Truffle – a strong-smelling underground fungus that resembles an irregular, rough-skinned potato. While it doesn’t sound very appealing these balls of fungus are a culinary delight and just a slither can transform a dish from ordinary to extraordinary. The average truffle weighs 30-60g and can cost anywhere from $30-$75 but a little goes a long way. Truffles are featured on the finest menus in Canberra, Australia, Paris, New York and around the world. You will see them everywhere at the moment because June marked the beginning of truffle season in Canberra.
You can imagine how excited I was when I received an invitation to attend the Veuve Clicquot and Truffle Degustation Dinner at the luxurious Hyatt Hotel Canberra. Whenever I visit the Hyatt I instantly feel like royalty and this visit was no exception. The door was opened for me upon arrival and then I entered the gorgeous front rooms boasting with high ceilings, chandeliers and beautiful artworks hung proudly on the walls. The theme continues throughout the hotel and I was escorted towards the Ballroom where the celebration of truffles and Veuve Clicquot – one of the most popular and recognisable champagnes throughout the world – awaited. I was given access to enter the dining room before the spectacular setting was revealed to the other guests. The room had been transformed to match the evening with specks of gold, pine cones to represent winter and bottles of Veuve Clicquot placed throughout. The Chefs, Bar Staff and Floor Staff were in concentration mode making the final touches to ensure that their guests were in for a perfect evening. A kitchen area was set up at the side of the room and being able to see the food being delicately plated was an entertaining and intimate touch.
I met with Executive Chef Nitin Kumar who gave me a brief run down of the evening and spoke with such passion about the event and his love of truffles. The Hyatt has been hosting the event for a number of years now and each year it grows bigger and better. I thanked Chef for bringing something this indulgent evening to Canberra and left him to make the final touches for the evening ahead.
As I looked around I found myself in a bubble of joy and I knew that bubble wasn’t going to pop any time soon. My eyes made their way back to the tables where I spotted the menu. I was about to indulge in a degustation of spectacular dishes featuring truffles matched with Veuve Clicquot. What a perfect pair!
The guests soon started to arrive and each seemed equally impressed as I was. I soon met with Rhys Napthali, the Veuve Clicquot expert and Barbara and Richard from Macenmist Black Truffles and Wines who had supplied the truffles for this year’s event. We chatted for a few minutes before we were all seated at a table together with other passionate foodies who were always looking for the newest and most exciting food events in Canberra. I learnt later in the evening that one couple had been to every truffle dinner at the Hyatt and that it was one of their favourite events of the year. In total there were about 120 people who attended the evening.
Chef Nitin took to the stage welcoming everyone and explaining the event and his passion for Canberra, the local produce and truffles. He introduced the first course and Rhys then took to the stage giving us an overview of Veuve Clicquot and what we would expect for the evening. Both gentlemen continued to do this throughout the night. They gave the us invaluable information about the courses we were about to eat and the glass of bubbles that would match.
And now the feast begins….
Coddled egg, spanner crab, smoked butter, forest mushrooms, black truffle
I was so excited about this dish when I saw the eggshells being plated and ready to be filled before the guests arrived. I was intrigued and couldn’t wait to try the creation inside. Just as I expected, it was divine. The subtle flavours of the spanner crab and forest mushrooms together with the creaminess of the coddled egg and smoked butter topped with the black truffles took me to another world…. Perfection!
Black truffle beignets, truffle yoghurt
This may look like a big truffle on a plate but don’t be fooled! It was a mixture of chickpeas and spices that created a replica truffle. It was served with a fresh truffle yoghurt to bring the dish together. Another delicious starter for the evening.
Truffle fool, foie gras, Jerusalem artichoke, truffle coconut granite
I first tried foie gras at The Modern restaurant at MoMA in New York City without knowing much about it. The amount I was served was quite large and I’m going to be honest and tell you that the only reason I ordered it was because the waiter recommended it. I couldn’t eat it all because of the richness and I found it quite overpowering. He happily substituted the dish for a cheese souflle without question. I think he was just happy that I gave it a go. I wasn’t vert keen about trying it again after that and after Mr Eat Canberra gave me some Foie Gras facts when I was Skyping him the next day after my experience in NYC. This was an exception thought, the dish was nothing like that. The amount of foie gras was tiny in comparison and it was subtle. It was beautifully matched with the other components in the dish. The textures were soft, creamy and rich with some crunch from the coconut granite. The serving size was perfect and it looked stunning.
Veuve Clicquot Nv
The starters were served with the first glass of bubbles that went down very easily.
Truffle tooth fish, pan fried scallop, butter poached lobster, smoked potato cream, truffle vinaigrette
This elegantly plated dish was a combination of produce that could be considered as royalty of the ocean. Each item was cooked perfectly and served on a pool of the most delicious smoked potato cream and topped with truffle vinaigrette. I love smokey flavours and the potato cream had the perfect amount of smokiness. It was silky smooth and worked perfectly with the rest of the components.
Veuve Cliquot 2004 Vintage Blanc
Another glass of Veuve Cliquot was served with this dish. The changes between the champagne was subtle yet noticeable. The crispness of the liquid gold was a delight.
Lavendar honey rosted duck, fennel, orange, fig puree, truffle celeriac
I love duck and I don’t often cook it at home so if it’s on the menu when I go out then I usually order it. I was excited to see this dish on the menu and was interested to see how the combination of flavours would work. The sweetness of the honey, orange and fig puree were balanced well with the fennel and the truffle celeriac. If it wasn’t executed right then it could have easily been to sweet. But Chef Nitin and his team got it just right.
Veuve Clicquot Rose
I’ve never been much of a rose drinker but after trying the Veuve Clicquot Rose I think I’m converted. I always perceived rose to be sweet but this one was perfect. After I finished my glass I was ready for another one.
MS8 wagyu beef, shallot mousse, truffle marrow
Wagyu is a marbled beef that melts in your mouth and is full of flavour. I’ve eaten quite a bit of wagyu. Seasoning is rarely needed and Mr Eat Canberra cooks the perfect wagyu. I’ve been spoilt and if my beef isn’t wagyu then I usually don’t bother. I was in Japan for most of May and we ate some of the best wagyu I’ve ever eaten. This was a big piece of wagyu. It was tender and cooked just right – nice and pink. The dish was very creatively plated and one of my favourite things about it was the truffle marrow. It was made to look like a bone with the marrow and the flavours were incredible. A little of this with a piece of the wagyu was a pop of delightful, extravagant ingredients and flavours that danced in my mouth.
Veuve Clicquot Vintage Rose
Another beautiful glass of rose when down just as well as the last.
Chocolate sphere, walnut cake, truffle ice cream, macerated raspberries, coconut meringue, hot white fudge sauce
Take a look at this dessert. How beautiful is it? This stunning dessert was a combination of sweet textures and flavours including playful pop rocks. The idea was to pour the hot fudge sauce on the chocolate dome and the chocolate would melt and reveal the other part of the dessert inside. You would never think that there was truffle on this plate but there was. It was hidden in the ice cream in the centre of the chocolate dome and it was surrounded by walnut cake. The dish was quite sweet but I love my sweets and I loved every mouthful of this fun dessert.
Veuce Clicquot Rich with cucumber
Who would have thought to pair cucumber with champagne and serve it like this? Chef Nitin and his team did! It worked so well and I’ve now added a new drink to the list this summer! It so refreshing and went well with the dessert.
Triple cream brie, truffle honey comb, walnut bread, quince confit
The clever team in the kitchen finished off the night with this dish to balance out the sweetness from dessert and to satisfy those of us who prefer a savoury finish to a meal instead of a sweet one. I love cheese and I could easily eat it every day if my waist line and health weren’t a concern. Cheese is one of those things that you indulge in every now and again and when you do you do it well. This dish was the best way to finish off an incredible menu and I could have easily devoured two plates. I was so full at this point but everything was absolutely delicious. The triple cream brie was creamy and rich and the truffle honey comb was sweet and crunchy. The quince was slightly tart and slightly sweet and the nuttiness and crunch of the walnut bread made a perfect base for each component. I didn’t think the evening could get much better until this dish came out.
Veuve Clicquot Rich with celery or pepper
The last drink of the eveing was very interesting indeed. Rhys gave me a nudge earlier in the evening and said “Wait until you see what the Chef has created for the last drink of the night.” The Veuve Clicquot Rich was topped with your choice of celery or pepper. Of course I chose pepper because I didn’t think the celery would be as noticeable in flavour. Tiny pieces of diced pepper (green capsicum) were added to my drink. I let it sit for a minute or two before I tasted it and as I lifted the glass to my nose I was hit with the smell of the peppers. As I had a sip I tasted the subtle flavour of the peppers that had infused the champagne. I love creativity and trying new things and as I swallowed the first sip, I smiled to myself as I thought back on the beautiful flavours, amazing produce and creative menu that had been presented by Chef Nitin and the Hyatt team.
The happiness bubble I entered at the beginning of the night was now even bigger. The evening was sophisticated, elegant and very, very impressive.
The event was held as part of Canberra’s Truffle Festival. If you want to have some truffle fun then there are lots of truffle related events in Canberra and surrounding areas until August. You can even go on a truffle hunt! The Truffle Festival is a 12-week celebration of the harvest of the Black Winter Truffle grown in the Canberra region.