photo of the week 28: nobody knows the truffles i’ve seen…

My friends never cease to amaze me with their generosity.

Last week, I had dinner with one who was in Kansas City for the holidays.  We hadn’t seen each other for months. Unexpectedly, he pulled out a Christmas gift, a glass jar of arborio rice stuffed to the brim with a wad of paper towels.

Unscrewing the top, I was smacked with that unmistakably pungent punch. Without even looking I knew: this was a white truffle from Alba.

The shelf-life of a truffle is quite short, the window of enjoyment quite narrow. This one was in its prime and it had to be consumed presently.

Downed by post-holiday trauma coupled with preparations for a New Year’s Eve dinner I was organizing with a friend, I was too tired and frazzled to cook a nice meal for myself.  So I called up two of the best chefs in Kansas City. I asked each of them to prepare two dishes to pair with the white truffle; I’d allot half of the truffle to each dinner. In response to my last-minute whim, both rose to the occasion eagerly and ably.

The first night, Debbie Gold at The American Restaurant, together with her sous chef, Andrew Longres, went off-menu and prepared two dishes to pair with the white truffle. In addition, there appeared another off-menu dish which featured black Perigord truffles. In addition, I supplemented a couple of dishes from the regular menu, including an extraordinary heart of palm salad with ripe, juicy persimmons and Burgundy truffles.  The pastry chef, Nick Wesemann, completed the truffle tasting with a scoop of black truffle ice cream as a pre-dessert.

Click here to see all of the photos from this meal, or on the course titles to see photos of the individual dishes.

*      *      *

First Course
Veal Sweetbreads
Lentils, buttercup squash, cipolinni onion.

Second Course
Potato Gnocchi
White wine butter sauce and white Alba truffles.

Third Course
Hawaiian Heart of Palm Salad
Persimmon, nutmeg, ricotta, Burgundy truffle.

Fourth Course
Chestnut Agnolotti
Butter-vermouth sauce, green apple, and Perigord black truffles.

Fifth Course
Lamb Loin
Marbled potatoes, Swiss chard, olive oil emulsion,
Parsley pistou, and white Alba truffles.

First Pre-Dessert
Black Truffle Ice Cream

Second Pre-Dessert
Vanilla Custard
Poached pear, almond shortbread.

Sixth Course
Malted “Dirt & Worms

Seventh Course
Piña Colada
Baba spiced rum cake, coconut meringue,
Pineapple fizz, macadamia nut ice cream.

*      *      *

Those chestnut agnolotti were, undoubtedly, the highlight.  The filling was a puree of chestnuts and black truffles.  They were topped with delicate strips of green apple and more black truffles. This dish paired wonderfully with a glass of E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone Blanc, 2007.

The potato gnocchi were good; my favorite of the two white truffle dishes.  It was essentially the onion soubise agnolotti dish I had earlier in the fall with white truffles, but with gnocchi instead.

Wesemann’s black truffle ice cream could have ended the dinner without more; perhaps a scoop or two more for the road.  It was awesome.

*      *      *

With plenty of white truffle left, I invited a friend to join me for part two of my truffle adventure.

The next night, we went to bluestem, where Chef Colby Garrelts prepared a five-course truffle tasting.

Click here to see all of the photos from this meal, or on the course titles to see photos of the individual dishes.

*      *      *

Amuse Bouche
Spiced Apple Cider
Tea broth.

First Course
Risotto
White Alba truffle.

Second Course
Chawanmushi
Black truffle, dashi, enoki mushrooms.

Third Course
136° Scallop
Caulifower, onion, tapanade, and white Alba truffles.  

Fourth Course
36-Hour Short Ribs
Horseradish mashed potatoes, thumbalina carrots, pearl onions,
Meat jus and Perigord black truffles.

Fifth Course
Champagne-Poached Pears
Champagne sorbet, gingersnap, cranberry, hot cocoa.

Petits Fours

*      *      *

Garrelts’s risotto was brilliant – a simple one, with nothing more than a bit of Parmesan and butter mounted in at the very end. Over it went a quarter of the remaining truffle for me, and a quarter for my friend. Excellent.

Then, a black truffle chawanmushi. A devoted Nipponophile, Bill Espiricueta, the very talented chef de cuisine at bluestem, has mastered chawanmushi; the texture of the custard was spot on – delicate, smooth, impossibly light. Even more significantly, he succeeded at weaving the truffle flavor seamlessly in with the dashi. It was perfect, really.

The remainder of the white truffle was finely shaved over 136° scallops. The texture of guanciale fat, silky and supple, they appeared as discs of alabaster. Served with slivers of caramelized onion, some roasted cauliflower florets, and just the tiniest dot of tapenade puree, it was a gathering of some of my favorite flavors.

A giant Perigord black truffle landed on our table.  It was shaved over a colorful plate of 36-hour sous vide short rib. The long cooking process rendered the meat denser, steakier. Garrelts’s Perigord truffle was excellent – it had a great aroma, strong and direct; beefy with a fresh leather finish.

For dessert: Megan Garrelts’s wintry sketch – Champagne-poached pears with Champagne sorbet, a swipe of cranberry jam, a lemon sugar-glazed gingersnap cookie, and a spot of hot cocoa. Beautiful, fragrant, comforting.

*      *      *

This sudden and unexpected encounter with truffle season reminded me of another great gift from a friend, one that I received a couple of years ago. I offer it as this twenty-eighth photo of the week.  How true the statement, how blessed the state.

 

photo of the week 28: nobody knows the truffles i've seen...

 

I extend a hearty thanks to my white truffle friend for his generosity, and to Debbie Gold, Colby Garrelts, and the staff at both of their restaurants for indulging me with delicious excess.  You guys spoil me.

~ by ulterior epicure on January 4, 2011.

3 Responses to “photo of the week 28: nobody knows the truffles i’ve seen…”

  1. Truffles are such a delight. I remember seeing videos of how they are found with dogs. Phenomenal. I can only imaging your excitement.

  2. Wow- Colby & Megan did a wonderful
    job! There menu sounded devine and decandent with five courses!!
    Chef Michael Smith held our 6 course Alba White Truffle Dimner with Pio Boffa in fro Italy with Pio Cesare wines. Did you attend that? It was Incredible!

  3. @Nancy: Unfortunately, I didn’t attend the Dario dinner. It sounded wonderful. Perhaps next year.

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