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F&L Guide: Exploring Canberra's Truffle Festival 2015

terra preta truffles
Photo courtesy of Canberra Region Truffle Festival

Canberra’s annual Truffle Festival is bigger and better this winter. Over the weekend I was lucky enough to get a taste of what the Truffle Festival is all about thanks to Novotel Canberra. There’s something special about the prized truffle (other than the fact they’re expensive).

It’s not just that you need a dog (or pig) to hunt for it. It's something about the intoxicating aroma, the dramatic marbled pattern, and of course the earthy flavour. I find the flavour of black truffle completely unique, and because truffle season is only lasts for such a short time during the year, it adds that extra specialness when you can get your hands on it.

There are many different varieties of truffle, but the black or Perigord truffle is currently grown in Europe and America, and more recently is being cultivated in Australia, New Zealand and Chile.

capital region farmers market pastries

turalla truffles at capital region farmers market

Capital Region Farmers Market

Our weekend in Canberra started with a visit to the Capital Region Farmers Market. Held 7:30 to 11:30am every Saturday at Exhibition Park in Canberra, the market has a great offering of fresh produce, plus other goodies German bratwurst (we bought a pack of Nurnbergers to take to Sydney) and crepes to flowers, fresh pasta, and artisan bread.

During the Truffle Festival, there are also truffle stands, including Turalla Truffles and Terra Preta Truffles. We met truffle grower Damian at the Turalla Truffles stand, where we purchased a truffle slicer and discussed the pros and cons of slicing truffles versus grating on a microplane. While slicing is unbeatable in terms of its aesthetics, using the microplane generally seems to bring out the aroma and flavour more.

Turalla Truffles: http://www.turallatruffles.com.au/

mushrooms at market

croissants

The Albion Cafe

Continuing our truffle-laden day, we ventured out to Braidwood, a little town about an hour outside of Canberra. We grabbed lunch at The Albion Café, trying both truffle lunch specials. During the Truffle Festival, The Albion offers truffle specials for breakfast and lunch every day.

The crispy skin confit duck with creamy braised lentils, local Terra Preta truffles and a side salad was hearty and delicious. The duck was cooked beautifully, and the creamy lentils were the perfect accompaniment for the delicious truffles. The poached chicken sandwich with truffles was served on a Turkish roll, but the hero was the melted gruyere cheese, which ultimately overpowered the truffles.

We even got a taste of the dessert that was featured on the special truffle dinner that evening: an irresistible mandarin crème with honey walnut truffle baklava. Who knew the smooth, wobbly mandarin crème with fresh mandarin segments would go so well with the flavours of black truffles? I sure didn’t. But it was seriously stunning.

the albion duck truffle

chicken truffle sandwich

albion cafe creme mandarin

Braidwood Truffle Festival: ‘Truffles in the Wood’

After lunch, we moseyed over to the Braidwood school where Terra Preta Truffles organised a community event with a truffle theme. Stalls for local produce like black garlic, Pepe Saya truffle butter, and Braidwood honey were assembled in the gym. Executive Chef Christian Hauberg of Pulp Kitchen cooked up a storm with the school kids to create truffle-filled dishes.

With international guests from El Bulli and Noma (who are customers of Terra Preta truffles), there was also an educational twist to the event. International scientists gave presentations on why forests need truffles and their symbiotic relationships. We only had time to sit in for 20 minutes when mycologist Todd Elliot gave a highly scientific and interesting presentation about fungi.

Meeting Peter and Kate Marshall from Terra Preta Truffles was a treat, and the community excitement around their local black truffles was palpable.

Terra Preta Truffles: http://www.terrapretatruffles.com/

braidwood truffles

pepe saya truffle butter

Upcoming Events at Truffle Festival

Other truffle fun during the festival include Frugii truffle ice cream, truffle dinners at top-notch restaurants like Podfood, truffle cooking classes with Le Tres Bon, or a truffle and pinot noir masterclass with Lerida Estate. I also highly recommend truffle hunts. I joined a truffle hunt last year (in the Southern Highlands) and it was a fascinating experience speaking to the truffle growers, seeing truffles dug up first-hand, and of course buying these black nuggets of deliciousness.

Check out the Truffle Festival website to find all the truffle events until late August.

The Truffle Festival
Website: http://www.trufflefestival.com.au/

Special thanks to Novotel Canberra who are accommodation partners for The Truffle Festival and put us up in their 4.5-star hotel over the weekend, including the gastronomy package.