From Farm to Table—The New Mexico State Fair kicks into gear this weekend, and with it comes parking-lot green chile, Navajo tacos and batter-dipped novelty foods out the yin-yang (Twinkie-on-a-stick, anyone?). But you must not—cannot—step foot off the fairgrounds without a visit to the New Mexico Country Store, located in the Agriculture Building at Expo New Mexico. The store is an ephemeral courtyard market, organized by the New Mexico Department of Agriculture and home to a statewide harvest of prized produce and cottage-industry products. It's the closest thing we've got to a culinary cross section of our state. Stop in for some apple-sweet onions or bag of blue corn-piñon pancake mix. You will not be disappointed.
Mushrooms on the Brain—Aside from being the official month of Chicken, Biscuits and National Food Safety, September is also Wild Mushroom Month. Believe it or not, people come from all over the world to forage for a select but excellent variety of mushrooms here in New Mexico. The northern half of the state's semi-moist clime is prized not only for its Gymnopilus luteofolius (a psychoactive shroom), but also porcinis, black morels, pigs' ears and lobster mushrooms. In fact, the pickings are so good that one restaurant—Villa Fontana in Taos—bases its livelihood on the magical food. Executive Chef Carlo Gislimberti is the only chef licensed by the State of New Mexico to collect wild mushrooms for use in his restaurant. Now, Villa Fontana has been described as one of the top 10 Italian restaurants in the United States. Think that's a coincidence? You must be tripping.
But before you head out into the brush for your own mushroom quest, remember that most mushrooms that grow in the wild are actually toxic. In other words, if you don't know what you're doing do not mess with them. Be smart and find other ways to indulge your passion for fungus. Try teaming up with the New Mexico Mycological Society for a guided mushroom-collecting foray (log on to swcp.com/mycowest/nmms for details), or come out to the Wild Mushroom Festival this Saturday at Wild Oats on Juan Tabo. I'll be there as a guest judge. It's going to be wild.
If you've got news for “The Dish,” e-mail email@example.com, call 346-0660 ext. 260 or fax 256-9651. The juiciest tidbits will be rewarded.