Truffle Kerfuffle Festival 2012
Did you know that Australia is one of the fastest growing black truffle growers in recent years? The Aussies successfully started inoculating and cultivating the highest quality of black truffle (tuber melansosporum/French Black Perigord Truffle) since the 1990s, and the best quality of all is found in South Western Australia, precisely in Manjimup. I read about Australian truffles in New York Times article a long time ago and it made me interested to visit this region of Australia.
My husband and I have lived in the Pacific Islands for a year now and we were planning for our first vacation for many months. The trip was also to celebrate my big birthday and I really wanted to go truffle hunting to celebrate. In my mind, I was thinking about Italy or France, but June is not truffle season in Europe and we could not change the timing for our trip. Then, we remembered about Australian truffles. When we researched about a possible trip to Australia, we found about the truffle festival in Manjimup and we were sold.
The Truffle Kerfuffle Festival was held on June 16, 2012 in Manjimup, about a 4-hour drive from Perth near Margaret River. I was looking forward to the festival so much, I could not believe when the day finally arrived and we were actually in Manjimup, after all the hundreds of hours of planning and researching and long travel hours to get there. We flew from Majuro to Guam to Cairns to Perth and then drove all the way to Manjimup.
They had two big storms right before we came to Western Australia and many houses and business lost their power for a long time. But on the day of the festival, it was absolutely gorgeous. We were so lucky we couldn't have asked for better weather for the festival.
In the event tents, many local vendors were selling great items. I really enjoyed the apple hard cider. And my husband and I had chicken liver pate from Must Restaurant where we ate on our first night in Margaret River for our lunch.
I attended two master chef classes. The first one was a demonstration by Chef Aaron Carr who is the executive chef at Vasse Felix Winery. He showed us pan fried truffled gnocchi with kale, butternut squash, goat cheese, black truffle and sage butter. I never thought about frying gnocchi with strong greens like kale but it was really amazing. A great dish for a dinner party.
The second demonstration was from Anna Gare (musician and TV host) and David Coomer (Pata Negra, Perth). I am not from Australia so I did not know them but there were many fans there. David showed us how to make paté with black truffle and Anna made celeriac and truffle tart. It was a very laid back demonstration and I really enjoyed both dishes they prepared.
And of course, the main event for me was truffle hunting. In Australia, they use truffle dogs to hunt for truffles instead of pigs which scored point for me since I am a huge dog lover. We went truffle hunting with the pioneer of Australian truffles, The Wine and Truffle Co., and a cute golden retriever was our truffle dog.
Literally a minute after the handler and truffle dog started walking the in the field, the dog stopped and tapped on the ground with his paw. The handler gently removed the soil and there it was, a huge truffle came out. And they kept going and going and found 6 giant truffles in very short time. The value of each one of these would have been about $500-$1,000 (about $100 for ping-pong ball size truffle). I was lucky that they let me dig the truffle out of the soil. My dreams came true! And even better, the dog gave me a kiss :)
The field was gorgeous, the dog was so loveable, the scent of the truffle out of the soil was intensely aromatic and the weight of the huge truffle in my hands was unforgettable.
The very last event of the day was the Gala Dinner: a six course meal based on truffles prepared by six top chefs from Australia with local wine parings. I really can't thank enough Gavin Booth, the organizer for Truffle Kerfuffle, who corresponded with us countless times to help our trip come true. He even arranged our seats at the event's sponsor's table since we had traveled so far.
Here is the menu from the gala dinner.
Kipfler potato and truffle cappuccino by Xavier Poupel (Terroir and Table)
Wine paring : Woodgate Bojangles Pinot Noir Chardonnay 2009
Charcuteríe by Russell Blaikie (Must)
Wine paring : Lillian's Marsanne Roussanne 2009
Blue Ridge Marron, fennel and Truffle by Hadleigh Troy (Restaurant Amuse)
Wine paring : Truffle Hill Wines Reserve Riesling 2011
Saddleback suckling pig from Susan Ronks farm, celeriac, toasted grains and truffle by Aaron Carr (Vasse Felix)
Wine paring : Lost Lake Barrel Select Pinot Noir 2009
Cheese Plate by Ross O'Meara (SBS's Gourmet Farmer)
Wine paring : Peos 4 Aces Shiraz 2007
Chestnut and hazelnut cake, brown sugar parfait and poached quince by Sophie Zalokar (Faragers Field Kitchen and Cooking School Pemberton)
Wine paring : Silkwood Original Zin Liqueur
By the end of my dream day, I felt like I had faded into heaven with all the wonderful food, scenery, friendly people, amazing truffle, and fantastic wines we had. It was the best trip ever.