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Truffle Camp, Take Two

Submitted by on December 31, 2009 – 9:39 pm2 Comments

calif_latoque_truffleTruffles are the reason for heading to the Westin Verasa, 1314 Mckinstry Street, Napa , California, next month. The hotel hosts Truffle Camp January 17-19, 2010. This is your chance to get inside the kitchen of La Toque and learn how to prepare truffle dishes. Of course, you’ll also get to eat truffle-laden meals, visit farms and attend private barrel wine tastings (and take home a truffle goodie bag). Participation is limited to 12!

Ken Frank, executive chef and owner of La Toque restaurant, hosts this second annual Truffle Camp. His restaurant has long been known for its extravagant truffle menus. The season began in late October with the arrival of the first white truffles, tuber magnatum pico, from Italy. Sometime in December the first true Black Winter truffles, tuber melanosporum, began to appear. The early ones are rarely ripe enough to be very good, according to Chef Frank, but generally by Christmas they are hitting their stride. On January 8, 2010 La Toque rolls out its 28th Annual Black Truffle Menu, featuring truffle in every course from Amuse Bouche to the Mignardise.

He says, “We do not use truffles from China. These small truffles from the Himalayas are true truffles, but their flavor pales in comparison to the real thing.” Truffles are the fruit bodies of a subterranean mushroom, hypogean fungus, called mycelium.

Chef Frank notes that he doesn’t use truffle oil at La Toque (unless he makes it himself). “First of all it is a misnomer, truffles contain no fat. You can press a million dollars worth of truffles as hard as you want and still not get a single drop of oil. Truffle oil is a relatively new phenomenon. It is no coincidence that ‘truffle oil’ appeared a few decades ago around the same time scientists successfully duplicated the chemical compounds in the laboratory that are responsible for truffles legendary aroma. You can infuse fresh truffle flavor into oil or butter, but it doesn’t keep any better than fresh truffles which are best consumed within 10 days of hunting. Because of this very short shelf life, real truffle flavored oil is simply not a viable product. Commercially produced truffle oil is invariably artificially flavored, no matter how fancy the bottle or prestigious the purveyor. It is simply too good to be true,” Chef Frank notes. “Real truffle flavored oil or butter is always subtle in flavor unlike the powerful products sold in a store. That little scrap of ‘truffle’ at the bottom of the jar is often from an inferior species, and in any event, it takes much more than a little crumb of truffle to infuse oil with any amount of flavor.”

To learn more about truffles (even if you can’t get to Truffle Camp), he recommends two books: The Little Book of Truffles published by Flammarion, and Truffles Ultimate Luxury Everyday Pleasure by Rosario Safina and Judith Sutton (published by Wiley). “I also recommend that you visit SimplyFlavors.com, my favorite and most trusted purveyor of fresh truffles,” he says.

Here is a copy of the 25th Annual Fresh Black Truffle Menu, served in 2007. It concluded with Black Truffle Ice Cream.

2 responses to “Truffle Camp, Take Two”

  1. […] Truffle Camp in Napa, California By trufflehunteritaly Ken Frank, executive chef and owner of La Toque restaurant, hosts his second annual Truffle Camp: January 17-19, 2010 (from Road Trips for Foodies). […]

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