Dr Paul Thomas, Mary Vincent & White Truffle
"Let no one ever confess that he dined where truffles were not. However good any entree may be, it seems bad unless enriched by truffles. Who has not felt his mouth water when any allusion was made to truffles...
A saute of truffles is a dish the honors of which the mistress of the house reserves to herself; in fine, the truffle is the diamond of the kitchen."Excerpt from The Physiology of Taste or Transcendental Gastronomy by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin written in 1825
1st Napa Truffle Festival
I was enamored with the 1st Annual Napa Truffle Festival sponsored by Lexus December 10-12, 2010. There's not much opportunity to try 'fresh' truffles unless you dine at a very nice restaurant, frequent a specialty food retailer, and/or have a great friend who has brought you European truffles. Did you know that a truffle is best within 4 days? This is why they are very hard to find, and fairly expensive in the U.S.
There's a new business initiative to produce truffles in the US which would make it easier and potentially very profitable for business owners. The American Truffle Company, the conference organizer, has a business inoculating seedlings and partnering and profiting with grower's successes. They brought together Michelin Star Chefs for a 13 Michelin Star Dinner, some of the world's Truffle Scientists to speak on the Science of Truffle Cultivation, organized a Truffle Orchard Tour of Carneros' Robert Sinskey Vineyards and a Champagne Brunch with an Epicurean Marketplace. The Festival showcased the black Perigord Truffle (tuber melanosporum) and the black summer Burgundy truffle (tuber aestivum/uncinatum).
The Weekend Truffle Festival experience with several pictures and Biology and Science updates are below.
Champagne Brunch and Epicurean Marketplace
You'll see pictures of Italian White Truffles, Umbrian Black Truffles, and the Westin Verasa's BANK Restaurant Champagne Brunch Catalan Flatbread: Maitake Mushrooms, Fresh Mozzarella, and Fresh Burgundy Truffle.
Dinner at Farm
Chef de Cuisine Ryan Jette at Farm created a special vegetarian menu for me highlighting the wines of the region and used organic and sustainable agricultural ingredients. The cuisine was beautifully presented and architected. I highly recommend Farm for the amazing food, ambiance, modernity, creativity, and service!
Dinner highlights included:
- Squash Soup with Apple Radish and Truffles paired with Domaine J. Laurens, Cremant de Limoux, France, NV
- Roasted Beet Essence with Persimmon, shaved Truffle and Goat Cheese
- French Fingerling Salad with Pommes Maxim's Romaine Spears, Burgundy Truffle Egg Emulsion paired with Vinum Cellars, White Elephant, Napa Valley
- Butter Lettuce with Calendula Flower with Homemade Ricotta
- Black Winter Truffle Risotto, Preserved Meyer Lemon, Watercress paired with Domaine Vocoret, Chablis, France, 2008
- Roasted Brussel Sprout with Shaved Truffle- Chanterelle Mushrooms with Swish Chard, Shaved Truffles, and Pureed Potatoes paired with Buena Vista, Syrah, Carneros, 2006
- Lemon Posset with Tapioca Pearls
- Egg Nog Custard with **Shaved White Truffles from Alba (**Chef Ryan Jette personally came out to shave the White Truffle)
Chef Ken Frank's La Toque is synonymous with Excellence. He prepared the most impressive Truffle lunches and dinners during the Truffle Festival. I let him know in advance I would be requesting vegetarian for the 13 Michelin Star Dinner, hosted and led by Chef Ken Frank. He said that if I wanted a vegan course in the future, go to 'Ask Ken' on the La Toque website, and the message goes straight to his smartphone! Amazing person and Chef.
The La Toque Lunch featured:
- Chestnut Bisque with Pumpkin Seed Oil, Black Truffle Crème Fraiche and Shaved Burgundy Truffle
The impressive 13 Michelin Star Dinner La Toque Dinner included:
- Sunchoke with Truffle Toast,
paired with Staglin Family Chardonnay 2006 in magnum
- Espelette Pepper Ricotta Ravioli with Braised Rancho Gordo Butter Beans and Shaved Truffle,
paired with Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru "Morgeots", Gagnard-Delagrange 2005
- Pearl Tapioca with Fiscalini Cheddar,
paired with Miner Pinot Noir Gary's Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands 2002
- Roasted Red Beet Risotto with Barolo and Roasted Porcini (foraged by the same person who collected the various species in the centerpieces).
- Warm Beignet and White Chocolate Truffle Sauce, Panna Cotta with Hazelnut Anglaise and Burgundy Truffle, Chestnut Truffle Ice Cream Sandwich
Thank you Ken and Wine Director Scott Tracy for a spectacular vegetarian dinner! All 13 Michelin Star Truffle Dinner Chefs are below:
Ken Frank La Toque, Napa (1 Michelin Star)
David Kinch Manresa, Los Gatos (2 Michelin Stars)
Nancy Oakes Boulevard, San Francisco (1 Michelin Star)
Gabriel Kreuther The Modern, New York City (1 Michelin Star)
Sylvain Portay Le Louis XV, Monte Carlo (3 Michelin Stars)
Mix, Las Vegas (1 Michelin Star)
Adour, New York City (2 Michelin Stars)
Josiah Citrin Mélisse, Santa Monica (2 Michelin Stars)
William Collins brought Rico, his Lagotto Romagnolo Truffle Dog, to the Robert Sinskey Vineyard Truffle Tour. Robert Sinskey Vineyards uses only organic and biodynamic practices on its grape vines, as well as in the truffle orchard. Even though Robert Sinskey Vineyards is doing well, they have diversified and have planted a Truffle Vineyard.
Dr. Alexander Urban, Faculty member at University Vienna's Department of Systematic Evolutionary Botany also spoke at the Science-Based Truffle Cultivation Seminar.
Tuber melanosporum is the product of a symbiotic marriage between a subterranean mushroom and the roots of a tree. The truffle itself is the fruiting body of a fungal colony and usually grows beneath the drip line of the outermost branches of hazels and oaks. Because it cannot produce its own food, the fungus unites with a tree's hair-like rootlets to develop symbiotic organs, called mycorrhizae, through which it feeds on carbohydrates and other nutrients photosynthesized in the tree canopy.
In turn, the mycorrhizae emit hyphae, gossamer threads that extend in great webs through the soil, seeking moisture and minerals, including the vital nutrient phosphorus, which they share with the tree roots. At the same time, the hyphae spread the mycorrhizal infection to neighboring roots, forming a protective shelf around them against disease-causing organisms and infusing the soil with antibiotics. This subterranean activity is revealed by scorched earth, or " brûlé," which manifests itself as a near absence of surface vegetation.
Dr. Alexander Urban stated some of these highlights in his talk:
- There’s much more opportunity to see an ‘Old Growth' Forest in California than in Europe
- It would be good to re-establish forests to have more productivity of truffles
- It’s important to get the landowners together
- If you leave truffles, you’re much more likely to increase future yields
- If there’s much more competition, you’re much more likely to lose the Truffles
- Success of truffle cultivation relies to a large part of natural self-regulation
- Benefits of Healthy Soils:Soil Structure, Microbial
- Potential of truffle cultivation in the USA
- Reliable supply of controlled mycorrhized plants (PCR) available
- CA has mostly acidic soils and massive aounts of limestone are required
- Truffle cultivation is green agriculture
- Truffle orchards can have a high value for biodiversity conservation, if autochthonous host trees are used
- Low input of fertilizers and pesticides are important and ground water is needed
(Per Robert Chang Managing Director American Truffle Company, on average 1 acre of truffle orchard can offset carbon of 10 households of 4)
Thanks to the conference organizers and participants I'm even more impressed or shall I say addicted to truffles. I hope you, the Gratitude Gourmet readers, can enjoy these amazing Truffle flavor profiles, and please share your thoughts on your Truffle Stories.
Stay tuned because another Napa Truffle Festival is planned for next year, and I hope to see you then!