It’s winter, which means it’s the month for truffles, and we’re heading to Cucina Vivo in The Star Gold Coast to enjoy a ‘truffle feast’.
It’s been a slow love affair for me. To be perfectly honest, you’d never pick a truffle for a first date! A large, darkish blob covered in wart-like nodules hiding away between the roots of oak and hazel trees, a truffle is not ‘a thing of beauty’, at least not to the eye.
Taste? That’s another matter! With an intoxicating aroma and exquisite flavour, the truffle has been consumed for over 3,000 years, loved by the ancient Greeks and Romans and even attributed therapeutic and erotic powers. Truffles have been variously referred to as ‘black gold’ (due to its value; around $2500 per kilo) and ‘the diamond of the kitchen’ (French gourmet Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin).
To chefs, the Black Truffle “is considered the finest of the edible fungi and has a place in gastronomy alongside saffron, caviar, foie gras and the finest of wines… the most valuable property of the French black truffle is its capacity to flavour with its perfume any dish which it’s cooked in for some time.” (Elizabeth David, food writer)
Highly prized in France, Spain and Italy, truffles are a relatively new agricultural industry in Australia, the first being harvested in 1999 in Tasmania after almost a decade in cultivation. Australia is now the fourth largest producer of truffles in the world, following France, Italy and Spain.
Cultivated from the spores of French Périgord truffles, Cucina Vivo’s chefs are using our finest truffles, sourced from Tasmania, as a feature on their menu for the month of July.
We order three truffle delights, the first two as entrées: Seared scallops on creamed leek with lobster bisque and fresh truffle, and Venison carpaccio with parsnip purée, roasted eschallots, smoked garlic and fresh truffle, accompanied by a delicious Truffletini cocktail made on truffle-infused vodka and Cointreau with peach and anise syrup balanced with a lime citrus twist.
While the scallops and venison would be standout dishes on any menu, the third dish, a 100-day aged, pasture fed Roasted beef tenderloin from NSW is superbly cooked to melt in your mouth perfection. Complemented by foie gras butter, truffle jus, Paris mash and wilted spinach, it’s our ‘dish of the night’; the best beef we’ve had in quite some time. Even fresh snapper, as perfect as it is, does not knock the beef from its perch.
Topping the experience off is the impeccable service. Casual enough to have a chat, nothing is too much trouble.
For those who haven’t tasted a truffle, it’s the ultimate umami experience. Gareth Renowden describes the flavour in The Truffle Book:
“…musty and sweet, a very intense mushroom smell overlaid with other notes, especially what wine tasters call ‘forest floor’. It cooperates with the flavours in food enhancing and intensifying them. A steak with truffle sauce becomes more meaty, eggs are transformed into a gourmet item, and every aspect of the meal becomes more satisfying.” http://trufflegrowers.com.au/understanding-truffles/
Perhaps that’s one of the secrets of our meal at Cucina Vivo!
Truffles also feature on Kiyomi’s menu for the month of July, so make your choice: a superb Italian feast or state-of-the-art Japanese!
Dining out on truffles is a bit like a very long distance love affair, really. You have to wait to fulfil your passion. While we’ve had our fill (for now), you’ll have to be quick! The shelf life of the truffle is short-lived, and so is their season, with this menu finishing at the end of July. After that, you’ll have to wait another year…
More details of Cucina Vivo’s Truffle Month can be found on their website. Available July 1 – July 31, 2016.
Cucina Vivo is open for dinner Tuesday – Saturday, 5.30pm – late.
Kiyomi is open for dinner Monday – Saturday, 5.30pm – late.
NOTE: Good Food Gold Coast dined as a guest of Cucina Vivo.
Truffle picture from Wikipedia used under Creative Commons license.