Story by Manos Angelakis
Photos by Rina Oh
It is truffle season!
French gastronome writer Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin called truffles "the diamond of the kitchen". Early November is the beginning of the white truffle (tuber magnatum) season in Italy as well as some parts of Croatia and Slovenia; black summer truffles known in Italy as scorzone -- the more common Italian truffle variety -- are in season from May to mid September and are harvested in many mountainous Italian regions. Of course, the Périgord truffle, also black and named after the French region that they grow in, are available from early autumn to early winter and are the second most popular truffles after the white ones.
A few days ago I was invited to the Mecca for American gastronomes and oenophiles, the James Beard House, for a truffle dinner to celebrate the launch of Canvas Blanc de Blancs Spumante, a sparkling addition to the Canvas portfolio of fine wines that offers fresh flavors paired with fruity aromas; the dinner was a collaboration between the Hyatt Hotel Group and the Michael Mondavi family. Dina Mondavi, Michael’s daughter and an upcoming wine star in her own right, presided over the festivities. The Canvas Blanc de Blancs is produced in the Veneto by Villa Sandi, one of the better prosecco producers and is imported in the US by Folio Fine Wine Partners
The Hyatt Hotel’s Culinary Director Martin Pfefferkorn was in charge at the Beard House kitchen, assisted by chefs and sous chefs from other Hyatt kitchens around the country including New York City’s Grand Hyatt. Considering the size of the Beard House kitchen, I think it is a miracle that food of that exceptional quality always comes out to enchant the guests.
We were offered a glass of Canvas Blanc de Blancs on arrival to accompany the appetizers. The wine is a dry, clean, fragrant, highly pleasant sparkler with a taste that reminds of a good Prosecco, but is slightly lighter and not as dry as Villa Sandi’s other line of Proseccos. The appetizers were shaped as miniature waffle cones filled with deconstructed ingredients. There was a sushi cone, a deviled egg (quail eggs were used), a foie gras cone etc. Nine different varieties were passed around to a very appreciative group.
We sat down to dinner and we had five dishes, including dessert, that were made with both black and white truffles. I thought that all of them were exceptional but I particularly enjoyed the first, duck and truffle agnolotti in a sweet onion broth and Reggiano espuma; and the third, Dunganess crab salad with watercress, radish, spherized passion fruit juice (passion fruit caviar) and shaved truffles. The wines paired with the five dishes were all Michael Mondavi Family Estate California wines. I enjoyed the 2016 Animo Sauvignon Blanc, an aromatic, very classic California (Napa Valley) Sauvignon Blanc, with a nose that is very similar to South American (Chilean) Sauvignon Blancs. The other wine that I thought was very exceptional was the 2014 M by Michael Mondavi. This was a very young red; I would give it at least another 6 to 8 years in cellar to settle down and tame the rather prominent tannins. As it was, the wine was paired with the fourth dish cinnamon roasted venison loin with juniper berry juice, truffled butternut squash and pommes Williams. The pairing was exceptional and the wine accentuated the taste of the venison and brought forward the hints of cinnamon and juniper juice aromas.
The final wine that I enjoyed was the one served with dessert and espresso coffee, a very aromatic Emblem Oso Vineyard Passito, a complex Muscat wine redolent of jasmine and honeysuckle, very reminiscent of the smells of summer in a Mediterranean island garden. It is not as sweet as an Italian passito (for example a passito di Pantelleria) but has a very similar body and aromas.
And a great time was had by all.
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