A FIX TURE OF FAIRY tales and flocked black-light posters alike, mushrooms inhabit disparate worlds, simul- taneously harkening back to guileless pastoral settings and symbolizing a psychedelic counterculture. In the 1980s, however, fungi acquired a new identity as unlikely darlings of the Bay Area culinary scene. It wasn’t cultivated buttons and portobellos gracing menus (both are actually the same, just different ages): the mushrooms Michael Mina and other fine-dining chefs began to feature were of a different ilk — the
wild kind. The people responsible for bringing about this edible evolution were local foragers and mycologists, who have
since continued and expanded their efforts, bringing the wonder of mushrooms mainstream.
Who enjoys foraging? Longtime mushroom hunters Kevin Sadlier and David Campbell took note of a growing community and cofounded the Mycological Society of Marin County in 2015. San Francisco, the East Bay and Sonoma
County have groups as well. Patrick Hamilton, a foray coordinator and board member of the Sonoma County Mushroom
Association, led a recent excursion. Nicknamed “Mycochef,” Cotati-based Hamilton has been hunting and gathering
mushrooms for 40 years, though he’s lived many lives before and during this time, including a stint in the army, a chef
consulting career and hush-hush overseas ventures. “I was a wild man,” he says. He takes groups out privately and also
Notorious and steeped in mystery, mushrooms are among the most prevalent
organisms on the planet and also some of the most misunderstood.
BY KASIA PAWLOWSKA • PHOTOS BY RON POZNANSKY