By Stephen Ferry
Have you ever been curious about truffles? Novices and experienced connoisseurs alike will find plenty to inform their minds and entertain their palates at the fourth annual, Napa Truffle Festival, which will run January 17-20 this year.
Events will include winery, truffle lunches at Nickel & Nickel and Hall Wines, seminars covering truffle cultivation, business and cooking at the Westin Verasa, an elaborate Truffles & Wine Dinner at La Toque, where four Michelin-star chefs will work together to prepare one big, glorious, multi-course meal, and a Festival Marketplace at Oxbow Public Market that is free to
The Napa Truffle Festival is presented by the American Truffle Company, which was founded five years ago by ATC Managing Director, Robert Chang, and his partner, London-based, mycologist (fungi expert) and Chief Scientist, Dr. Paul Thomas.
Thomas has developed a method to cultivate black, European truffles, which are indigenous to Europe, but not to North America. Thomas works with partners around the globe to develop truffle orchards, and Chang is his partner for North America.
ATC has partnered with both the Napa County and Sonoma County Farm Bureaus to present a series of truffle cultivation seminars. All twelve seminars staged over the past couple of years have filled up.
Four years ago the, first truffle orchard in Napa was planted by Robert Sinskey in cooperation with ATC, and it serves as a demonstration truffle orchard for the Napa area, where anyone can make an appointment and view the progress of the planting.
A lot of truffle orchards have been planted across the US, but none are yet yielding fruit, as it usually takes at least five or six years for a truffle orchard to begin to bear fruit. Orchards started in other countries some years earlier under Thomas’s guidance have already started bearing fruit. Once established, a truffle orchard will require much less annual maintenance than a comparably sized winegrape planting, and the potential for profits is high. No chemicals are used in the propagation of ATC’s truffle orchards.
There are literally hundreds of species of truffles, but only a select few species of European, black truffle are really high-end. The most prized species is the Périgord truffle (Tuber melanosporum, aka ‘black diamonds’), which sells for big bucks – $800-$1,200 per pound. The Burgundy truffle (Tuber aestivum/uncinatum) fetches a slightly lower price, but yields more prodigiously. Either way, truffle orchards can be quite profitable.
In addition to reaching out to growers to generate interest in establishing truffle orchards, Chang’s American Truffle Company presents the Napa Truffle Festival each year as a way to reach out to the public and educate the consumer about the culinary aspects of truffles, particularly spotlighting the black, winter Périgord truffle. Chang first visited festivals in Oregon, North Carolina, Australia, and Europe, and then took what he saw as the best elements from each to create the Napa Truffle Festival.
The four Michelin-star chefs will converge from around the world. The host chef is Ken Frank of La Toque, who has been involved since the first Festival in 2010 and, this year, will be joined by: Alessandro Boglione, Executive Chef and Owner of Ristorante al Castello, Castello di Grinzane di Cavour, Italy; Carrie Nahabedian, Executive Chef and Owner of NAHA, Chicago, Illinois; and Jarad Gallagher, Executive Chef of Chez TJ in Mountain View, California.
On Monday, January 20 (Martin Luther King Day), all of the merchants of Oxbow Public Market will be offering their own truffle menu items for the Festival Marketplace between 10am to 2pm. Menu items will be sold à la carte, so that anyone can come and get a taste. The Marketplace is free to the public for browsing and purchasing truffle fare à la carte. Proceeds benefit the Napa Valley Food Bank/CAN-V.
There will also be free cooking demos, wine tastings, book signings, and other activities as well, including a chance to win a Marketplace Basket or a real black truffle. This is the perfect time for someone who has wondered about truffles, but maybe not actually tasted them, to come down and see what the buzz is all about.
Information about all of the Festival events and tickets are available on the Festival website: http://www.napatrufflefestival.com
Check out some of these offerings that will be available Monday, January 20th at the Oxbow Public Market:
Anette’s Chocolates Rustic, rolled, dark chocolate truffles with roasted almonds
Ca’ Momi Enoteca Pizza al tartufo, paired with 2012 Ca’Momi Pinot Noir, and a cooking demo at 12:30pm
C CASA Wild mushroom and goat cheese truffle enchilada, paired with Blue Plate Chenin Blanc
Cate & Company Bite-size truffled potato and zucchini quiche
The Fatted Calf Truffled pork crepinette, with Comte, caramelized onions, arugula and truffled aioli
Five Dot Ranch Beef ribeye carpaccio, with black truffle and celery root mousse
Gott’s Roadside French fries tossed in truffle butter, paired with Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut
Hog Island Oyster Bar Grilled truffled oyster
Kara’s Cupcakes Truffle festival, cookies and cream cupcakes, decorated with little pink pigs
Kitchen Door Cream of mushroom soup, with fresh, grated truffle AND Egg pappardelle with winter mushroom bolognese and fresh, grated truffle with poached egg, along with a cooking demo at 10:30am
Marshall’s Farm Hone Organic, gourmet honeys from the mountains, valleys, seacoasts, and backyards of the San Francisco Bay Area
The Model Bakery Wild mushroom-truffle, savory, bread pudding
Napa Valley Distillery Truffle-infused martini cocktail: Napa Valley Vintage Reserve Vodka, served with olives and cheese (includes a signature Napa Valley Distillery cocktail glass)
The Olive Press Fig, balsamic, caramel truffles AND Blood–orange, olive oil truffles
Oxbow Wine and Cheese Merchant House–truffled, Mt. Tam cheese
Pica Pica Arepa Kitchen Truffled yucca fries
Three Twins Ice Cream Organic, caramel-truffle-swirl ice cream, plus a special discount on all shakes
Whole Spice Truffled popcorn and fleur de sel