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The rain wasn't coming down so much as coming across - horizontally. Every so often the bar door would fling open and we'd hold on to our napkins as a slickered and booted local stomped in, reporting on downed branches and power failures while pulling up a bar stool.
This is how Mendocino is supposed to be - bad weather is good - particularly for fans of the region's highly prized wild mushrooms. This kind of deluge - along with the misty wetness that keeps Mendocino's picturesque, rustic fences carpeted in moss year-round - is what supplies the North Coast's chefs with wild mushrooms, from porcini to hedgehog to black trumpet to yellow foot, as well as chanterelle, shiitake and morel.
Few places in the world inspire such fanaticism over fungi.
Why now? From October through January, more than 3,000 mushroom varieties emerge in the county's damp earth. Also, the annual festival dedicated to all things mushroom is the second week in November (see below).
Backstory: Over 500 of the 3,000 varieties are edible, including the rare candy cap mushroom - with its maple-syrup flavor and intense fragrance - that grows only along the northern coast of California. Because of the conditions, the Mendocino coast has become a magnet for mushroom hunters (legal and otherwise), especially on public lands.
Checking in: For me, the best Mendocino weekend is spent at Little River Inn, a landmark just south of Mendocino village with cottages and wings added over the years to the 1853-built Victorian center. It's an idyllic place to watch the weather while hunkered down in an armchair before a blazing fire. At Ole's Whale Watch Bar, don't miss a plate of sauteed chanterelles with a thick chunk of crusty bread for sopping up the juices, a glass of Pinot Noir at the ready.
Spend your day: For breakfast, climb the steps to the water tower just off the main street that houses the Bay View Cafe for the fantastic view, generous portions, friendly staff and affordable prices.
Afterward, stop anywhere along Highway 1 where you see foragers heading into the forest to go visual treasure hunting for the incredible variety of fungi - but don't be tempted to pick and eat. Mushroom collecting is not for the intrepid. Instead, find one of several area restaurants where the menu is festooned with fungus. (See below.)
Spas abound, north and south, so indulge in an only-in-Mendocino holistic treatment, or for the active set, hike the headlands at MacKerricher State Park north of Fort Bragg, or to the blowhole, just south of Mendocino Village.
Dining: Along with Ole's Whale Watch Bar, there are a few restaurants that specialize in mushrooms.
Ravens' at the Stanford Inn by the Sea is an upscale vegan restaurant that features multiple types of mushrooms on the menu year-round, with trumpet royale, oyster, shiitake and chanterelle playing starring roles in many dishes.
At the Rendezvous Inn and Restaurant in Fort Bragg, mushrooms are on the menu throughout the year, but during mushroom season the chef pulls out a multicourse mushroom tasting menu featuring locally foraged fare.
And at MacCallum House Inn and Restaurant in Mendocino Village, local mushrooms are a heavily favored ingredient of Chef Alan Kantor's menu.
Don't miss: Mendocino County's Wine and Mushroom Fest, Nov. 6-15, with forays into the forests led by bona fide fungi experts, educational workshops and, of course, the opportunity to overdose safely on wild mushrooms cooked every which way and washed down with copious pours of Mendocino wines and drafts. Many Mendocino wineries plan to open their doors for free tastings paired with mushroom-laden appetizers. Restaurants are following suit with various mushroom dishes at winemaker dinners.
Don't bother: Bringing anything fancy to wear. Mendocino is decidedly low-key.
Word to the wise: The saying goes: "There are old mushroom hunters and bold mushroom hunters but no old and bold mushroom hunters." Mushroom foraging is for the knowledgeable.
If you go GETTING THERE The quickest way to get to Mendocino from San Francisco is to take Highway 101 north, then Highway 128 to Highway 1 north. WHERE TO STAY Little River Inn , 7901 N. Highway 1, Little River. (888) 466-5683; www.littleriverinn.com . $175 and up per night. Stanford Inn by the Sea , Highway 1 and Comptche-Ukiah Road, Mendocino. (800) 331-8884; stanfordinn.com. $198 and up per night. MacCallum House Inn and Restaurant . 45020 Albion St., Mendocino. (800) 609-0492; www.maccallumhouse.com . $149 and up per night. Rendezvous Inn and Restaurant , 47 N. Main St., Fort Bragg; (800) 491-8143; www.rendezvousinn.com . Winter rates from $79 and up per night. DINING Ravens' Restaurant at the Stanford Inn by the Sea . (707) 937-5615; www.ravensrestaurant.com . WHAT TO DO MacKerricher State Park . The park is three miles north of Fort Bragg on Highway 1, near the town of Cleone. (707) 964-9112; www.parks.ca.gov . Call the park for hours. FOR MORE INFORMATION Mendocino County Official Travel Site: www.gomendo.com .
Yvonne Horn last wrote for Travel on China. E-mail comments to email@example.com.