Fall is the time of white truffles and this year Ristorante Pappagallo hosted the yearly Batasiolo Truffle Dinner in conjunction with Blackbeard’s Fine Wine, Beers & Spirits.
When it comes to truffles, the white truffle is the undisputed king. In the same league as Beluga caviar and Wagyu beef, the white truffles from the town of Alba in the Piedmont region of northern Italy are one of the world’s premier luxury foods, fetching prices of $4,000 per pound or more.
Truffles are a mushroom-like fungus that grow underground near trees and are sniffed out by certain kinds of hogs or specially trained dogs. Although different kinds of truffles grow in many countries, white truffles are limited mainly to Italy, with the best ones coming from the area around Alba during October and November.
As many wine aficionados know, white truffles aren’t the only luxury item that comes from Piedmont; it also produces one of the world’s finest wines – Barolo.
Both of these luxury items were showcased on 9 November when Blackbeard’s annual Batasiolo Truffle Dinner took place, this year at Ristorante Pappagallo in West Bay.
On hand for the event once again was Fiorenzo Dogliani, the president and managing director of the Batasiolo winery in the Barolo region of La Morra, about 10 miles southwest of Alba.
After a welcome reception with sparking wine and passed appetizers, Dogliani told guests a little about the seven different wines that were paired with eight dishes that all featured truffles – which had just arrived on Grand Cayman from Italy the previous day.
“The food we know for sure is going to be fine; with the wine… we’ll keep our fingers crossed,” Dogliani joked.
Pappagallo Chef Steve Wagner worked hard to develop a menu that would not only showcase the white truffles, but pair well with the wide variety of wines offered. The first course after seating was a delicious start – white truffle panna cotta with crispy bacon and dried figs – and was served with Batasiolo Roero Arneis, a fresh and fruity wine that has become increasingly popular in Piedmont over the past 25 years.
Arneis, literally translated, means ‘little rascal’, a name it got because the grape can be difficult to grow. It also paired with the next course, an espresso of lima beans, chanterelle mushrooms and white truffles.
The following dish was possibly the most luxurious of the evening. Beef carpaccio was served with foie gras torchon and balsamic jelly, topped with shaved white truffle. The richness of the carpaccio and foie gras maximised the wonderful flavour of the white truffles and when served with 2006 Batasiolo Barbaresco, made for a great pairing.
Barbaresco is the queen to King Barolo. Both are made from the tannic Nebbiolo grapes from the Langhe region of Piedmont, but Barbaresco is made in the next valley over, and the difference in terrior makes a big difference, creating a more approachable wine.
Chef Steve’s most inventive dish of the night came next: Homemade chestnut fettuccine with roasted butternut squash, wild mushrooms, rosemary and white truffles. It was served with Batasiolo Barbera Souvrana, a high-quality and good value Barbera that is very food friendly.
The Batasiolo winery spends US$230,000 hosting 20 truffle dinners in the US and Canada every year. This year, because there was little rain, the truffle harvest was smaller, leading to higher prices. Although that’s bad news for truffle lovers, it’s good news for wine lovers because less rain is better for grape growing.
The final two savoury courses for the evening brought out the star wines, 2005 Batasiolo Barolo ‘Cerequio’ and 2004 Barolo ‘La Corda della Briccolina’, the latter a magnificent wine with velvety tannins grown from a single vineyard in the hills of Serralunga d’Alba in the heart of the Barolo wine-making area. These powerful wines were served with a quail tartlet with caramelised onion, mushroom and a poached quail egg, all topped with white truffle and a oxtail terrine with pistachio, blueberries and grain compote, again topped with shaved white truffle.
Although the poached quail eggs was small – as indeed all quail eggs are – white truffle and egg is one of the classic truffle food pairings and it showed.
The dinner was completed with Batasiolo Moscato Passito, a effervescent, semi-sweet white wine and a hazelnut – another Piedmont mainstay – cake with white chocolate filling and truffle honey ice cream, a stunning finish to a stunning evening.
At the beginning of the dinner, Blackbeard’s Wine Sales Manager Jodie Petts said the annual truffle dinner was her personal favourite wine dinner of the year. It was easy to see why.