We went to the Mundaring Truffle Festival on Saturday. It was our first time going to truffle festival and we had a great time. Lots of local produce, delicious dishes featuring truffle, happy truffle dogs and my favourite item of the day: chicken and truffle ice cream. Yes, chicken and truffle ice cream. I’ll tell you more about it later in this post.
The truffle is a black fungus that grows underground, attached to the roots of oak and hazelnut trees that have been specially innoculated with the truffle spores. It’s a rare and sought after delicacy, sold for around AU$3000 a kilogram. The climate of South West Western Australia is ideal for truffle orchards (called “trufferies”) and in WA, Perigord black truffles are grown in Manjimup. Truffle harvest takes place in winter, which in the southern hemisphere is June to August.
The Mundaring Truffle Festival was started five years ago by Alain Fabrègues, chef-owner of The Loose Box restaurant in Mundaring in the Perth hills (around 40 minutes’ drive from Perth). The festival is not just a celebration of the truffle – it is also a celebration of food grown, farmed and produced in Western Australia. It’s a festival for food lovers, cooks and eaters.
I find the distinct flavour and aroma of black truffles very appealing, rich and savoury. A friend describes it as “chocolatey and earthy”. Another says it’s “sexy and intoxicating”! How would you describe the flavour and aroma of black truffles?
The festival was promoted as an all-weather event that would go ahead rain or shine (raincoats strongly recommended). We made plans to go with our friends J and S who live in Mundaring, along with their kids. It had rained heavily in the past week with more storms and strong winds forecast for the weekend and on Saturday morning I wasn’t sure if I wanted to brave the bad weather. In the end, we did get rained on a few times but managed to avoid getting caught in the heaviest rain. My main concern was my camera – I need to get a new raincoat and spent much of the day protecting the camera with my jumper. Thankfully, my camera made it through the day mostly dry and safe.
Nestled among the trees were the Fresh Truffle Market and Gourmet Produce Market. First, we sampled truffle oil and truffle butter on crackers.
Then, truffle mustard, and truffle honey which was sweet with the distinct savoury hit of truffle flavour.
The Mushroom Growers Association was cooking up mushrooms topped with tomato and cheese. We hadn’t eaten breakfast and were absolutely starving! We couldn’t resist getting a serving of mushrooms fresh off the grill (AU$2).
At the Rochelle Adonis stall I sampled butterscotch curd and passionfruit curd, and their exclusive show special, Truffella, chocolate hazelnut spread infused with truffle. I love Nutella/chocolate hazelnut spread – the truffle took it to a new level of indulgence. But at AU$20 a jar I decided not to get any.
The butterfly cakes looked beautiful and came in two flavours, butterscotch and passionfruit. But I was more interested in the truffle infused dark chocolate macarons (AU$3 each).
The macaron was not overly sweet, which I liked. The truffle came through in the aftertaste.
At the Appadene Truffles stall, we sampled truffle risotto made from a special package of two cans – one of uncooked arborio rice, the other of truffle and mushroom stock. The sample risotto tasted so good we were convinced to buy a can (AU$15) – I’ll tell you how it turns out, of course! We also sampled fresh salmon in truffled ponzu dressing, which was delicious.
There were fresh Appadene truffles for sale at AU$2.70 per gram. They were packaged in lots ranging between AU$40 to $102.
I had a nice chat with Arnaud Courtin, founder of the York Olive Oil Co, who proudly showed off his handmade chocolate truffles. York Olive Oil Co produce more than olive oil – they also make tapenade, jam and marmalade, ice cream and chocolates.
These are chocolate truffles with Cointreau.
Arnaud’s handmade Belgian chocolate truffles were so pretty. I bought a box of twelve for AU$12. I went to York many years ago for school camp – haven’t been back since. I promised Arnaud if I ever visit York again, I’ll visit his shop :).
You may remember Chillin’ out in WA from the Good Food & Wine Show Perth. They were at the truffle festival too, with plenty of chilli sauces to taste and fresh hot chilli salted chips to sample.
Another stall we saw at the Good Food & Wine Show was Cambinata Yabbies. They specialise in bottled yabbies and abalone in different flavours: lemon, chilli and spices.
We’ve enjoyed Bare Crush‘s fruit juice icy poles in summer (and many kids were still enjoying the icy poles even on this cool rainy day) but today we tried Bare Crush’s fruit sauces and jams. I liked the passionfruit jam, complete with crunchy passionfruit pips. Jac bought one of those tall bottles of raspberry strawberry topping.
The tastings so far were good, but we wanted more hot savoury food. I wanted to eat more truffle! We went to the Food Piazza where lots of truffle-themed dishes available, some from Perth restaurants.
The first tasty morsel we tried was a wild mushroom and truffle pie (AU$4) from Creative Catering. The pie looked gorgeously hand-formed and smelled wonderful.
It was piping hot and I burned my mouth on a juicy piece of mushroom with my first bite. You could definitely taste the flavour of truffle in the filling.
But the dish I most wanted to try was at the Must Winebar stall – the chicken and truffle ice cream (AU$5). There were other delicious-sounding dishes on the menu, including chicken sliders with fetta and truffle mayonnaise and chicken boudin sausage. But I only had eyes for the ice cream.
So…how to describe chicken and truffle ice cream? It’s more savoury than sweet. If you’ve eaten truffle before, you’ll recognise the distinct, savoury truffle flavour. The ice cream is made from a chicken stock base, cream, egg yolks, truffle slivers and dark chocolate shavings and has a rich creamy flavour. I thought it was delicious – I’d eat it again. Jac tried it and said while it was pleasant enough, she wouldn’t have it again – she just couldn’t get used to a savoury ice cream.
Jac had her eye on the pate de foie from The Loose Box’s stall. Delicious plates were laid out, ready to go, including the pate, brie truffle and tarte aux pommes (apple tart), all for AU$5 each.
The pate came in a cup topped with a layer of aspic in which a thin slice of truffle was suspended, looking like a black storm cloud. It was served with a chunk of crusty baguette. Jac enjoyed the pate very much but there wasn’t enough bread. She went back to ask if she could buy more bread, and they gave her another piece for free.
Jac and I were keen to order a pork dish from the Linley Valley pork stand. But which one? We narrowed it down to a shortlist of two: pork belly with truffle, crackle dust and apple sauce (AU$10) or crumbed pork loin with Manjimup black truffle, citrus and parmesan, served with very creamy mashed potato (AU$10). Watching the pork rib eye being served up with crispy sauteed potatoes didn’t help the decision either!
Also on the menu were Linley Valley steamed pork buns with shitaki mushrooms and truffle oil, which looked great too.
In the end, pork belly won the day. The cubes of pork were beautifully tender, with a soft layer of fat in the middle that melted in the mouth. This dish was the creation of chef Stephen Clarke of Clarke’s of North Beach, where we dined recently. The salty truffled crackle dust, crisp delicate crackling spirals and the sweet apple sauce all went perfectly with the pork.
We didn’t have any of the Dorper lamb tagine at Meeka Restaurant‘s stall as I had my eye on other more truffley things, but it did look and smell good.
I wanted some truffle risotto. Earlier, I’d watched the finishing touches – knobs of butter and grated parmesan cheese – being added to the truffle and mushroom risotto at Taste Budds Cooking Studio’s stall.
I now watched with greedy anticipation as the chef garnished my risotto with a sprinkling of fresh parsley, more grated parmesan and grated fresh truffle.
I thought the rice needed a little more cooking, but the risotto was deliciously mushroomy, with extra savoury richness of truffle.
At noon, we joined the crowd at the Amphitheatre for the truffle dog demonstration. There were three truffle dogs: Digit, a German shorthaired pointer; Roxy a black labrador, the least experienced and possibly most excited of the three; and the most experienced of the three, Errol, a yellow labrador.
We were shown some of the basic exercises used in training a dog to find truffles. When the dog finds the target item – in this case, a tea towel in which truffle was enclosed – the trainer plays a game with him or her. This is so the dog begins to associate finding truffles (or objects with the truffle aroma) with rewards and happy times. Errol had a great game and was clearly enjoying himself.
Traditionally in France, pigs were used to find truffles as they are natural foragers and diggers. The only problem with using pigs is they like to eat the truffles when they find them! Dogs are a better choice as they’re more interested in the hunt and the praise/reward they get for finding the truffles, not the truffles themselves. Quite hilariously and to the dismay of the trainers, Digit the German shorthaired pointer threw this theory out the window by finding the truffle worth AU$50 buried in this dish…and gobbling it up before anyone could stop him!
After the demo, we got to meet and pat the truffle dogs.
Roxy especially loved the attention and flopped down on her back to expose her tummy for rubs.
Digit looked very serious compared to the other two, who have naturally smiley faces. But you could tell he liked the attention too.
After watching the truffle dog demo, we were ready to recommence eating and headed back to the Food Piazza. I went to the Choux Cafe stall in search of truffle macarons. I’ve not been to Choux Cafe in Swanbourne, but many people have told me they make great macarons.
The Choux Cafe pastries looked lovely and it smelled so wonderfully buttery at the stall. These were the prices for the pastries in the morning.
Later in the day, they reduced the price to $2.50.
The truffle macarons were AU$5 each. $5 is a lot to pay for a macaron, but I got one to complete my truffle festival experience.
We all went to the Mundaring Hotel for a drink, me carefully carrying my precious truffle macaron. The pub was within the festival grounds, which was handy (it provided another place to shelter from the rain too). While Jac went to get our drinks, I photographed the macaron. When she returned, we shared it.
I thought it would have a much stronger truffle flavour. You could certainly see the little black specks of truffle in the macaron shell and throughout the cream filling, but it had quite a mild flavour overall. It was nice enough as far as macarons go, but I was a little disappointed by the lack of truffle oomph.
We had a browse through the cookbooks and other food and wine-related books at the Boffins book stall. There were book signings by celebrity chef-authors throughout the weekend.
Earlier that day, we’d seen the cinnamon bun tower at Spiral Cinnamon’s stall.
Jac knows how much I love cinnamon buns and bought one for me. She knew I’d have been devastated if I went home without trying one!
I still wanted more truffle, so we shared a serve of Incontro‘s fish and chips with truffle mayonnaise. The fish was Carvavon mackerel, freshly deep-fried and served with chips and a container of truffle mayonnaise for dipping.
The batter was so crispy, the fish inside white and delicate.
I loved the truffle mayonnaise, but I think by this time Jac had reached her limit and was all truffled out, which meant more for me! Initially I’d thought this was a measly serving of truffle mayonnaise but it was very rich and was more than enough. Interestingly, I didn’t reach truffle coma stage – it felt more like truffle contentment.
Our friend J really enjoyed the fish and chips too. Her daughter B ordered the ravioli with mushroom and truffle (AU$10), served with a sprinkling of chopped parsley, grated parmesan and freshly shaved truffle.
French patisserie and boulangerie Jean Pierre Sancho had a stall, with free truffle bread to sample (it tasted like regular well-baked bread but with a truffle aftertaste) and dishes for sale that included truffle and chestnut veloute for AU$8 and gourmet brioche sandwich with Toulouse sausage from Mondo Butcher, saute d’oignon (sauteed onions) and truffle dijonnaise (AU$10).
The loaves of bread looked deliciously crusty as usual.
They had various macarons for sale but none labeled as truffle macarons, though these ones looked interesting.
It seems I was not the only one mesmerised by the macarons.
These girls were from the Tourism Malaysia marquee. We missed their dance but managed to sneek a very quick peek at Chef Wan‘s cooking demonstration as we passed the marquee.
We finished the day with fresh and healthy drinks from 100% Smoothies.
Jac and I shared a large Yellow Tropic, made with pineapple, banana, orange, apple and honey, sprinkled with dessicated coconut.
In its first year, around 3,000 people attended the Mundaring Truffle Festival. The number of attendees has been increasing every year and last year, over 21,000 people attended the festival. There was a decent-sized crowd on Saturday but I reckon there would’ve been many more people if it had been a sunny day.
We thought the stalls were laid out really well, with plenty of space and room to move. There were plenty of tables to sit at to eat in the Food Piazza. Between rain periods, festival volunteers wiped tables and chairs down.
Andy’s Bratwurst Hut was at the festival too. As tempting as currywurst was, I was here for truffles!
The areas around the Fresh Truffle Market and Gourmet Produce Market became quite muddy from all the rain and we trudged carefully to avoid slipping. Twice, I narrowly avoided being splashed by children in wellie boots jumping excitedly into mud puddles!
There were additional ticketed events that included a special truffle-themed long lunch on each day of the festival and special cookery and butchery sessions with tastings, matching wines and of course, truffles. All of those sounded brilliant but I enjoyed experiencing the festival without an itinerary. We were focused on eating and tasting and didn’t sit in on any of the free cooking demos and discussions. There were plenty of free samples and lots of reasonably priced dishes featuring truffles.
Will I go again? For sure!
Did you go to the Mundaring Truffle Festival? What was your favourite truffle dish?
Mundaring Truffle Festival
Weekend 30 – 31 July 2011
Entry was $12.50 adults (pre-purchased through BOCS) or $15 at the gate
Children under 16 free, pensioners $10 at the gate