During the Farmers’ Market on Saturday morning the block just north of Broadway was cordoned off for Mushroom Festival stalls. Locals Jean’s Mushroom Station and Jan and Dan’s each had a table, displaying the different types which grow in the area. A third table featured Earl Jorgensen with West Coast Wild Foods, who was dishing up free bowls of mushroom soup with fresh bread. He is a mushroom buyer in town from the Sunshine Coast and has participated in the mushroom festival closer to home at Pender Harbour. This is his first year in Nakusp, though he was thrilled to stumble upon the first fungi fest and says, “Next year you will see that we are going to put in a very strong presence — a couple of tables, different soups (some of my favourite recipes), maybe a couple of dishes from the owners, and set up a free buffet for people.”
The popular Wolf’s Catering was there as well, selling mushroom poutine, a mushroom swiss burger and a pulled pork mushroom melt. The menu was inspired by local mushrooms and wouldn’t have been complete without owner Simon Hellyer’s signature smoked meat in addition. Hellyer himself has been mushroom picking this season, taking a day off to prep and another to be at the event. “Then we’re going back out picking tomorrow,” he said.
The Chamber showcased just a sample of what the event is going to grow to become.
Just a few hours later, 70 lucky ticket holders were on hand for the first-ever mushroom gala dinner, which sold out early and had many still clambering for extra tickets up until the start time, though there were none to be had. Inside the K2 Rotor Lodge Saturday evening, the restaurant was closed to the general public for the special event. At 5:00 p.m., platters of local fresh vegetables alongside tempura vegetables were set out buffet-style around the lounge. The evening began with a cocktail hour during which those fortunate enough to have a ticket mingled freely. Then, a few minutes before 6:00 p.m., Chamber of Commerce President Peter Welkerling welcomed everyone to the event and turned the floor over to Events Coordinator Craig Savage for a speech.
“Today we saw just a little bit of what is in store; some mushroom dishes and mushroom identification displays, but the vision for this is a lot bigger. We hope for this to become something more on par with the Hills Garlic Festival, where we have vendors from all over coming in and really highlighting the strength of our area,” Savage said. The Chamber’s goal is to bring the enthusiasts, tourists, mycologists (mushroom and fungi experts), pickers and buyers.
“We have a vision to hold this at the arena, to have that place full of vendors and have people spilling out into the parking lot and to just have all kinds of vendors. Berries, herbs, locally made to highlight that, as well as some entertainment,” he revealed to the well-dressed crowd sipping on white and red sangria with local fresh berries and apples. “It’s really exciting to be here with you all tonight — you’ll all be able to say I was at the first one.”
Chef Robert Riedl prepared a three course meal including a Chanterelle mushroom salad, local organic chicken in a creamy mushroom sauce and vanilla pumpkin ice cream topped with maple syrup and walnuts. Okanagan wine pairings were listed on the menu and could be purchased by the glass, half litre or bottle.