Chez Bruno is one of the most unique restaurants in the world, specializing in dishes that include one of the rarest and most prized ingredients: black truffles.
Nestled in the valley of the VAR region on the foothills of Lorgues overlooking rows of grapevines, rests the estate of Chef Bruno, which has been in his family for over two generations.
Chef Bruno transformed the house into a dining establishment that hosts one of the most luxurious experiences of the world.
A walk into the courtyard will reveal beautiful statues that reflect the simple graceful beauty of the region.
Inside Chez Bruno, following a quick tour of the house, we sat down to a lesson on truffles. On the plate were Perigord (black) truffles, and white truffles harvested within Provence. At $1200 per pound, resting on the the glass plate in front of me was a mighty fortune. We admired, studied and sniffed the specimen as I wondered how one goes about becoming an expert at this trade. My curiosity drifted, overcome and intoxicated by the complex aromas.
The glass plate of fresh truffles was pushed aside for our appetizer of sliced black winter truffles sauteed in house-made truffle oil, served over a toasted baguette, and slightly seasoned with fleur de sel.
I remember my teeth sinking into the warm earthy aromatic slices of truffles against the crisp lightly charred and buttery bread. A visceral glimpse of heaven was before me.
As we were eating, we listened to our host Patrick talk about the various truffles available. In particular, he showed us a white truffle that was harvested one month too early. He asked us to smell the white truffle, which everyone around the table agreed was wonderful. And then, Patrick did the most wonderful thing...something he's never done before.
He whisked the fresh truffles off the plate, and began to slice a generous tasting of several truffle varieties for each of us.
Homemade truffle oil was drizzled over the fresh truffles with a light sprinkling of fleur de sel.
The tasting was accompanied by three superb wines, two produced locally and one from Bordeaux.
A second appetizer arrived at the table. As I broke into the round flaky buttery pastry shell, earthy truffle aromas escaped. I found a whole Perigord truffle with a piece of uber-rich foie gras cradled together in the crust, all sitting in a luxurious brown truffle sauce. Decadent doesn't even begin to describe it. I think this may be one of the best things I've ever eaten in my life.
Following the truffle and foie gras appetizer, we were each served a potato ladled with black truffle cream sauce. Potato sounds so humble, and it is, but this particular potato underwent special treatment. Oven roasted for 2-3 hours, this tuber was immersed in a pampering that yielded a flavor so focused that it could only be described as the essence of a potato. An embodiment, if you will. The flesh was so delicate and tender that it crumbled as soon as my fork pierced its surface.
Of course, you didn't expect we were going to be served only a potato with truffle cream sauce, did you?
Just as soon as the plate was placed before us, Patrick sliced fresh black winter truffles, drizzled truffle oil and provided a small bowl of fleur de sel. This dish is representative of how truffles should be served, very simply with the freshest ingredients, so that it is allowed to shine in its glory. The potato was just a pedestal made worthy enough for the truffles to stand.
For our main course we were served four lamb steaks, well-aged, intense in flavor and incredibly tender. The lamb was sourced from a farm within 40 miles. It was such a shame, at this point I was so stuffed that I left three of the steaks on the plate. Such incredible food should never be wasted.
Following the rich tender steaks, we took a respite with a refreshing pink grapefruit ice cream.
Of course the break wasn't long before we resumed the feast with French vanilla ice cream profiteroles studded with toasted nuts served on a pool of chocolate sauce. I was stuffed but managed to finish the creamy desserts, proving there is always room for dessert.
At this point, I was totally stuffed. I looked at the wooden board holding cookies and chocolate truffles warily before me. Took a small nibble of each and was done for the day. It was about at this time when Chef Bruno came to our table, and place his hand on my right shoulder. I instinctively knew who he was, turned to him and gave him a big hug. He asked about our lunch, and needless to say there was only praise.
Chef Bruno moved onto the next table. I stared down into my friend's champagne glass and wondered how a slice of truffle got into her flute. Before I could ask, Chef Bruno returned to the table, and planted a kiss on my forehead, and left. I squealed in delight.
Patrick, our host came back to the table, and told me that Chef Bruno previously wasn't having a great morning, but he told the staff that my hug made his day. This remains my favorite and most special memory of the trip.
Following lunch we took a tour of Chez Bruno's kitchen. Pierre is pointing out the distinct qualities of various tiles from local regions.
I noticed a sign that Pierre translated, which was a beautiful saying, but I don't remember it now. If anyone knows what it means, please let me know.
There were rows of beautiful copper pots and garlic braided in long strands. I can't wait to return to this special restaurant again, but I'm glad to have been able to experience it at least once in my life.
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