Truffle Kerfuffle is a celebration of the Périgord black truffle, held at Fonty’s Pool in the Western Australian country town of Manjimup, the heart of truffle country where 70% of Australia’s truffle harvest is produced. In this its third year, the one-day festival is the result of the hard work, dedication and commitment of truffle growers, the local community and volunteers. While truffles are the focus, the festival also serves as a showcase for the Southern Forests region and its fantastic produce.
Manjimup is approximately 307km south from Perth (around 3.5 hours by car, with a toilet stop). It’s a very green, picturesque part of Western Australia, with a climate similar to the truffle-growing regions of France. The Australian truffle season runs from late May through to early September, so now’s prime truffle time.
The weather forecast for Truffle Kerfuffle was for a chilly day with rain developing and increasing during the day. We dressed accordingly – all rugged up with spray jackets and boots, anticipating rain, cold winds and muddy ground. Amazingly, despite the grey skies and dark clouds, the rain didn’t come until Sunday, when the festival was over. And then, it poured!
There were around 45 farmers market and food stalls, with a dozen or so outdoors on the lawn and the majority undercover in marquees. Local wineries represented at the festival included Picardy Wines, Woodgate Wines, Timeless Hill Estate, Lost Lake Wines, Peos Estate, Silkwood Wines and Truffle Hill. There were wines to taste, food products to sample, and of course, fresh truffles for sale.
The Farmers Market marquee was very busy all day, difficult to move through at times, very challenging to take photographs! We stocked up on Holy Smoke smoked salmon and smoked chicken dips, and Sally’s Lane sparkling grape juice, made from hand-picked grapes from the Middlesex Valley of Western Australia. Sally’s Lane Shiraz is my pick of the bunch.
The Colonial Brewery bar poured beers on tap and served wine, cider and soft drinks. Nearby, Bello Cafe pumped out the coffees. They were unbelievably busy and I wasn’t patient enough to wait for coffee. Later I found out they’d come armed with two coffee machines but one had broken down early in the day.
Once you escaped the crowded tents, there was gorgeous Fonty’s Pool. Plenty of room to sit with a beer or glass of wine, relax, people-watch or just enjoy the crisp air.
There were two demonstration marquees on the go. First, the Australian Good Food Guide Demo Kitchen, with six masterclasses held over the course of the day, each session (tickets AU$40 each) led by two chefs, including Perth chef heroes David Coomer (Star Anise, Pata Negra and Xarcuteria), Kiren Mainwaring (Dear Friends and Co-Op Dining), Shane Watson (Print Hall), Russell Blaikie (MUST Winebar and Muster Bar & Grill Margaret River) and Hadleigh Troy (Restaurant Amusé), along with visiting chef Shinichi Maeda (Sake Restaurant and Bar, Brisbane).
It was free to enter the From Paddock to Plate marquee, where local produce was the focus, with a hands-on cooking class for kids; cooking demonstrations with Simon Bryant (ABC’s The Cook and the Chef), Aaron Carr (Vasse Felix) and Al Blakers (Manjimup Truffles); a session on local food and wine matches with Katie Masters, winemaker at Lost Lake Wines in Pemberton and two Michelin Star chef Shane Osborn; a Truffles 101 lecture and a truffle dog demonstration.
Truffle hunts were AU$40 per person and held every half hour between 10am and 3pm, alternating between two trufferies, Wine & Truffle Co and Manjimup Truffles. Although Jac and I had experienced the exhilaration of a truffle hunt last year, we were keen to do it again. Last year, we went to the Wine & Truffle Co, the largest producer of black truffles in the southern hemisphere; this time, we opted to jump on the shuttle bus with eager truffle hunters to Manjimup Truffles, WA’s oldest trufferie.
Our truffle hunting guide was Ben Blakers. His father Al Blakers is a truffle industry celebrity, known locally as the King of the Truffle. Once a potato farmer, Al took a punt in 1997 when he innoculated around 1,300 oak and hazelnut trees with truffle spores in the hope of producing Western Australia’s first black truffles. Al’s wildest dreams came true, and the Manjimup black truffle is now a prized delicacy that sells for nearly AU$3000 per kg.
Ben introduced us to Latte, a happy-go-lucky roly-poly truffle dog.
When I was five years old and my mum asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I told her I wanted to be a dog like our dog Toby. Now I think when I grow up, I want to be a truffle dog like Latte.
Back at Fonty’s Pool, it was lunch time (though yes, for some of us, it was pretty much non-stop eating all day). There was plenty of undercover seating for those who preferred it to being outdoors.
We left the festival just before 4pm for a rest at our motel room before returning for the Truffle Kerfuffle Gala Dinner. Our dinner tickets got us a ride on the complimentary shuttle bus to/from the dinner. The Gala Dinner had sold out in just a week and so tonight, this was THE hottest ticket in town.
Amuse bouche: Salt-baked celeriac mayonnaise with Pata Negra ham and truffle by Shane Osborn of St Betty’s Hong Kong
Matching wine: Lost Lake Amici Sparkling 2009
A wonderful start to the meal – deceptively simple yet spectacularly delicious – my first taste of truffle for the season. I could’ve eaten half a dozen of these.
Soup: Truffled duck soup ‘cappucino’ with truffle brioche by Russell Blaikie of MUST Wine Bar and Muster Bar & Grill Margaret River
Matching wine: Bellarmine Riesling 2010
Beneath the frothy layer of cream was a rich, dark duck broth. More, please! The soup was served in an espresso cup; I’d have loved an enormous mug, and a truffle brioche the size of a burger bun. Chef Russell Blaikie was on Masterchef Australia this week, where he cooked seared duck breast with pumpkin puree, fennel crisp and Madeira jus – watch the video here. By the way, Perth readers – if you liked the look of Russell’s dish, it’s currently available at MUST Winebar as a special (AU$43). If you’d just like to try those fennel crisps, you can order them at the bar, served with lemon aioli (AU$8).
Entree: Chawan-mushi with marron and truffle by Shinichi Maeda, Sake Restaurant & Bar Brisbane
Matching wine: Tokubetu Junmai Miyamanishiki Sake
The first three courses were my favourites from the night, and this was a stunner. The chawan-mushi (Japanese savoury steamed egg custard) was exquisitely soft, silky smooth, and loaded with treasure: three succulent pieces of marron tail meat and juicy mushrooms, topped with slices of fresh truffle.
Our charming Gala Dinner MC Alice Zaslavsky (from Masterchef Australia 2012) introduced the chefs, who each emerged from the kitchen to talk about his dish and answer any questions from the crowd.
Fish course: Herring, finger lime and bone marrow by Kiren Mainwaring of Dear Friends and Co-Op Dining
Matching wine: Chestnut Grove Chardonnay 2010
The fish course looked like modern art and to be honest, didn’t hold much visual appeal for me when the plate was placed in front of me. But it’s always important to have an open mind. When eaten all together, the various elements on the plate made a wonderful flavour combination. The locally caught smoked herring was delicate, the tart finger limes popped pleasurably and the orange smear on the plate, we discovered, was slow-cooked egg yolk.
Main course: Chicken, roots and fruits by Hadleigh Troy of Restaurant Amuse
Matching wine: Woodgate Reserve Shiraz 2011
Our main course consisted of individual plates of chicken served with shared vegetables.
The most interesting of the vegetables and a favourite at our end of the table was the whole celeriac, baked in a salt crust.
We passed the other vegetables around: Brussels sprouts with toasted pumpkin seeds, heirloom carrots and a jar of richly flavoured mashed potato. The “fruits” were chestnuts and preserved quince. I was pleased the main meat course was chicken for a change – so often at degustation dinners, it’s red meat. There was a lively discussion at our table on the chosen wine pairing for the chicken.
Dessert: Wattleseed tiramisu with shaved fresh truffle by Simon Bryant of The Cook and the Chef and Sophie Budd from Taste Budds Cooking Studio
Matching wine: St Aidan ‘Cassie’ Moscato 2010 – the only glass of wine I finished! I really like dessert wine.
The wattleseed added a subtle savoury note to the tiramisu. Before my spoon hit the layer of sponge at the bottom, surprise! Crunchy chocolate pieces. I liked this more than Jac did – she prefers dessert to be sweet – after polishing off my jar, I helped her finish hers.
Despite the generous use of truffle in dishes, I didn’t leave burping truffles or with a truffle coma like I’d expected. We left well fed and satisfied. There were 210 guests at the dinner, and the floor staff looked after us very well. There was a feeling of great joy and community around the room; we didn’t know everyone but felt like we were among friends.
During the day and at the dinner, we met and talked with people who’d come to TK from all over the state as well as from Perth. Jac had a chat with someone from Brisbane who was on a caravan trip across Australia – they’d heard about Truffle Kerfuffle on country radio, worked out they’d be in the vicinity at just the right time and made a plan to come to the festival. We met a few truffle virgins at the Gala Dinner – by the end of the meal, they were happy truffle believers!
As we sat back, spoons in empty jars and bellies a little rounder, the chefs assembled to receive to our thunderous applause and gifts (among them, truffles) from the organisers of Truffle Kerfuffle, presented by the Minister for Tourism Dr Kim Hames.
My images give just a taste of what was available at the festival. Around 3,000 people attended the Truffle Kerfuffle daytime event for 2013. We thought it was a very well organised event and had a brilliant time. The farmers market did get somewhat claustrophobic at its peak, but we understand – winter weather makes an indoor farmers market a wise choice. For most people from Perth, TK is probably best experienced with at least a night’s stay in Manjimup or one of the surrounding towns such as Pemberton, rather than as a day trip – so it does require a level of commitment and planning. But what a fabulous reward!
Thanks to Truffle Kerfuffle for providing us with media passes to the daytime event, which allowed us to access all areas and activities, and for paying for one night’s accommodation at Kingsley Motel in Manjimup.
We paid for a second night’s accommodation and our Gala Dinner tickets as well as all the food, drinks and products we purchased at Truffle Kerfuffle.
Truffle Kerfuffle was held on Saturday 22 June 2013
- 10am to 4pm at Fonty’s Pool, Manjimup, approx 3.5 hours by car from Perth, with one toilet stop
- Tickets AU$15 online pre-purchase, AU$20 at the gate
- Children under 12 years – free entry with accompanying adult
- Wine tasting glasses were AU$10 each on the day
- Truffle hunts and cooking masterclasses were AU$40 per person
- Plenty of free parking onsite
- Mobile reception is patchy – be warned, especially if you’re a serial tweeter or Instagrammer!
- Gala dinner tickets were AU$220 per person, including matching wines. The menu was not available at the time of booking, but tickets sold out within a week. The Colonial Brewery bar was available at the dinner for those who preferred beer to wine (bar purchases additional to ticket cost)
- To be the first to find out about Truffle Kerfuffle 2014, sign up for the TK mailing list (a little birdie tells me it could possibly be over two days next year – still to be confirmed)
Still hungry for truffles?
- The Fremantle Markets Truffle Festival is on 13-14 July
- Truffle hunts are on every weekend until 1 September at the Wine & Truffle Co in Manjimup. The Wine & Truffle Co has fresh truffles and other truffle-related products for sale at their online store (shipping within Australia only). Their truffle honey is wonderful on a toasted crumpet or bagel with loads of butter. And their hazelnuts in truffle honey… phwoarsome.
- See my blog post about going on a truffle hunt last year (note: the tour format may now vary)
- Keep an eye out for special truffle dinners at restaurants around Perth as chefs take advantage of the truffle season. If you know of a truffle dining event or special truffle menu available at any Perth restaurants, feel free to share!
Note: the Mundaring Truffle Festival remains cancelled.