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Try Truffle Brie or a Truffle Beer this weekend
The highly anticipated Truffle Festival is back for another year with more events, dinners, truffle hunts and cooking classes for the community to get involved in. Canberra is in a unique location, with the same weather and conditions as the famous truffle-growing regions in Europe. Each year the Truffle Festival shines a spotlight on this highly prized delicacy growing around the Canberra region and organises events and tastings for all to enjoy.
Here in the Canberra region, it is the Périgord Truffle (or Black Truffle) that is grown, named after the Périgord region in France. Truffles are a sugary fruiting body that are attached to an underground fungus that particularly like to grow near the roots of oak and hazelnut trees in Canberra's winter months. They have a mutually beneficial relationship with a host tree, where the truffles give the tree nutrients from the soil and in return receive sugars to help them grow. They only last 12 days under the ground once formed, so it is imperative that the dogs sniff them out before they spoil.
Traditionally pigs were used in Europe to hunt out the pungent smell of the truffle under the ground, however it was a battle to capture the prized truffle before the pig ate them. Dogs are now commonly used as they enjoy the hunt but don't try to eat the rewards!
What do they taste like? Black truffles have often been described as earthy, mushroom-like and pungent. Only a small amount is needed to add the flavour to the meal, however if too much is added it overpowers the meal and ruins the whole dish. If you join a truffle hunt at the festival you get a chance to try a small piece at the end and savour the taste. Canberra's top restaurants and wineries will also have their own truffle menus throughout the festival, so perhaps enjoy a meal cooked by an expert, who will use it sparingly and delicately.
Truffle infused Brie at Mount Majura Vineyard. Source: Truffle Festival 2016 website
Eat & Drink
As mentioned above, restaurants and wineries around the city will be hosting dinners and events throughout the festival. For example, Bicicletta restaurant in NewActon will be showcasing truffles in weekly specials and Buvette Bistro and Wine Bistro at Hotel Realm will have their own Truffle Menu during the festival.
If you enjoy a Pinot Noir then perhaps try the Pinot and Truffle Menu at the scenic Lerida Estate Winery at Lake George. Mount Majura Vineyard will also be offering truffle infused triple cream brie from Nowra's Flinders Estate. This delicious piece of brie is then expertly matched to one of their wines, depending on your tastes.
If you want to try something different, BentSpoke Brewery are making their own truffle infused beer to taste throughout the festival. They have created a Hopinator, which will be full of fresh truffles and will infuse their hand-crafted beer prior to pouring into a glass. See the Truffle Festival website for more restaurants involved in the festival for 2016.
The Hopinator at BentSpoke Brewery. Source: Truffle Festival 2016 website
If you would like to learn how to cook with truffles, there will be a range of classes held throughout the festival to learn how to draw out the unique flavour of these delicacies. 3 Seeds at Fyshwick Markets and Foodish at Belconnen will both be taking classes to learn how to cook with the truffle and use it subtly in dishes. There are also children's cooking classes for the kids to get in on the winter truffle fun.
3 Seeds Cooking School. Source: Truffle Festival 2016 Facebook
Why not take a trip over the border to the historical town of Bungadore and visit Le Très Bon, an authentic French restaurant and cooking school with a black truffle connection inside. Master French chef, Christophe Gregoire, actually grew up in the Perigord region, home to their world famous truffles and the same variety grown locally here. He will be running classes and the restaurant will be hosting their own Truffle menu. See here for more details on the Truffle classes to be held around the region.
Whilst at Bungadore, why not include a truffle hunt into the itinerary at Turalla Truffles. Each Sunday morning they hold a truffle hunt where you can join the dogs in hunting down these allusive delicacies and then finish with a taste and a shot of truffle-infused vodka to warm you up. On Hunt and Cook days they will also include a cooking demonstration and truffle lunch afterwards.
Just 20 minutes north of the city in Sutton is Blue Frog Truffle Farm, who will be conducting truffle hunts on Wednesdays and Sundays. The Truffle Farm in Majura, here in the ACT, will also be conducting truffle hunts with their special hunting dogs and also hosting lunches afterwards with hatted chef Damian Brabender.
See here for the full list of truffle hunts happening around the region and here for the Events Calendar each week.
There it is! Source: Truffle Festival 2016 website
Winter can be a frosty few months in Canberra, with minus temperatures overnight and crisp days. It is these exact conditions that make the surrounding countryside the ideal place for these unique delicacies to grow and flourish. Canberra is fortunate to have the Truffle Festival held in the region each year, so we can all have a taste of the delicacy that many people cross the globe to try.
Why not book a truffle hunt or attend an event this weekend and take advantage of this region's very own black gold.
If you try one during the festival and would like to share your thoughts on the taste, please leave a comment on the bottom of this article to let us know. Some say once you have tried it, you will want to experience it again. What did you think?