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Black Périgord truffles are one of the most coveted foods in the world.
We are extremely lucky in Canberra to have such easy access to them. This includes a trufferie just 15 minutes away from the CBD — The Truffle Farm.
Formerly French Black Truffles of Canberra, new owner Jayson Mesman was the manager and bought the farm from founder Sherry McArdle-English when she retired earlier this year. Featuring a new name, logo (featuring Samson, truffle dog extraordinaire), kitchen (by The Kitchen Company), events, and products, 2016 is proving to be an exciting year for The Truffle Farm.
A visit to the farm is always a highlight for me during Canberra winter, and when I heard that its new events included meals by Chef Damian Brabender (former chef at Sage Dining Rooms), I knew I had to go. The first event I attended was a truffle hunt and lunch degustation. It began with a brief history and introduction to truffles by Jayson, followed by a hunt with Willow, a playful chocolate Labrador.
While I’ve been on multiple hunts with Jayson, I’m still always impressed by how well he explains the history of truffles and the process of growing, hunting, and grading. He’s one of the most engaging guides you’ll ever have, and he really knows his stuff.
If you want to read a more detailed account of the truffle hunt process, you can read about my experience truffle hunting with Jayson and Samson here, or I’d recommend going along and experiencing it firsthand!
Following the hunt, we returned to the kitchen and marquee for lunch. Damian got us in the mood with an introduction about cooking with truffles, including passing around a container of truffle-infused rice to show how easy it can be to use them.
The first course was a simple, perfectly cooked scallop with truffle butter. I love scallops and butter so this made me very happy. There was still butter left in the shell after I ate the scallop, and my instinct was to use my finger to get the rest of it (like how you’d do with chocolate. I’m classy like that). I hesitated until I saw the woman next to me do it. Neither of us had any regrets!
Next was a breakfast dish: truffle baked eggs with truffle infused cream, pork and truffle sausages, and asparagus. This was a combination of some of my favourite foods, so it was always going to be delicious to me. And this time I had bread to mop up the last bits of cream. The sausages were so tasty that some of the other attendees and I were still talking about them the next day (and very pleased to find out they can be purchased from The Truffle Farm).
The third course was a beef tartare with truffle mayonnaise and cheese. The flavours worked really well together, and this dish was surprisingly light. The mayonnaise was delicious, and we were very pleased to be treated to a cooking demonstration on how to make it.
The final savoury course was a truffled chicken ballotine with peas and truffle jus. The chicken was cooked to perfection—who knew chicken breast could be so juicy? We were also lucky enough to be taught how to make the chicken ballotine, and even I managed to cook one successfully over the weekend.
During the meal, Damian explained other ways to use truffles in cooking and that he’d aimed to demonstrate these through the food at the lunch. Methods ranged from infusing other foods to adding fresh truffle, and where truffle was a flavour enhancer or the main event. I would describe the next course as one of the ultimate truffle dishes. It was a truffle-infused panna cotta topped with nuts and fruit.
This. Was. Sublime.
The texture, the taste, the combinations…a lot of people declared this to be their favourite dish of the whole meal.
I’d actually lost count of how many courses we’d had, so I was genuinely surprised when the final one came out. Damian jokingly called it an ode to the truffle, and it really was a giant chocolate truffle, which turned out to have a delicious truffle parfait surprise inside.
Having such a great experience at the lunch made me really keen to see what the high tea would be like. This time I went with a group of friends, none of whom had been to the farm before, but who all love food. Walking into the marquee, we all ooh-ed and aah-ed over the lovely decorations.
We’d arrived a bit early, so took the opportunity to meet the newest addition to the Truffle Farm family, Olivia the pig, who was only adopted a few days before. Like the truffle dogs, Olivia was a rescue—her former owners thought she would be a miniature pig. In addition to Willow and Olivia, the pack includes truffle dogs Samson, Simba, Nala, Max, guard dog Bear, and truffle pigs Winnie and Piglet (who make Olivia look small, as they now weigh 200kg apiece!).
Like the lunch, the high tea experience began with an introduction by Jayson followed by a hunt. It was great to see Willow in action again, and highly amusing when Olivia unexpectedly joined us, having somehow jumped the fence of her enclosure.
Back in the marquee, we began with a high tea staple—scones. But these were truffle scones, with truffle cream, figs, and truffle and fig jam. There was a moment of mild panic when it seemed the cream had run out, but Damian knew better and some more bowls magically appeared. These were a lovely way to start.
Next were very cute truffle chicken rolls. The bread was an Asian-style bun, fluffy and a bit sweet, and the chicken filling was creamy and moreish.
We could smell the next dish before we could even see it: sausage rolls served with truffle, pork shoulder, and pork belly, served with truffle mayonnaise. One of my friends declared the sausage roll the best she’d ever had, and my other friend and I also loved the mayo so much we proceeded to finish the rest of the bowl even after we’d run out of sausage roll. These were seriously delicious.
Now, what would a high tea be without a tiered stand? These came out next. Chocolate truffles on the top, with a light truffle filling, apple and truffle-cream filled choux pastry and truffle macarons in the middle, and brandy snaps with truffle cream on the bottom.
There was much light-hearted discussion about which treat tasted the most strongly of truffle, and which was everyone’s favourite. Mine was the brandy snap, while another friend chose the macaron, and another the chocolate truffles.
And just because we weren’t full enough yet, we were then given a Magnum-style truffle ice cream each. These either disappeared very quickly because they were so good, or a bit more slowly because they were so good and some people had the self-control to savour them.
Both the lunch and high tea experiences were fantastic. They were informative, entertaining (Jayson and Damian bounce off each other and it can be quite amusing), and delicious. My friends and I enjoyed ourselves so much that before we finished the high tea we’d already decided we need to come back to try the breakfast.
The place: The Truffle Farm
Where: 23 Mount Majura Road, Majura
What: Truffle hunts, truffle breakfasts, truffle lunch degustations, truffle high tea
When: Every weekend from now ’til the end of August. Check the website for more details.
Booking: Visit their website at www.thetrufflefarm.com.au or visit their Facebook page.