White truffles, a.k.a. white diamonds, are one of the most highly prized and expensive of foods.  Rare, only available a few months of the year, and limited to parts of Italy and Croatia, the Alba Madonna are notoriously difficult to locate.  Experienced truffle hunters use dogs to sniff out these rare gems hidden underground, near the roots of certain trees.  Pigs are also used because the scent of the mushroom apparently resembles that of the porcine sex hormone.  It seems like a lot of trouble to go through but, at up to $2000 a pound, sourcing them can prove quite lucrative.  And delicious.   They’re admittedly an acquired taste.  Some adore their heady, earthy aroma.  Others don’t (like my girlfriend, Akemi, who likens it to “old man’s pillow”).  I’m a big fan, but the white truffle is something I enjoy on only the rarest of occasions, usually shaved over a nice risotto.  I had the opportunity to do a white truffle-themed dinner several years ago at Chateau Joel Robuchon in Tokyo but, at about $650/person, it was a little rich for my blood given that I was on the tail-end of my annual two-week Japanese culinary excursion.

A couple of weeks ago, I received a text from my fellow foodie and occasional dining companion, Denise, wondering whether any local restaurants were offering up truffle-themed menu items.  An online search turned up nothing but, refusing to be discouraged, I picked up the phone and contacted the one person I knew could get us that white truffle fix: Tom Doughtery, owner of Refuel, Campagnolo, and Campagnolo Roma.  Sure enough, he got back to me right away.  He needed to know the number of diners in my party, the number of courses on my dream truffle menu and, of course, my budget. According to Chef Ted, who would be doing the honors designing the special menu, it would change my life.

And so, Saturday night, Denise and I went to Roma for our life-altering truffle dinner:

Chef Ted, the culinary mastermind behind Trufflepalooza.
Plate #1: Vermouth-poached oyster with white truffle Hollondaise and white truffle shavings.

Despite the presence of truffles, the meaty oyster, redolent of the sea, was the spotlight flavor.

Plate #2: Raw goose and goose fat with daikon, chives, and shaved truffle in goose brodo.

Another surprisingly delicate dish.  The heat of the brodo cooked the goose to a nice rare.

Plate #3: Risotto with shaved truffles finished with goat butter.

Simple but nothing quite brings out the flavors of the truffle like the subtleness of a creamy risotto.

Risotto #2

Ted shaved two different white truffles onto the risotto.  Denise and I both preferred the lighter version for its more pronounced flavor.

Truffle shaver. For the man who has everything.
Plate #4: Nova Scotia lobster poached in truffle butter with fingerling potato chips and lobster-braised leeks with beurre monté.

A luxuriously rich dish with some lovely textural contrasts.  The crunchy fingerling chips were a nice touch.

Chef Ted stops by to check up on us. I assumed he was there to take my plate and made sure to hold on with both hands.
Plate #5: Veal rack with onions in a red wine reduction, spinach, Hunter Sauce and shaved white truffles.

Damn.  Was this not the best preparation of veal you’ve ever had?  Oh.  You weren’t there.  Well, yes.  It was!

Plate #6: Parmigiano-Regganio with Boreale Honey and shaved white truffles.

A surprisingly nice combination, but a little Parmigiano-Reggiano goes a long way.  I was done after my third piece.

Plate #7: Chocolate custard atop a layer of white truffles with crumbled amaretti and house made maple syrup sorbet and caccierre.

A very subtle use of truffles – and thankfully so as I’m not at all sure I would have enjoyed it as much had the flavor been any stronger.  A terrific dessert.  That maple syrup sorbet on its own should have a place on the menu.

Chef Ted bids us a fond farewell.

What a meal!  A huge thanks to Chef Ted, Chef Rob, and Tom for making it happen.

Today’s entry is dedicated to Tom Dougherty.

22 thoughts on “December 5, 2011: Trufflepalooza!

  1. Looks like you had an interesting meal. I know you enjoyed it.

    Oh, and for the person who had the cinnmaon chip oatmeal cookies, a recipe would still be appreciated. (I think it was Shiny) Thanks.

    Have a great night!!!

  2. Hey Joe! When I’m on a diet, I get cravings for certain things. Today, it was osso bucco. That photo of the veal about did me in! Good thing I have no veal shanks or they’d be cooking for me to eat at midnight! Dinner looks amazing, yum. Two more weeks and I’ll be able to look at your blog without drooling. 😉 Have a good night!

  3. @Tam Dixon…Yes there is another season of Dr. Who. On Christmas day, there is the Christmas episode on BBC America(The Doctor, The Widow, and the The Wardrobe). Then the next season will start mid to late 2012.

  4. >>Others don’t (like my girlfriend, Akemi, who likens it to “old man’s pillow”). <<
    I love Akemi.

    Wow, Sounds like an incredible meal. Hopefully it wasn't as expensive as the one you had in Japan last year!

  5. I have a question for you Mr. Mallozzi. I gather that you’re not a fan of video games., though if it’s due a genuine dislike for the forum or a lack of time I won’t hazard a guess on. Anyway, my question. As a fan of Scifi, have you at the very least read anything about the video game series “Mass Effect” by Bioware? Maybe peeked at wikipedia? Of course I can’t be sure, but I think you’d enjoy the story that powers this award winning role playing series.

  6. I bet you are a chef’s dream customer. You give him some food specifications, and he can use his talent and culinary skills to create something great. Chef Ted must love you. All those dishes look wonderful.

  7. Just read the last two entries today… Parmigiano-Reggiano is my favorite “accent” ingredient when I cook. So wonderful, and I agree, it doesn’t take much to really bring a dish to life.

    Also, what kind of crazy scoring system do you guys use for FF? Do you count every single yard for your WR’s and RB’s? We do half a point per reception in one of my leagues, but that’s about as crazy as it gets. I couldn’t imagine losing by one-hundredth of a point!!

    Speaking of losing, I lost in my non-money league, 🙁 , but dominated in my other league, which means more to me since there’s money involved there. So now I’m 11-2 and 10-3 respectively heading to the playoffs. I’ve never done THIS well in either league, ever. So now I fully expect to lose in my 11-2 league in the first round. But in my other league, I want to win it all so bad I can practically taste it. I have no idea where these mixed emotions come from.

    Lastly, there was something about TV/Stargate production I thought of today that I wanted to ask you about, but I have since forgotten what it was. Should I ever remember, I’ll be sure to post it here. Carry on!

    -Mike

  8. I agree with Ponytail and I wish I knew a chef well enough to do something like that! Thank you so much for sharing.

    That cookie in your sorbet looks like some of the Italian cookies my aunts used to make for Christmas. We always just called them ribbon cookies – is caccierre their official Italian name?

    @das: Fun guy… very funny. 😛

  9. Wow. Just wow. 🙂 That meal makes me wish i was a successful television writer/producer.

  10. Thank you Tim Gaffney! It’s good to know that Dr Who is safe. It seems that if I like a show, then it gets cancelled.

    Love the food pictures Mr. M.. My hubby wants to ask Akemi “How do you know what an old man’s pillow tastes like?” I’ll never know, truffles are way out of my price range.

  11. The veal looks so good. Feeling a little faint just looking at it, same goes for the lobster and chips. I’ve missed those gorgeous Refuel pictorials, more please.

    I think I’ll quit my job and become a truffle farmer; fresh air, exercise, long walks with cute little pigs; I’m in.

  12. You eat the most incredible food, none of which I would even try. I could picture you making all this stuff at my house, but instead of you and Tara being my adopted children, the roles would be reversed and I would sit there at the dinner table with my arms folded across my chest, just like I did when I was a child My mother would tell me if I didn’t eat my ______ (fill in the blank with either whatever I was not eating, either a single course or not finishing my plate entirely), I was not allowed to get up from my seat. This was my first test in retrospect of my stamina and ability to fight back, whatever it took, and I remember falling asleep at the table and being there the next morning whereupon my mother would then eventually give in because alas it was time to go to school. So I won. And eventually when she saw it had no effect on me, she stopped trying to force me to eat things.

  13. PBMom: great story! Food is adventure now but I remember having those food battles with my parents. I would have starved myself rather than to eat some of what they wanted me to. I skipped most of that with my son. My motto is “Choose your battles”. I make him try things but after that, I let it go.

    This recipe looked good: http://momofukufor2.com/2010/02/momofuku-milk-bar-crack-pie-recipe/ I may try this one over Christmas break.

  14. Ok i have chosen, the oyster and the dessert, and the lobster..Nice presentation. Way to go Chef Ted. Thanks for sharing Joe. I think I can imagine what Akemi is saying about the old man pillow stuff,,haha, what a picture. i have never tried trufles….

  15. ROFLOL I think Akeimi regretted insulting truffles. White truffles are quite a treat, maybe she’ll wise up next time

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