Mellow passion of truffles

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THE annual Capital Country Truffle Festival kicked off with a bang at Diece e Mezzo at the end of last month.

It was a degustation dinner designed by three well-known chefs – Ben Willis (Aubergine), Thomas Moore (Grazing at Gundaroo) and James Kidman (Diece e Mezzo).

In an industry where competition can rule over co-operation, these three talents didn’t hesitate to join forces and truffle the fancy of the packed restaurant with magical dishes. As James says: “It’s about the ethos of food.”

The line-up of creations included white asparagus and truffle custard, baby vegetable salad and truffle dressing; tortellini of duck, foi gras mousse, curly lettuce, globe artichoke and truffle; and a fabulous salt-crusted roast chicken studded with truffle.

Perigord truffle
Truffles are unique in taste – mellow and intoxicating. No matter how they are used (always sparingly), you’ll want to lick the plate, especially at Dieci e Mezzo with the Amedei Toscano chocolate delice – white chocolate and truffle ice cream, with a touch of edible gold leaf (how beautiful).


Other venues offering a truffle experience throughout the winter months of July and part of August, when the season ends, are Pulp Kitchen and Benchmark. Truffles are also on the menu further afield with Kidman working with the Albion Café in Braidwood (a fantastic spot) on a local dinner. Regional wineries, such as Lambert Vineyards, Pankhurst Wines and Lark Hill are also participating.

The Truffle Festival is all about eating dishes celebrating what French gastronome Brillat-Savarin describes as “the diamond of the kitchen”. The truffles grown here are black Périgord trulles and they form part of a national industry of about 200 producers expected to double in production size this year to 3.4 tonnes.

The Dieci e Mezzo dinner was all the more special with sensational wines matched by viticulturist Michael Gray, and guests, such as Sherry McArdle-English from French Black-Truffles of Canberra, who spoke with love of the highly-trained Snuffles the truffle dog. This two-year-old American cocker spaniel, with a sense of smell 1000 times greater than yours, hunts daily for the black fungus.

Unlike the pigs traditionally used for snuffing out these delicacies, dogs don’t have a natural attraction to truffles and so won’t try to eat what they find. Just as well, with the price of a smallish truffle fetching about $125, depending on quality.

Dieci e Mezzo’s truffle dinner was meant to be one off, but it’s success gave executive chef Kidman a taste for more, so a second dinner will be held on July 19, with a decidedly Canberra region feel.

During the Capital Country Truffle Festival you can participate in a truffle hunt, learn how truffles are farmed or participate in cooking classes.

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Wendy Johnson
Wendy Johnson: Food reviewer for Canberra CityNews magazine since 2004, covering stories for true foodies to digest.

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