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Playing With Food: FungiFest at Machine Project

There are many things capable of filling an Echo Park art gallery on a Saturday night, namely the promise of free booze, which makes any art opening a draw for the young and perennially broke. But usually there is at least some promise of pop culture-infused paintings or gender bending performance art in addition to a few cases of cheap beer or Two Buck Chuck. But last Saturday night at Machine Project, there was only mushrooms. Mushrooms on film, made out of paper, soaked in booze. Multiple iterations of mushrooms. And apparently, mushrooms still pull in the art crowd: it was a full house.

Mushrooms of Santa Barbara
Mushrooms of Santa Barbara
Willy Blackmore
Willy Blackmore
Willy Blackmore

Machine Projects launched their FungiFest 2010 with a mushroom hunting tutorial from Santa Barbara City College biology professor Bob Cummings, mushroom-themed short films, an array of mushroom-infused booze--including a handle of Jim Beam full of what looked like quartered cremini mushrooms that, sadly, just tasted like Jim Beam--and beautifully illustrated mushroom identification posters on the walls. A table displaying the fungi of the Santa Barbara--delectable and deadly alike--including familiar looking if not dirt-crusted chanterelles, their distinct apricot and/or pumpkin smell fading since they weren't "fresh" anymore, having been picked nearly twelve whole hours before, by Professor Cummings. Other specimens included kill-you-dead death caps--not mincing words is much appreciated when it comes to naming extremely poisonous mushrooms--enticingly sweet-smelling candy caps (again, not at their aromatic best) and another variety which appeared to bleed red and blue when cut into, a particularly beautiful form of oxidization.

Amidst a mushroom-costumed man, paper mushroom origami demos and table full of mushroom drinks, a discernible line occasionally formed in the crowd as the most sought after mushroom treat of the night made its appearance, one metal tub at a time. LA ice cream favorites Scoops concocted a special flavor for the event, comprised of black truffle (well, black truffle oil, we would venture to guess), bits of mushrooms and what tasted like honey--the exact details weren't known by the man with the scoop. Truffles and honey are always a lovely pairing and they didn't fail to impress in ice cream form. Sweet and rich, with a nice hit of earthy funk, the Machine Project special would do well on Scoops daily rotation of ice creams.

Black Truffle Ice Cream from Scoops
Black Truffle Ice Cream from Scoops
Willy Blackmore
Paper Mushroom Projection
Paper Mushroom Projection
Willy Blackmore

Saturday was just the start of a series of mycological events taking place between January 16th and 23rd. FungiFest continues with a meeting of the Los Angeles Mycological Society and a mystery-heavy mushroom hunt, taking place at an undisclosed time in an undisclosed space, featuring a special guest--a truffle happy LA chef, perhaps? Hunting fungi has always been shrouded in secrecy--try getting a Midwestern to take you on a morel hunt, never mind getting the inside track on the hot truffle digging spots in the Perigord or around Alba--but who knew 2010 would see mushroom hunts taking a cue from late-announcing, mystery DJ-billing raves? Not that we have a problem with it--we'll be waiting for the location to be announced along with the many newly minted mushroom hunting hipsters who were in attendance on Saturday night. Those chanterelles must be smelled--and eaten--at their most fragrant and fresh best.

Check out Machine Project for more FungiFest event info.

Playing With Food: FungiFest at Machine Project
Willy Blackmore
Chanterelles
Chanterelles
Willy Blackmore

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