Monday, August 2, 2010

Truffle Dinner at the Darlington Estate

Dining room at Darlington Estate.

Black truffles are expensive. You may already know that. But they are also very tasty, in a haunting mushroom from hell kind of way. They're usually found out in verdant European forests with truffle hunting pigs, trained by old men with berets and beards and earthy accents. But they're also grown in Perth's wine country. Manjimup truffles are currently used by high brow chefs all over the world, and 1.45 tons will be harvested this year. Not bad at all.

The Darlington Estate in the hills outside Perth decided to put on a special truffle dinner in observance of the profusion of "black gold" in them hills, and that's what we ended up attending.The Estate grows a whole lot of nice wine and also serves pricy but delicious food to local luxury-seekers, in a pleasing greenhouse like dining room. The guy on the phone told my aunt that it was about 20 minutes to get there, but it was, of course, more like 35 at night. Gotta watch out for kangaroos. (Kangaroos. It is extremely hard for an American tourist to get over the bare reality of kangaroos. More on this later).

The dinner began with an amuse bouche of a prawn in a bloody-mary like shot, although I couldn't detect any booze. There was a bit of shaved black truffle up top, which was delicious, as truffles tend to be. My aunt and uncle were worried that they might not like black truffles, as they hadn't had them before, and paying for a truffle dinner then discovering you find them vile would be...pretty tragic. Good thing they liked them.

The second course was a potage parmentier with a parmesan and truffle crisp - basically, a prettified potato leek soup, with truffle shavings and a parmesan crunchy thing. Quite good and very comfort food. The comfort food aspect is somewhat lessened by the truffle, which does admittedly add something to it. If I was stupid rich, I'd wander around with a football sized truffle in my purse and shave it really pointedly on everything I ate, including hamburgers, chips, and sushi. I would be among the planet's biggest douchebags. It would be incredible.

The third course was a lemon and dill cured salmon with pickled cucumber, horseradish and shaved truffle. This was really divine and was the most popular dish of the night. Something about the combination of delicate salmon, vinegary cucumber, and nippy horseradish was just perfect with the black truffles fungi earthiness. Aces.

Fourth course was a seared scallop, asparagus and truffle risotto. Nice enough, though the rice was just a little bit too al dente, though risotto does lend itself to a bit of crunch. The scallop had a nice flavor, although it wasn't immense. I am anticipating cooking some of the local Aussie roe-on scallops. Yum.

Fifth up was a lamb ragout tortellini with Provencale tomato sauce and truffle. Quibble: that is quite obviously a ravioli, at least by most people's standards. The lamb meat inside was deliciously tender and had a great fall-apart flavor. Not sure about the combination of a standard Italian tomato sauce with black truffle - too much acid.

Old school style: granita or sorbet as a palate cleanser. An old tradition I wish they'd bring back. A nice sparkling apple granita with coconut foam (OH GOD FOAM OH GOD) was a refreshing interlude.

The final course was a beef Wellington with millefeuille potato and truffle jus. Truffle jus is an awesome idea and should be replicated incessantly. I liked the beef wellington well enough - the meat was rare inside - and the addition of puff pastry can only be a good one. I note that no one serves beef wellington anywhere for any reason in the USA. What IS up with that?

The final dessert was a chocolate and Pedro Ximinez fondant with spiced orange and (chocolate) truffle ice cream. I'm normally not keen on chocolate desserts, but this molten chocolate cake was pretty superb. My favorite aspect of this was the orange ice cream with the chunky milk chocolate truffle, though. This wasn't too sweet and just about perfect, and should be sold by the pint. This was served with a sparkling shiraz, which was an unanticipated and just sweet enough sparkling red. I'd drink plenty of this. The wine selection in general was very good - a glass served with each course, so warn your liver in advance - and I'd recommend these wines to anyone. I was by this point in the evening about to fall asleep in my beef wellington due to the wonder and magic of jet lag, so I was not exactly able to partake fully in the wine. Drunk jet lagged people are absolutely hilarious to everyone around them, but not themselves.
As we walked out and by the kitchen, we spotted the black truffle itself resplendent on the counter, roughly the size of a baseball and doubtless more valuable then any of our lives. The urge to leap up, take a giant bite out of it, and run away into the night was a bit overwhelming, but thankfully, I was tired, full, and complacent. Someday.

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