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August 08, 2012

A Foraging Dinner at Telluride’s Hotel Madeline

By Erin Schumaker | Food

A Foraging Dinner at Telluride’s Hotel Madeline
Courtesy of Hotel Madeline Telluride

For more than 30 years, foraging fans from all over the country have pilgrimaged to Telluride, a mountain town in southwestern Colorado, to take part in a weekend-long celebration of mushrooms. This year, in keeping with the tradition, the luxury mountain resort Hotel Madeline hosts its second annual Foraging Dinner on August 18.

Twenty guests will participate in a guided foraging hike led by local expert John Sir Jesse, who has been hunting for mushrooms in Telluride for more than 34 years. After the hike comes dinner, choreographed by the Madeline’s chef de cuisine, Bud Thomas, and his cooking team. Inspired by the day’s bounty, they will whip up a multicourse meal—served in the open air—incorporating foraged ingredients like wild arugula, onion and, of course, mushrooms, including shiitake, chanterelles and morels.

Thomas prefers to keep things vague when asked where his group forages (“Somewhere near Lizard Head Pass,” is all he will give away), and for good reason. “Mushrooming is a lot like panning for gold,” he says. “If you find gold you don’t want anyone else to know where it is. Once the mushrooms are picked, they’re gone—so we cherish our spots.”

Because the dishes are based on the day’s finds, they tend to have a spontaneous, whimsical quality, including one of Thomas’s favorite fall dishes: a play on Stroganoff, cooked with wild mushrooms, garlic, shallots, onions and truffle oil and served over asparagus confit. But for Thomas, the best part of the dinner is being one with nature at 10,000 feet. “We are literally going to sit down and eat where we foraged—right in the thick of it,” he says. “It’s like setting up a stove and table in the middle of the best farmers market in the world and just eating right there. It’s genuinely spectacular.” August 18 hike and dinner, $150; rooms, from $295; 568 Mountain Village Blvd.; 970-369-0880; hotelmadelinetelluride.com.