Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mushroom Hunting

We checked out the Four Seasons Resort Vail's mushroom hunting expedition. For $200 a person, they drive you and your fellow mushroom hunters up to the mountains in Mercedes SUVs with a basket of all the gear and snacks you need, plus a guide to point out what's poisonous and what's OK to taste. The day starts with fine pastries, is broken up by a snack with fancy cheese, meats and crackers, and ends with a 3-course mushroom-based meal. From the mid-day snack on, there's just about as much wine as you want. And you get to go back in the Four Seasons kitchen to watch them cook and mingle with the staff.

In the Four Seasons kitchen with the foragers' finds

This year's mushroom guide, Larry Evans, was a hoot. Chef Harrison's staff prepared a lovely meal, and the Four Seasons staff was extremely attentive without being obtrusive. When a wine glass was empty, they made sure to fill it. They set up camp chairs for people to sit in without being asked. You can read more about it here

And here's some tips on what to expect if you decide to try it yourself:

WHERE TO PARK _ There's free parking in Vail during the summer at various garages, but you can valet park. The hotel validated our valet tickets because we were on the mushroom trip. (heh, trip)

GET THERE EARLY _ The hotel said to meet at 10 a.m., but it was worth getting there early to enjoy the complimentary coffee and pastries, plus check out Larry Evans' table of mushrooms that he had picked a day earlier to give us an idea of what we could find.

WEAR LONG PANTS _ During our trip, we had a pleasant, short hike off the trail at Shrine Pass to look for mushrooms in a shady pine forest. The high was forecast to be in the 80s in Vail that day, but at about 11 a.m. at Shrine Pass, it was 58 degrees. The hike wasn't strenuous _ we had an hour to look for mushrooms at our own pace, and the area where we were wasn't steep. But later in the day, we went hunting in an aspen grove with thick, thorny vegetation that will scratch up your legs. Long pants will prevent that. It's worth noting guide Larry Evans was wearing long pants.

WEAR LAYERS _ It was 58 degrees when we first set out. Later in the day, it was warm enough to just wear a short-sleeve shirt with our long pants. Bring sunglasses.

Mushroom guide Larry Evans, right. Everything you need to know about him is at

THEY'VE GOT YOUR BACK _ The Four Seasons staff thinks of just about everything. They had water for each mushroom hunter, and they brought sunscreen. They also had an energy bar and apple for each person. While the hotel serves you a 3-course "dinner" to end the day, it's in a back room around 4 p.m., so you don't need to dress up at all for the meal.

TIPPING _ We have no idea what's a good tip, but we're pretty sure Evans wasn't expecting any tip at all. You will, however, see a spot left blank for you to add a tip onto what you pay Four Seasons.