Truffles are considered the most decadent of foods because their scarcity obviously increases their cost, and white Alba truffles from northern Italy are among the rarest. Journal journalist Norma Connolly enjoyed the delights of this most precious culinary delight and reports.
At an extravagant dinner at Luca this king of fungus, matched with some of the best wines from the Piedmont region, was the star ingredient in seven mouth-watering courses.
Dug from the ground in woods in the Barola Valley by specially trained dogs, these rare white truffles found their way onto Chef Federico Destro’s menu at the Italian restaurant at the Caribbean Club, to the delight of the taste buds of more than 70 diners who attended the $160-a-head dinner in October.
Fiorenzo Dogliani, the owner of Bene di Batasiolo winery, on whose land the truffles were collected, chose the wines for the dinner from his vineyards to complement each distinct course.
He and his family own nine ‘beni’, or farmhouses with vineyards, covering more than 100 hectares, 60 of which are planted with the Nebbiolo grape. These grapes are picked as the morning fog (nebbia is Italian for fog) still covers the valley.
Chef Federico prepared individual dishes that were simple and would not overwhelm the flavour of the truffles, which arrived fresh from Italy on the day of the dinner.
As guests mingled, sipping 2003 Millesime, Metodo Chassico, from the Batasiolo sparkling wine collection, and nibbling on porcini and foie gras brioche with truffle mayo, they were presented with a huge platter of the white truffles in all their original glory.
The pungent-smelling, brown, knobbly knots of fungus, which look like large clumps of ginger, were then whisked away to the kitchen where they were freshly shaved onto a variety of dishes, or used to flavour sauces and oils.
When the guests were seated, they were served a coriander-seasoned swordfish carpaccio with fennel citrus salad and white truffle oil, alongside a Roero Arneis 2008, a light, citrus-edged white wine.
A surprisingly un-Chardonnay-like Chardonnay accompanied the next course of veal liver paté with frisée lettuce and almond truffle vinaigrette. The Morino Vineyard Chardonnay 2007 is made from grapes grown near the village of La Morra and aged in barriques, or small French oak barrels, before being aged a further eight months in the bottle.
It delivers a full, velvety flavour that will be enjoyed by even those who normally avoid Chardonnay.
Next on Chef Federico’s simple yet elegant menu was truffle beef tartare with roasted beets and chilled pumpkin coulis, served with the first of several delicious red wines – a Barbera Sovrana 2006. This rich and fruity, medium-bodied wine is made from one of the classic grapes of the Piedmont area.
A hearty Barbaresco was one of the favourites of the night, served alongside a wild mushroom and truffle risotto that had diners clamouring for more.
The wine is made from the legendary Nebbiolo grapes which are fermented in their skins in steel tanks in the Batasiolo winery for 10 days and then aged for a minimum of one year in oak casks, and then a further year in the bottle.
But perhaps the star of the evening was the Bricollina Vineyard Barolo 1996. The Barolo also featured in the delicious course which accompanied the wine – grilled beef tenderloin with seared foie gras and truffle Barola demi glace.
The Barolo grape is grown on the hillside of the Serralunga D’Alba village. It is fermented for 15 days, placed in barriques for at least two years, and then developed in the bottle for another year.
Ricardo Marche, the US/Canada director for Batasiolo, explained: “If Barolo is the king, then Barbaresco is the queen because it’s a softer, gentler wine.”
He is part of a small team bringing the wines of Batasiolo, and its truffles, to palates far afield from Italy.
The dinner was rounded off with an impossibly tasty hazelnut semifreddo with espresso crème anglaise, with a sweet, soft, fruity dessert wine, Moscato D’Asti, Bosc Dla Rei.
Jodie Petts, the wine sales representative for Cayman Distributors, was instrumental in organising the dinner and in introducing the wine and the winemaker, Mr. Dogliani, to Cayman.
Before dinner, Mr. Dogliani, with Mr. Marche helping to translate. enchanted guests with a typically impassioned descriptions of the wines and the truffles they were about to enjoy.
Italians are passionate about their wine and truffles and by the end of the dinner, so were the assorted guests who sampled white truffles in their many forms that night.