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:
Despite the presence of truffles, the meaty oyster, redolent of the sea, was the spotlight flavor.
Another surprisingly delicate dish. The heat of the brodo cooked the goose to a nice rare.
Simple but nothing quite brings out the flavors of the truffle like the subtleness of a creamy risotto.
Ted shaved two different white truffles onto the risotto. Denise and I both preferred the lighter version for its more pronounced flavor.
A luxuriously rich dish with some lovely textural contrasts. The crunchy fingerling chips were a nice touch.
Damn. Was this not the best preparation of veal you’ve ever had? Oh. You weren’t there. Well, yes. It was!
A surprisingly nice combination, but a little Parmigiano-Reggiano goes a long way. I was done after my third piece.
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.
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.