Monday night’s Olifactory extravaganza redux: end of season truffle tasting dinner, largely organised by SJ from Essjay Eats and Tomatom’s Ed Charles, was my first ‘foodie event’… and what an event to kick things off – a carefree and unabashed microplaned showering of Australia’s best truffles; nuggets of pungent, musty and intense flavour. Nothing compares.
Friend & Burrell were on board to generously provide half a kilo of black truffles at wholesale cost from Western Australia, Tasmania and New South Wales. And as a last minute surprise, thanks to a couple of ‘gatecrashers’, two very handsome truffles were also donated by Otway Harvest Truffles and Sunnybrae Restaurant’s George Biron, which were transformed into a ‘surprise’ course.
Wines for the night were provided by winemaker Adam Foster and slaving away in the kitchen were Scott Pickett and Ryan Flaherty… which kinda gives away that this extravaganza was being held at what is becoming my second home, The Estelle.
The kitchen delivered a menu that encapsulated Scott and Ryan’s style, including many of the familiar signature elements and flavours that keep me coming back to this wonderful place. We opened with The Estelle’s amuse bouche; chickpea chips and sardine fossils. They’re still good. Unfortunately the fossils didn’t make it to our table.
First up was the Jerusalem artichoke veloute, Wagyu bresaola and quail egg with Tasmanian truffle.
This was the first sign that the truffles were definitely not going to be served up with any restraint.
The combination of salty bresaola, rich and unctuous quail egg and the heady perfume of the truffle made this two-mouthful treat disappear far more quickly than I would have liked.
The accompanying Jerusalem artichoke veloute was as rich, creamy and velvety as I’d imagined it would be and it complimented the bresaola like a vegemite and cheese; albeit several hundred points up the scale in terms of deliciousness and execution.
The dish was matched with the 2011 Foster e Rocco Rose from Heathcote. A great match, with some acidity to counter the richness of the dish.
Next up was a favourite; “old school egg”. One of Scott’s signature dishes, a perfectly poached egg atop the most creamy, rich polenta you will ever encounter and a generous shaving of Western Australian truffle.
This dish, like the first, confirmed that the flavour of the truffle is driven hard by the not only the richer elements of the dish (fat being a carrier of flavour), but also enhanced by the seasoning of the dish.
Thank God for salt and fat, I guess.
A relatively young and fresh 2011 Foster e Rocco Nuovo Sangiovese was paired with this dish and again, the wine truly complimented the dish through its lightness, standing up to the dish, but in no way overpowering. It also reminded me that the warmer months are also just around the corner.
We were at the halfway point with the next dish; hand made farfalle with king brown mushrooms and pan-fried cauliflower, teamed up with the New South Wales Black truffle.
Needless to say this dish was again packed with flavour, with the caramelised cauliflower adding a little sweetness amongst the earthiness of the king brown and truffles.
The accompanying 2010 Foster e Rocco Sangiovese was again light, but a tad more robust and still a little fruity, with a little acidity kick at the end.
I have been a big fan of the two desserts I have tried at The Estelle thus far. Unfortunately, the Rice pudding, puffed rice and beetroot just didn’t hit the mark with me. Rice pudding is one of those polarising dishes where you either had it as a kid growing up and in your later years you’re repulsed by it (mainly thanks to growing up with poor, stodgy versions) or it’s a comforting ‘nursery food’… a pick-me-up when you’re feeling down.
For mine, I can take it or leave it. The Estelle’s Rice pudding was light and not overly sweet, but the beetroot jam / coulis didn’t taste of anything and the puffed rice made me feel like I was eating a some breakfast concoction in the Qantas Club.
As for the addition of truffle, it didn’t work for me. As much as I believed the Western Australian truffles were the best of the night, their flavour in this dish was lost. Perhaps it was because the dish was cold. Perhaps the absence of salt or seasoning failed to enhance the flavour of the truffle, as was the case in the former dishes.
The grand finale of the night and probably the most anticipated dish (at least from K’s perspective) was the bonus dish made with the Otway Truffles; Baked Jean Perrin Fromager des Clarines, with lashings of truffle.
Unfortunately for us, as we were seated along the bench at the front of the restaurant and we were asked by the waiter to join in with the table closest to us. By the time we’d waited for the table to share the Fromager des Clarines around, we’d missed out as the waiter hadn’t passed on that we were joining them. A little bit of an uncomfortable situation, which was a bit of a downer at the end of what was a memorable night.
A big thanks to the aforementioned Ed, SJ and the other wonderful people involved for pulling this together. It’s people like these that inspire people like me, who are only just starting out in food blogging, to want to enjoy and experience more of what this fantatic city, state and country has to offer and to hopefully contribute for the better to educate others in the appreciation of good food.
For more information, check out: http://www.fringefoodfestival.com.au