When I signed up for Culinary Getaways' truffle week, I knew I was in for something good, but had no idea of the extent of the extravagance ahead of me. Every meal, including breakfast, offered an opportunity to eat something with truffles. When I entered into the kitchen I thought I had just about died and gone to heaven.
Even before we got to the truffles, we all had our hands full with the culinary spread that Sherry Page laid out. The platter of goat cheeses offered a combination so brilliant that I can talk all day about each one. Of the five, my favorite was the Banon à la feuille, which is an unpasteurized cheese made from goat's milk, wrapped in chestnut leaves, aged for three weeks, and tied with raffia (palm tree fibers). As soon as I sent my knife into the cheese rind, a golden rich, buttery, and creamy liquid exuded. Pure decadence! I dolloped a huge spoonful onto a thin morsel of bread, and was in heaven.
My second favorite cheese was the Pelardon, which is the one pictured with the golden label. This soft-ripened cheese is made from unpasteurized goat's milk, crafted and aged in the Cévennes range of the Languedoc-Roussillon region, which is on the southern coast of France. Delicate with a slight chevre tanginess against the backdrop of cream and complex fruit, tied together with a refined saltiness, this cheese was easy to love. The balance of the three goat cheeses included one coated in vegetable ash, one topped with caraway seeds and a fresh chevre topped with pink peppercorns. All excellent.
There was a platter of thinly shaved serrano ham, which I wrapped with super sweet bosc pears and kiwi. I couldn't stop noshing on the ham!
Not be overlooked was the veggie platter with a fabulous light dip which contained anchovies. I was compulsively dipping the French breakfast radishes and cauliflower into the fish dip throughout the evening.
The taureau saussicon or bull sausage was one of several artisan sausages that we would enjoy over the week. Well-aged with a good balance of herbs, spices and salt, it was simply delicious!
Although you can barely see the olives in the lower right corner of the picture above, I wanted to point out the significance of Nyons black olives, which are harvested at full maturity after the first frost of the season, when the natural moisture of the fruit is extracted, yielding refined olive flavors, a denser texture and fine wrinkles on the skin.
Nyon black olives are dry-cured in salt for roughly eight months and packed with olive oil. So good and special, Nyon black olives have garnered their own AOC, which is the French system for designating and controlling the geography and quality of agricultural products, such as wines. These olives deserve it!
After an informative lesson on how to choose a good truffle, Sherry Page shaved a few chips for our first truffle dinner of the week. And extra for nibbling!
Truffle chips were topped onto a thin toasted baguette, drizzled with homemade truffle oil and sprinkled with fleur de sel. So simple and divine!
The mache salad topped with diced Perigord truffles introduced a pleasant earthiness with a supple crunch that added a nice contrast to the soft and tender winter leaves.
For the entree, we had roasted pork tenderloin, potato au gratin and roasted root vegetables, all sprinkled with medallions of shaved truffles. The earthiness of the potatoes married well with the complex flavors of the black truffles, which were beautifully complemented with a touch of cream. Cheese was omitted so as not to compete with the delicate truffle flavors. I enjoyed the potatoes au gratin so immensely that I'm planning to recreate this dish at home, if you're interested Sherry Page's excellent recipe click here.
And if you didn't think black truffles could be incorporated into desserts, Sherry Page had made truffle panna cotta. Delicate sweet, earthy and creamy flavors with a hint of cocoa and red wine from the truffles, I probably could of had a couple cups of these truffle panna cottas. Again divine!
The dinner was paired with two bottles of exceptional wines from Provence. Of the two, I especially enjoyed the 2006 Domaine Pontifical Chateauneuf-du-Pape, which was a full-bodied, bold and complex red wine with deep plum flavors and strong notes of lavender among other herbes de Provence.
This was such an incredible welcome dinner that I couldn't believe we still had five more days of indulging in truffles. It truly set the tone for expectations in the upcoming days.
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