends, those little toadstools and fairy circles that pop up once the rain starts. Not only are these mycological mysteries beautiful and intricate, many of them are quite delicious; for example, the succulent black trumpet, the golden chanterelle and the musky king bolete. For two days the curious and the adventurous will be able to stroll through walk-through dioramas of forest habitats bursting with appropriate mushroom and fungus types. You'll learn about medicinal mushrooms from herbalist Christopher Hobbs. You'll find out the real Latin names of all those intriguing fungi and even taste wild mushroom delicacies. Also part of this legendary winter festival is the inimitable Joseph Schultz, who morphs into India Jozseph Schultz, complete with pith helmet, and works that wok for all it's worth. Schultz will whip up astounding little mushroom treats using the wild abundance of our local terrain. So much myco-illumination will be available on this weekend that even fungi aficionados will learn something new. Think of it as an antidote to all those sugary foods you inhaled during the December holidays, plus the modest ticket price--$6 general, $4 students and seniors--benefits our lovely Museum of Natural History. OK, but there's more. Further celebrating the delicate nuances of the wild mushroom, chef Robert Morris of Black's Beach Cafe offers a Fungus Feast, co-chefed with Lynn Sheehan of Sand Rock Hill. Jan. 27, starting at 6:30pm, Morris and Sheehan will team up to create a multicourse feast featuring wild and cultivated mushrooms in every dish. Specially selected wines will join each course, and the $100 per person price includes dinner, wine and dessert. Make your reservations immediately --call Carolyn O'Donnell at 831.420.6116--for this highly social evening. And don't miss Lynn Sheehan's mushroom cooking demos each day of the Fungus Fair.

Yeah, you're thinking, but what about New Year's Eve? Well, here are my picks. Theo's, where chef Nicci Tripp is busy reinventing conceptual cuisine, offers an astounding multicourse New Year's menu for $65, plus tax and tip. At each of the seatings--6pm and 9:30pm--you'll begin with smoked salmon and champagne blini, followed by oysters with crème fraîche and a creation of Sonoma duck foie gras with duck egg custard and American sturgeon caviar. Next, select either a group of miniature soups made from heirloom vegetables or a salad of winter endive with Maytag blue cheese and Asian pears, and then enjoy your entree of either roast rack of Montana venison, or pancetta-wrapped monkfish, or peppered prime fillet of beef. I just can't believe this. And there's a cheese course followed by your choice of desserts so sexy that I am speechless. As in France, all of the above are followed by petits fours, coffee and tea. You should be on the phone right now calling 831.462.3657. A jazz trio will accompany the late seating right into the New Year. You know where Theo's is--the cottage on Main Street in Soquel.

Another great New Year's dinner idea comes to us from Southern Exposure, at 9051 Soquel Drive in Aptos. Their five-course feast--$75 per person, plus tax and tip--begins with a tiny something to amuse your bouche followed by seafood bisque with chive crème fraiche. Then a salad of haricots verts and roasted beets with goat cheese closes with a granita of pomegranate and vodka. Entree choices include wasabi-crusted halibut with lobster sushi, or roast pheasant with foie gras potato purée (outrageous!) or Roquefort-crusted Angus New York steak. Dessert can be a chocolate hazelnut torte or blood orange crème brûlée with black pepper biscotti. I am salivating. Two seatings, 6pm and 8:30pm, live music by the bar and a very pretty dining room in which to feast out the old year. Reservations can be made by calling 831.688.5566.

Merry Christmas!

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From the December 24-31, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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