There is quite an interesting and intricate science behind truffles as we learned during The Truffle & Wine Co's visit to America! A look into this unassumingly luxury ingredient...
By: Soumya Jain
Posted on: July 9, 2014
There is quite an interesting and intricate science behind truffles as we learned during The Truffle & Wine Co’s visit to America! A look into this unassumingly luxury ingredient…
Much like how wine is getting democratized, with new wine-producing regions making a mark, truffles also are no longer the domain of France or even, in fact, Europe. So when Australia’s The Truffle & Wine Co. announced a string of events across America, I couldn’t resist going to one of them to explore this rich food item more!
Reaching RPM Italia restaurant in downtown Chicago, I was greeted with sophisticated music, delicious bites made with truffle, and flutes with a golden drink. Except that it wasn’t champagne as you would expect in such ‘dos’. It was, incredibly, truffle beer!
Using produce from The Truffle & Wine Co., and applying his laws of alchemy, Mr Jared Rouben, President and Brewmaster at Moody Tongue, crafted an exquisite beer, which has deep, earthy notes and a delicious whiff of truffles in it. Called the Shaved Black Truffle Pilsner, Mr Rouben concedes that it wasn’t an easy task. He explored many techniques using time, temperature, surface area contact and other variables to find how to best highlight truffles through the beer. “It is notoriously difficult to extract the flavours and aromatics of black truffles into a liquid. We were able to find how to best showcase the truffle within the beer through our exploration of techniques,” he said.
Mr Rouben has explored brewing with truffles in the past and previously worked with truffles while cooking at restaurants. The partnership between The Truffle & Wine Co and Moody Tongue, thus, seems mutually beneficial! Ask Mr Rouben about the whereabouts of this amazing beer and he says that the Shaved Black Truffle Pilsner should be available in high-end restaurants soon!
As I wolfed down the delicacies made with truffle, I met Frank Brunacci, Vice President Sales North and South America at The Truffle & Wine Co. Being a truffle novice, the conversation that followed was quite enlightening for me. “There are hundreds of varieties of truffles,” started Mr Brunacci, as I gaped at him in amazement. The Truffle & Wine Co, however, produces the T.melanosporum truffle, known as the Périgord variety, and more commonly the ‘black diamond’.
Truffle & Wine Co has done massive investments in the form of time, money and research to manufacture the truffles that we were all enjoying so much that day. The climate and soil conditions of Manjimup in Western Australia, where the company is based, mirrors that of Périgord in France, from where truffles are best known to come from. In 1997, therefore, The Truffle & Wine Co started injecting the truffle spore into the host tree. Much like ageing a wine or whisky for better quality, it takes seven to 10 years for winter truffles to grow. “So many variables have to happen to make a truffle. A tree can be infected with the spore, but unless there is mycelium; unless there’s enough calcium, nutrients and minerals in the soil; and unless there’s enough rainfall, truffles won’t grow. The conditions must be cold, a little rainy at night to cool the soil is always a plus, and having a truffle dog that has a great nose for the most aromatic spores,” explained Mr Brunacci.
Europe is more commonly known to produce the best truffles, a position which is increasingly being challenged now. Australian truffles are as much in the race with a better quality product in hand. While only about four out of 10 European truffles turn out to be perfect, the count is 9 out of 10 for Australia.
America’s truffle status
Recently introduced in the American market, there is a lot of legwork for Mr Brunacci here. Truffles are more popularly paired with or used in winter recipes. And that is exactly the perception that he is hoping to change. “We aim to help chefs understand that truffles don’t just have to be associated with rich, warm, wintry dishes. Fresh produce is at a minimum in winter, so you’re doing pasta, potatoes, dry legumes, or rich braises and adding truffles, and it’s great. But in spring and summer, you get corn, fava beans, chanterelles, porcinis - and so many of these ingredients go with truffles. They are great with lighter fare, and they can enhance or even be the star of a dish,” said Mr Brunacci.
But we want to give kudos to The Truffle & Wine Co for reaching some of the best restaurants in America. Many acclaimed, Michelin-starred US chefs are utilising Aussie truffles in their menus. Visit Eli Kaimeh of Per Se and Craig Hopson of Beautique in NYC; take a bite from the menus of Josiah Cirtin of Melisse and Walter Manzke of Republique in Los Angeles; and put a reminder for Curtis Duffy of Grace, Doug Psaltis of RPM, and Danny Grant of 1826 in Chicago.
A full table
As the name says, the company estate also includes over 30 acres of grapevines to ferment award winning wine. A five-star James Halliday winery, The Truffle & Wine Co produces small-batch vintages which have been recognized for excellence. Right from Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot to Pinot Noir and Riesling, wines to suit one and all are coming out from their stable. Ask Mr Brunacci which are the best ones to pair with his truffles, and he says happily, “Funny you should ask, as The Truffle & Wine Co. has just consigned the best young wine maker of Australia, Mark Aitken [who also leads their winery], to create four wines that pair perfectly with truffles and truffle dishes. They will be available in America in the Fall.”
The first perfect black truffle at The Truffle & Wine Co was found in 2003, and since then it has become the largest producing truffière in the Southern Hemisphere. Apart from US, The Truffle & Wine Co’s produce is found on plates in over 30 countries, including Germany, France, Spain, Denmark, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Belgium, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia. “The spore is a spore, just like an orange is an orange. The earth gives a truffle its aroma, and terroir is what makes a truffle perfect. Australian truffles are incredible,” signs off Mr Brunacci.