Mushroom Mania, Monterey-Style

Beverages, spa treatments, and foraging excursions? It's fall all right.

AUTUMN EATS: Let us preface this by saying we have no apple-directed anger, nor do we bear any ill will toward acorns, pears, grapes, or the other edibles usually associated with fall. We love them all, in fact -- well, maybe not acorns, save for decorations, but squirrels do love to munch on 'em -- but the whole autumn and edibles column pretty much belongs to mushroom. We know, we know; little shroomies pop up, in your grass, all year long, especially on those damp spring mornings. But fall is their headlining season, when all the fancy food magazines and cooking shows feature truffle-oil pastas and stroganoffs and casseroles rich with their meaty, meat-free taste. So, you get what we're saying; TOTAL apple love and all that, but autumn and mushrooms belong together.

WITH THAT MIND... We do love when a business will turn over not simply its dishes and restaurants to an ingredient but its spas and activities, too. That's what's happening in Monterey County, at Bernardus Lodge, through January. Not only will mushrooms pop up in various entrees -- white truffle risottos and Carmel Bay spot prawns are two mentions -- but Bernardus will feature fungus in the desserts, too: Chanterelle Mousse and a Black Truffle Ice Cream Sundae are two tantalizers. And, yep, there are a mushroom cocktails, too.

OFF THE TABLE: But there are other ways to enjoy fungi fun; the Spa at Bernadus Lodge will offer a Mushroom Medley treatment and a separate mushroom soak. There's also a trek into the redwoods of Monterey County, to look for the prized caps and stems. In short, autumn aficionados and mushroom mavens? Your time of year and 'shroom-sweet place have come together near the Bay. Happy fungi days, fungi fan.

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