Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A truffle dinner at The Estelle Bar & Kitchen

Another month, another truffle dinner. I swear these truffle dinner posts make me look obsessed, but all it is really, is great people organising great dinners and friends who want to go to such dinners. It's a winning combination in general.

This truffle dinner, held at the Estelle in Northcote, would be the last truffle dinner for the Fringe Food Festival (for this year anyway) since we were just getting the last of the best of the truffles in. Organized by Ed and Essjay, and again cooked by Scott Pickett, it was only ever going to be an awesome night. On top of that, instead of the planned 4 courses, we got an additional fifth course added in last minute. More truffles? Yeah!

It was a very cosy and intimate affair, every single seat in the rather retro-esque Estelle was taken, with place settings all over tables and counters.

The wines tonight were all provided by Foster e Rocco from the Heathcote region and were all quite lovely. Their wines are made as naturally as possible, no pumps, natural yeast, unfiltered (or so my notes say), to keep the wines as natural as possible, with the aim of creating approachable, accessible wines that are also food friendly. I think the achieved their goal as I was much too drunk for a Monday night, but I certainly was not complaining at the time.

To start our night the boys from Foster e Rocco had presented a lovely 2011 Rose for us, which had only be bottled about two weeks prior to the event, so was very new. And very nice. I had 3 glasses. Maybe.

Aren't the truffles adorable when they're cradled in a bit of padding like this? They look like eggs in a nest…except they're much more expensive. We would again tonight be treated to truffles from Tasmania, Western Australia and New South Wales…with the surprise addition Otway Harvest black truffles as well. I think I might have been drooling over my menu in anticipation.

Fortunately to tide us over till the first course and whet our appetites we were treated to 'sardine fossils', they reminded me of Chinese prawn or fish crackers in general texture, but were much lighter, crisper and saltier. With some sour cream to dip in and counteract the salt, this was a nice way to start.

And it would only build from there. The first course was a Jerusalem artichoke veloute with a wagyu bresaola and quail eggs, with a healthy dusting of Tasmanian black truffle. Yes, these were paired together, the idea was to have the veloute in one hand, and pick up the interpretation of a mini 'steak sanga', have a bite of one and drink the other, in which ever order suited one best.

I just loved how playful and fun this was, I'm a sucker for fried quail eggs, I think hey just look so cute! I also think getting people to use their hands a little more, and be a little more interactive makes for a great ice breaker and adds a fun mood to the night, especially when you have people on a table who may not know each other as they all giggle and chuckle while doing it.

It also helps when the food is absolutely sensational. The veloute was out of this world, sweet, creamy, oh so creamily creamy, with that additional richness from the truffles to top. I would not have expected to match truffles and artichokes, but it really does work very well, it's a little atypical. And in contrast to all the richness of the veloute, the bresaola 'sanga', had a nice earthiness and saltiness to it. Delish! Think we needed straws to finish the veloute though, as we all struggled to try and get the last of the goodness out without spoons…

The next course only continued to build up the rich factor. The "Old school egg" was a truffle infused poached egg on top of soft buttered polenta with Western Australian black truffle. Although we had had a similar dish to this at the St Ali dinner, this was just as sensational in it's own right. The egg wobbled, the yolk was broken and mixed in with the buttery, buttery polenta. It was rich, it was creamy, the truffles gave it an absolutely beautiful aroma and flavour. I wanted to lick the plate clean.

The "Old school egg" was matched with the 2011 Foster e Rocco Nuovo Sangiovese, also a very new wine. My notes on the wine say, fine tannins, vigilant, light, transparent (in colour I'm sure I mean…), unoaked and….thorz? I have no idea. I was probably drunk.

Following that, the next course was also paired with a Sangiovese, however the 2010 one. The 2010 Foster e Rocco Sangiovese in comparison had spent 10 months in oak and was therefore much richer and earthier in palette. I warmed up to this wine very quickly as I think I've learnt to enjoy a heavier red from my dad's love of Shiraz's.

So what did we have with the 2010 Sangiovese? Hand made farfalle with king brown mushrooms, cauliflower and…what was I forgetting? Oh of course. Black truffles. From New South Wales. This dish was also quite creamy, although I think I found the pasta a bit too soft for my liking, at St Ali the pappardelle was perfectly al dente, and this was not quite what I was hoping it would be. I did however, get truckloads of mushrooms, which works well for me, since I shouldn't be eating so much pasta anyway…

I don't think I've ever had truffles in a dessert before, so I was thrilled that this time around, we would have a dessert course. Rice pudding, puffed rice and beetroot with Western Australian black truffles. Yeah, it's not the sexiest thing to look at straight away but my gosh this smelt amazing, the truffles were very aromatic. There were comments on how the rice puffs looked like maggots against the 'earth' of black truffles. Although in a way I think that's kinda cool.

It did look a bit prettier once you stuck a spoon through it and mixed it up. The bright punchy beetroot pink came through and added a dash of colour and sweetness. And although the Western Australian truffles were so, so, so aromatic, they didn't really part much flavour to the dish itself. Instead the puffed rice really came through, providing a roasted, toasted kind of flavour, and a bit of crunch against the creamy rice pudding. It was kind of weird, you smelt truffles but tasted toasty puffed rice. Really enjoyed these 'grown up' rice bubbles, so creamy….

To match, a 2008 Monsieur Foster L'Imposteur Grenache…from France? We were all a little confused at first. At our table we speculated the 'L'Imposteur' indicated it was some sort of impostor and wasn't really from France. But we were soon corrected as the wine maker explained that this batch of wine was produced from when he lived in Southern France. What a treat! This was the heaviest wine of the night (I think?), full of body, rich and berrylicious (in the wine drinking way).

Now after all that, you'd think we'd all be bursting. Well we were. But then we were presented with this. Cow's milk soft ripened cheese…absolutely stuffed with Otway Harvest black truffle. The cheese was sliced open or something, truffles slipped in and the whole thing baked. BAKED. MELTED CHEESE AND TRUFFLES. BAD WRITING IN CAPITALS BUT IT WAS THAT AMAZING.

If I had to eat myself to death with one thing, I think this might be it. Served with some sourdough, this was just all sorts of delicious to finish the night. I was an absolute glut and went back for one…two…three pieces of bread just sloshed over with truffle cheese. I do have a weakness for cheese, but hadn't been indulging into it much lately, so this seemed as good as any a time to go overboard. I drool looking at the photos. Seriously.

A moscato and a giveaway or two later and the truffle night was pretty much over. Just before we (or at least I) toppled out the door, we were all given a little chocolate truffle to take home (or gobble in the car as I did). It had been a night full of laughter and conversations about eating (something that's always enjoyable), and fantastic food. Thanks again to Ed and Essjay for their efforts in organising and Scott for providing both the venue and the wonderful food. I very much look forward to visiting the Estelle to try out their menu another time...

Also for your amusement, this is what my menu from the night looks like after all my note taking and sloppy handwriting...

243 High St
Northcote 3070

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