January 21st, 2013
Napa Truffle Festival Blog
January 21st, 2013
The Festival came to a close this afternoon, after three full days of full-blown #trufflefest up and down the Napa Valley. Here are just a few of the highlights of this memorable weekend dedicated to Tuber melanosporum and the people who love it.
Lunch at Silver Oak, Seminars on the Science and Business of Truffle Cultivation, Visit To A Truffle Orchard, and the Truffles & Wine Dinner by Michelin-starred chefs.
Mushroom Forage, Cooking Demo by Nico Chessa, and Lunch at Beringer Vineyards
Truffle Marketplace at the Oxbow Market.
January 18th, 2013
The opening ceremonies of the Third Annual Napa Truffle Festival kicked off tonight with a slew of delectable wines and some tantalizing treats spotlighting… drumroll please… the prized Périgord black truffle.
La Toque’s fireplace-heated patio was filled to capacity with eager truffle hunters, intoxicated with their love for the Festival’s raison d’être. Robert Chang and Dr. Paul Thomas introduced the American Truffle Company and the amazing things that are possible with some land and a scientific approach to truffle cultivation, all over the world. Local, Napa-grown beverages like Silver Oak, Jaffe, and Beringer wines clinked in every glass as the guests started thinking about the possibilities.
But really, the night belonged to Tuber melanosporum. Foie gras mousse topped with Sauternes gelée and shaved truffle struck a perfect balance of savory, sweet, earthy, and sky-is-the-limit-don’t-question-me lusciousness. Tiny toasts of succulent, meaty duck rilletes crowned with a dollop of crème fraîche and shaved fresh truffle had my eyes rolling back in my head, instinctively focusing all available senses on the aroma, texture, and flavor of this single, spectacular mouthful.
But alas, these were just teasing appetizers for the weekend to come. Tomorrow the trufflefest begins in earnest, with Colman Andrews’ keynote, truffle cultivation seminars, a decadent truffle lunch at Silver Oak, truffle orchard tours, and the gourmand’s fantasy — a multi-course tasting menu prepared by four Michelin-starred chefs known for their truffle mastery.
Follow the action on Twitter, and tweet along with us using the #trufflefest hashtag!
January 4th, 2013
Last night Tout Suite Social Club hosted a fantastic cooking demonstration by chefs Ken Frank of La Toque and Dominic Orsini of Silver Oak. These seasoned pros gave their tips on such kitchen predicaments as cleaning wild mushrooms, maximizing your fresh truffle flavor, dramatic presentations for egg dishes, pairing other foods and wines with truffles, keeping your hands clean when dredging foods for the fryer, and how to tell the difference between a black winter truffle and less flavorful imposters.
Chef Orsini also gave us a sneak peek of one of the dishes he’ll be serving at the Truffle Festival Silver Oak lunch on Saturday January 19th: a frisee salad with crispy soft boiled eggs, crushed potatoes with Truffle Tremor cheese, locally foraged wild mushrooms (seasoned with chopped fresh black truffles), and fresh Meyer lemon.
Chef said he plans to substitute smaller quail’s eggs for the Festival luncheon menu, as this salad will be the starter rather than the main course. But check out this money shot video of the full-size chicken egg being cut open after frying: RunnyEggVideo
Chef Frank prepared one of his own personal favorite ways to eat fresh black truffles: a single, very soft scrambled egg (“somewhere between scrambled and hollandaise”), cooked with a healthy dose of butter and finely chopped black truffle, then spooned back into the shell and crowned with a generous slice of truffle.
If you missed the live broadcast, or just want to watch it again to perfect your technique, the entire show is available online at Tout Suite’s website, here.
January 2nd, 2013
The truffles are here! And admission is free.
At 5:30pm Thursday evening (January 3, 2013), two of Napa Valley’s top toques will give us a preview of what’s in store for this year’s Napa Valley Truffle Festival, as they illuminate the fine art of cooking with truffles at the Tout Suite Social Club. Chef Ken Frank of Michelin-starred La Toque restaurant, and Chef Dominic Orsini of Silver Oak Cellars will offer their pro tips on how to pair wines with one of the world’s most expensive foods, and discuss some of the countless ways humans have devised to indulge our primal gluttony for all things truffle.
The chefs will also step up to the stoves to demonstrate a dish or two for the studio audience — so naturally I will be there in the front row to help inhale the truffly aromas, and dispose of any leftovers. Somebody’s got to do it. Join me in person if you can! There is space for about 20 people in the downtown Napa studio, but you must call Tout Suite to reserve: 707-363-1539.
If you can’t attend in person, you have my condolences… but you can still take advantage of the visual and auditory aspects of the show live via Tout Suite’s website, here. The show will be live streaming starting at 5:30pm Pacific Standard Time, and anyone with an internet connection can tune in. If you’ve got a webcam, you can also participate in a live Q&A session. Don’t miss this opportunity to have two world-class chefs answer your questions about truffle cuisine!
And… if you haven’t already, buy your tickets to the Festival! With only two weeks to go, places are filling up….
December 27th, 2012
This Friday morning, December 28, 2012, the two chief truffle officers behind the Napa Truffle Festival will sit down with the Tout Suite Social Club in downtown Napa to talk about the finer points of truffle cultivation, as well as the upcoming Truffle Festival. Managing Director Robert Chang and Chief Scientist Dr. Paul Thomas are partners in the American Truffle Company, which sponsors the festival each year. The two of them bring a breathtaking number of degrees from the world’s preeminent educational institutions, as well as years of experience and a shared passion for bringing more tasty truffles into this world. As a native of southwestern France, Tout Suite host Didier Loustau is no stranger to les truffes, either, and should have some very interesting perspectives on the brave new world of truffle cultivation.
Joining them in the studio this week will be Enrico Caruso, aka Rico the truffle dog, who will lend his own expertise in charming humans and locating truffles. Rico is a full-blooded Lagotto Romagnolo, which is the traditional breed of choice for truffle hunting in Italy, and also now in Napa.
Like all Tout Suite broadcasts, the interview will be streamed live to interested audience members around the world. All you have to do is visit the Tout Suite website for the event, and decide whether you want to participate live with your webcam, or just watch the broadcast live. Log in a few minutes before the appointed time (9:00am Pacific Standard Time on December 28) to be sure you don’t miss a second. Or, if you’re in the Napa area Friday morning, you can join the live studio audience! RSVPs are required for this option, though, as there is only room for about 20 people. Call 707-363-1539 to have Tout Suite save you a seat.
If you can’t attend the broadcast live, you can also check out the recording later in Tout Suite’s Video Vault. But really – participate online while it’s happening, so you can ask these truffle pros your questions in real time.
Also, mark your calendars for January 3, 2013 at 5:30pm, when Napa Truffle Festival chefs take to the Tout Suite stage to talk truffle cooking – and demonstrate a delectable dish or two. More details to come….
December 14th, 2012
How often does the average person get up close and personal with Périgord black truffles, without having to pay a princely sum for the privilege?
The 2013 Napa Truffle Festival Truffle Marketplace on Monday, January 21st offers exactly that: all-you-can-ogle truffles at the nearly two dozen participating merchants at the Oxbow Public Market, plus free truffle cooking demonstrations hosted by Kitchen Door and Ca’Momi.
Participating merchants will be offering special truffle-themed items for sale, which you can purchase à la carte – or not at all – depending on your whim. Wine tasting tickets allowing you access to wines from more than twenty of California’s finest truffle-friendly wineries will also be available for a modest fee, with proceeds benefiting the Napa Valley Food Bank.
This year’s à la carte Marketplace offerings are spectacular and varied, ensuring something for everyone. Those seeking the elusive black Périgord for eating purposes can choose from over a dozen options, including authentic Italian pizza al tartufo (Ca’ Momi); charcuterie plates of truffle-studded crema di lardo, duck galantine, and saucisse served with shaved fennel and parsley salad (Fatted Calf); truffled wild mushroom and goat cheese enchiladas (C Casa); salmon gravlax cured with local honey & sea salt, and served with a truffle-mango sauce (Kanaloa Seafood); truffled Niman Ranch sliders (Gott’s Roadside); boquerone crostini with white bean-roasted garlic puree and a truffle gremolata (Hog Island Oyster Co.); soft-poached egg with wild mushroom ragout and shaved fresh truffle (Kitchen Door); house-made truffled Mt. Tam cheese (Oxbow Wine & Cheese Merchants); savory mushroom, leek, and truffle bread pudding (Model Bakery) crepes stuffed with truffle-infused Ricotta cheese and drizzled with honey (La Crêpe); truffled yucca fries (Pica Pica); and a roasted prime rib with truffle vinaigrette and horseradish aioli (Five Dot Ranch). Try one, try three, or try them all – the choice is yours.
Annette’s Chocolates will be selling dessert truffles made of extra dark chocolate, and Kara’s will have cookies ‘n’ cream cupcakes honoring that intrepid epicurean explorer, the noble truffle pig. Look for fabulous tableware and serving pieces from Poor House (the Oxbow’s newest addition), truffle-themed books and accoutrements at Heritage Culinary Artifacts, and fresh fungi of many colors at Oxbow Produce. All the merchants will also be open for business as usual the entire holiday weekend.
Free cooking demonstrations with fresh Périgord black truffles will take place Monday (Jan. 21) at 10:30am at Kitchen Door, and at 12:30pm at Ca’Momi.
For the full list of participating wineries, merchants and details on their truffly offerings, check out our Marketplace webpage. You can also pre-order wine tasting tickets through the Festival’s online box office, here.
October 29th, 2012
In these heady times of truffle oil fries and truffle salt gift boxes, Americans are more familiar than ever with this luxury food… or are they?
Most truffle-flavored products actually contain NO real truffles at all, relying instead on synthetic truffle aromas created in the laboratory to mimic the sensual allure of the real thing. You wouldn’t know this from their prices, of course, but the sulphurous stench and acrid finish most frequently gives these imposters away.
The few products that are made with “real truffles” typically contain Chinese truffles (Tuber sinensis, Tuber himalayensis or Tuber indicum), smaller species of black truffles that are plentifully available at a tiny fraction of the cost of Périgord blacks (Tuber melanosporum). Products containing Chinese truffles (or any of the other numerous species of inexpensive truffles that are dark in color) usually list their ingredient simply as “black truffles,” and are priced without regard to this discount.
If all truffles and synthetic truffle aromas were created equal, this wouldn’t matter so much. But — surprise! There is a pretty significant difference besides the price ($20-30/pound for Chinese truffles; $1000/pound for Périgord blacks). Though the Chinese truffle looks very much like the Périgord black, it has more rubbery flesh and a much less pronounced aroma and flavor. Frequently products made with Chinese truffles will be “enhanced” with synthetic truffle aromas to make them seem more like a Périgord black.
Do not be fooled. The mysteriously musky, sensual, and slightly sweet aroma of the Périgord — and its rich, earthy taste — set it apart. This addictive intensity, and the fact that they must be “hunted” using trained dogs during their 4-5 month season of maturity, is why fresh Périgord black truffles bring in the big bucks every winter. No other black truffle can touch them. Though America’s own Oregon black truffles (Leucangium carthusianum) have a loyal following, they too lack the inimitable, sexy funk of the Périgord black.
Unfortunately, the window of ideal ripeness for fresh truffles is very short — only about a week after they are harvested — and their powers of seduction quickly fade after that point. Even more unfortunately, the world’s supply of Périgord blacks seems to be dwindling…. According to Alastair Bland writing for the Smithsonian, the annual harvest hovered around 1,200 tons in 1900, but has since declined to only 100 tons each year… even though modern scientific methods have been successfully supplementing the naturally occurring truffle crop for decades.
The American Truffle Company, which sponsors the Napa Truffle Festival, is working hard to battle this sad decline of Brillat-Savarin’s beloved “black diamonds.” ATC partners with would-be truffle farmers to help them create ideal growing conditions for Périgord blacks, as well as the slightly less expensive but still remarkable Burgundy truffles (Tuber aestivum/uncinatum). Since Northern California’s wine country has truffle-favorable weather, world-class chefs, and a great local beverage for washing down truffly feasts, Napa Valley was the logical choice for a festival celebrating both the magic and the science of the Périgord black.
Tickets are now on sale for the January 2013 Festival! Visit the event website for full details on the ticket packages and availability.
September 25th, 2012
More great news about the fast-approaching Truffle Fest in January 2013: master mycophagist David Campbell will be leading festival attendees on a wild mushroom chase, in search of Napa’s finest fungi.
What’s a mycophagist? Let’s break it down together: myco- (fungus) + phage (eat) + -ist (one who does what was just described). Best. Job. Ever.
David defines mycophagist as “one who safely eats a wide variety of wild mushrooms,” and having spent over 40 years studying, foraging, eating, teaching, and cooking wild fungi, he has definitely earned that title. He and his Marin-based company MycoVentures provide all manner of educational events and experiences involving wild mushrooms, from classes and cooking demos to exotic “mushroom forays” in the US and abroad. (Check his website for details on the mouthwatering trips he’s leading through Piedmont and Tuscany in October 2012 — then book your spot and cue victory dance.)
The Truffle Festival’s mushroom foraging expedition will begin bright and early the morning of January 20th, when the intrepid hunters will be whisked from the Westin Verasa to a secret location where prey is plentiful (we hope), and local wines delectable (assured). Helping David lead the charge will be Stephanie Jarvis of Napa Valley Fungi, another mushroom geek of the highest order whose company recycles the wine industry’s waste products into mushroom fodder. The masters of the hunt think we will most likely encounter wild candy caps, hedgehogs, chanterelles, or porcini mushrooms — but no one can say with certainty what other treasures might be unearthed.
After the hunt, foragers can retreat to historic Beringer Vineyards for a mushroom cooking demonstration, followed by a sumptuous lunch.
Just another day in the life up here in Napa.
Tickets for the foraging and the post-foraging feast are sold separately, though only a limited number will be available à la carte. Keep a close watch on the Festival website in the coming weeks to secure those spots, or simplify matters by buying an all-access pass to ensure your participation in all the festivities.
September 19th, 2012
As if the schedule of trufflicious events and seminars wasn’t reason enough to dedicate January 18-21, 2013 to worshipping Tuber melanosporum, the Napa Truffle Festival just announced that Colman Andrews will be delivering the keynote address to kick things off Saturday morning.
Heard of the James Beard Awards? He’s won EIGHT.
Heard of Ferran Adrià? Colman Andrews wrote the man’s biography.
Internationally acclaimed food writer Colman Andrews has eaten his way around Spain, France, Italy, France, and many other delicious destinations, translating his gustatory adventures into a form that lets us share his sensory impressions of the experience. He’s written for seemingly every publication that ever talks about food, has published an astounding array of books about food and cooking, and now serves as editorial director for the wine and food “mega-site” The Daily Meal.
Andrews can take a topic like Irish country cooking — not something a modern food-lover typically associates with epicurean delights — and craft a cookbook that the James Beard Foundation honors not only as the Best International Cookbook 2010, but also its Cookbook of the Year, beating out all other entries from every category. Country Cooking of Ireland also won the 2011 Best International Cookbook prize from the International Association of Cooking Professionals. Irish cooking, folks.
I can’t wait to hear what he does with the Périgord truffle, and I know I’m not alone.
August 14th, 2012
Thanks to the accessible ticket price for the final day of the Festival, this walkaround event has historically drawn a diverse crowd of people looking to indulge their inner truffle pig, including attendees of the Festival’s educational seminars and feasts, as well as truffle-lovers of more modest means.
This next year’s Marketplace is going to be even more diverse and accessible — as in, totally FREE to attend! You’ll be able to get up close and personal with the aromatic wares, ogle the genuine article, and learn more about the many ways to eat the world’s sexiest food with no cover charge.
Truffly goods and wine tasting tickets ($25 each, benefiting the Napa Valley Food Bank) will be available to purchase on an à la carte basis from the participating vendors at the Oxbow that day (January 21, 2013). A variety of merchants will be devising delectable truffle-themed dishes to include on their menus, letting you pick and choose each mouthful you’d like to try on your truffle crawl.
We’ll keep you posted on the details of participating merchants and their Marketplace offerings as those develop, but for now, let’s flash back to some of last year’s delectable highlights: truffled duck liver pâté from Fatted Calf, white bean tostadas with black truffle-infused goat cheese from C Casa, truffled pizza from Ca’Momi, mushroom-truffle bread pudding from Model Bakery, petite roll-up crêpes filled with truffled crème pâtissière from La Crêpe, and more….
Tell your grumbling stomach we only have five months left to go, and mark your calendars for Monday January 21, 2013, 10:00 am-2:00 pm.