Although the Fringe Food Festival isn't as active these days as it was when it initially started, every year without fail there's one event (or two most years) that's not to be missed.
Fringe Food Festival's truffle dinners during the truffle season.
This year, I only just managed to squeeze myself in on a table, as tickets went fast and furious, after Rob convinced me to go with him. I hadn't been going for the last couple of years, as I had been a bit of a tightwad with cash…but with a new job this year, it was kind of hard not to go!
Held at the Estelle in Northcote, Scott Pickett puts together an absolute stunner of a 4 course meal with his head chef, a young English guy I've promptly forgotten the name of, for an absolute steal of $130…wine included. Yes, yes, yes.
At our tables, which fill quickly, we're presented with the best bread I've ever had in my life. Damn you Estelle for now ruining me completely. Hot and crusty foccacia, straight out of the oven, dark and golden with a fluffy and mildly savoury body. Dipped in oil, lightly sprinkled with truffle, I could have quite comfortably made a meal of just that!
We then really start our night with a teaser, Isle of mull and black truffle cheese soldier, modest in volume, but a braggart of flavour and aroma, wafting up to tease the olfactory system and have us all salivating away. Light, and delicate, it was a lovely way to begin the night. We were also introduced to Custard & Co's Scrumpy cider, which is simply just one of the best ciders I've had the joy of drinking, hardly any carbonation, low on the sugariness and full of flavour. Hello!
I swoon over our first course of Jerusalem artichoke soup with pine mushrooms, and 63 degree poached egg, absolutely showered in truffles from Pemberton, Western Australia.
You simply cannot just eat this sort of thing straight away. You absolutely must sit and admire, swoon, sigh, tingle all over with excitement and absolutely breathe in the dish before you can take the first bite. And what a bite it is! Silky smooth all over, earthy, warming, comforting. Oh, I could have had so many more serves, just so many more…
Apologies for the terrible picture (I assume the wine had been comfortably snaking it's way up into the brain)! Our second course was a serve of Western Australian marron, sitting on a bed of hand rolled macaroni and topped with salmon roe and basil with shavings of truffles from Manjimup, Western Australia.
I was amazed at how different this dish was to the first, but how well the truffle worked with it still. The hand rolled macaroni was sublime, and the marron perfectly cooked and oh so sweet, given a richness by the truffle.
The third course reminded me how much I love Scott Pickett's beef dishes, having first tried it a few years back at the Stroke Foundation: Food for Thought dinner. It's not only delicious, but visually stunning. Tonight we dined on a beautiful wagyu shin, miso, oyster, truffles from Braidwood in New South Wales, a couple of other things on the dish that I can't remember, and…a bone marrow croquette. Honestly, that last component, genius. Intensely crunchy texture, leading to a fatty and rich filling. Swoon. Scott's meat was on point too, melting in the mouth, complemented with the rich and creamy dollops of miso and oyster (I think…).
Having tried both the Western Australia truffles and New South Wales truffles, shaved over savoury dishes, I was actually quite surprised how different they were. The Western Australian truffles I found to be hypnotising in aroma, but not as prominent on the palate, and the reverse for the New South Wales truffles, which a little more subtle overall, but crept in with a little more flavour.
We were spoiled with door prizes, I happened to win a box of 5 truffle macarons from Madame Truffles…and let me say, if you've seen them and considered them and haven't picked them up…you've made a huge mistake. Although they didn't smell too strong, or much of truffle at all, in flavour, the truffle was all there, sneaking in at the back and providing a long lasting lingering flavour. It's worth it. Do it.
To wrap up the night, we were sent to cloud 9 with dessert, a truffle sponge, with charred pear and honeycomb, with truffle ice-cream to top. Although the truffle didn't really impart itself to the sponge so much, it was rich and completely present in the ice-cream, whacking us in the face (in the best way possible) with all it's flavour, wrapped up in the cold creaminess of the ice-cream. Oh man. I ate this real slow to savour it. I didn't want it to end. The richness of the truffle complemented with the freshness of the pear. Happy sighs.
Although Fringe Food Festival has finished up it's truffle dinners for the year, be sure to sign up for the newsletter on the website, or follow them on twitter, to see when it's coming around again (or don't, as you're now all competition for seats in 2015. Hmmmm.)
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