Much of Telluride’s glory comes from the enthusiasm of our various cults: the skiing cult, the mountain biking cult, the Bluegrass cult, the Film Festival cult and, yes, the mushroom cult, which is demonstrably – when they march down main street in the annual Telluride Mushroom Festival parade – the most cultish of them all.
Steadily, persistently, the small coterie of fungi fanatics who have gathered annually here for the last 28 years have taught many of us who pay attention only peripherally that there are some delectable treats to be harvested in our local woods in the late summer. Back when it started, festival stalwart Gary Lincoff noted in a short talk at Wednesday’s third annual Telluride Mushroom and Wine Banquet at the Telluride Conference Center, there was major apprehension about the risk of poisoning when local fungi were fried up and served. Our mushroom pioneers, in other words, risked their lives for the culinary cause! So it’s with enormous thanks to them that, just as select Colorado wines are reaching levels of surprising excellence and the Telluride Farmer’s Market is raising the bar on local meat and produce, we are collectively developing an appreciation of local fungi.
This was deliciously demonstrated at Wednesday’s banquet, featuring outstanding wines from Sutcliffe Vineyards outside of Cortez and cooking by some of Telluride’s longest serving and most reliable chefs: Lucas Price of La Cocina de Luz, Chad Scothorn of Cosmopolitan, and Bob Scherner of Allred’s.
Morels may occasionally be found locally, but not in abundance, so Price used morels from elsewhere in his sopes appetizer, a crispy corn tortilla topped with a ragout of morels and poblano chilies, tomatillo salsa, greens, and a dollop of sour cream. This was paired with Sutcliffe’s 2007 Viognier, crisp and fruity.
Scothorn’s large ravioli first course was filled with Indian Ridge chicken and goat cheese, in a chanterelle broth. It’s a good year for chanterelles in our local woods, and Scothorn showed them off to great advantage here, as much aromatic as flavorful.
We were now into Sutcliffe’s red wines, a 2006 Pinot Noir with the ravioli and an earthy 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon with Scherner’s main course of smoked pork loin wrapped in pancetta, resting on a bed of quinoa and a mushroom sauce, or ragout, consisting of three varieties: maitake, abalone and honshemenji, none of them local, I believe.
And how about using lion’s mane fungi in a cheesecake dessert? I can’t say I could taste the mushroom in the coffee flavored pastry produced by Denise Beattie of the Excelsior Cafe, but its texture was delightful.
There will be more delectable mushroom-based food items served all weekend during this 28th annual Telluride Mushroom Festival, and the usual menu of lectures about fungi, edible, medicinal, psychedelic, and even put to commercial use cleaning up toxins.
Being cultish by nature, it’s not surprising that fungi fanatics, like the very fungi they admire, conduct the vast majority of their business below ground. May they adapt to the likelihood that the Telluride Mushroom and Wine Banquet is far too much fun to remain an event attended only by the elect.