Something for Everyone at the Napa Truffle Festival

small truffle for WP

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 public.

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 

Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine Restaurant Review May 2012

Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine Restaurant Review May 2012

Ca’ Momi – Napa’s Amazing Italian Restaurant in the Oxbow Market

By Dorothy and John Salmon

W e stopped by the Oxbow Market recently and had dinner at Ca’ Momi.  It was incredible!  Ca’ Momi has some of the best, most authentic and most interesting Italian food anywhere. Saying that in Napa these days means that it has to really be good, since we now have some of the best Italian restaurants in Northern California. The Oxbow Market, on First Street in downtown Napa, is full of great food and fun places and lots of interesting people. Ca’ Momi is located across from Annette’s Chocolates, in the middle of an amazing food row. It is the ONLY Pizzeria in Napa to be officially certified by the Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN) Association, an Italian association that oversees the strict requirements of Neapolitan pizza making. Only five restaurants in California have made this prestigious list and fewer than sixty have received it in the United States. We understand why Ca’ Momi is beloved by REAL Italian foodies. Not only is the food really good, it is served by the staff and chefs with love, flair, and real “Napkin” homespun fun.  If you are lucky enough to be there when Bella is working, you are in for a real treat.

Bella was working the front counter the night we were there, and we had fun recalling Napa before wine and the Regusci family history, and what it was like growing up in Yountville when dairy farms and prune orchards outnumbered vineyards. Bella’s family dairy farm was located on the Silverado Trail near Yountville. If you want to know some great stories about Napa County’s past life, sit at the counter and talk to Bella (not her real name, but at Ca Momi, everyone has a favorite Italian name). While we were enjoying our meal, Bella was giving tips about Napa to a couple from New York City. It was pretty interesting to hear them rave about the food at Ca’ Momi, since New York City has a few great Italian restaurants of its own!

Ca’ Momi is Italian for “House of Momi.” It was named for local legend, Momi dea Bionda, and his obsession with his vineyards and house in northern Italy that now belong to the Ca’ Momi owners.  Owners, Dario De Conti, Valentina Guolo-Migotto, and Stefano Migotto believe that Momi’s protective spirit is still watching over their property. Their wines are a celebration of his passions and his quest for the simple pleasures of life. The wines that they sell, along with their pizza, pasta and the most incredible desserts in the Valley, are as good as their food! After making great wines for several years, the three owners decided to show Napa locals and visitors alike what a REAL Italian pizzeria was like; with wood fired Italian pizzas, traditional Italian pastries and terrific Italian wines, mostly theirs, with other wines from smaller regions in Italy. The pizzas are the best … and don’t you dare ask for red pepper flakes or parmesan cheese!

For all you Slow Food lovers, Ca’ Momi is a proud partner in the Slow Food movement in San Francisco and Napa. For our Italians in Napa, this is like being at home and, for those travelers who love Italy, it’s almost like being there.

We began our dinner with two of their great wines. Dorothy ordered the 2010 Double Gold SF Chronicle Wine Competition Zinfandel ($17.95). She thinks her son Rob’s Zinfandel is the best in the world, but this Zin is fabulous. John ordered the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc Silver Award winner ($17.95) that he thought was very good. While we were sipping our wine, talking to our neighbors from New York, and going down memory lane with Bella, we crunched on some amazing Schiacciata Al Rosmarino O All, ‘ Olio Pizza, flat bread, Sicilian sea salt and organic rosemary ($5.25). This stuff is REALLY habit forming.
For appetizers, John ordered Ca’ Momi’s famous asparagus soup (Crema Di Asparagi) garnished with Bellwether crème fraiche ($8.50) and Dorothy had the Verdure Artoste, oven roasted seasonal vegetables ($8.50).  Both were wonderful. For the main course, John ordered the Lasagne Alla Bolognese, pork, beef, tomato sauce, with parmigiano reggiano and besciamella sauce ($13.75). It was served piping hot in its own lovely glass baking dish. Dorothy ordered the Cannelloni Ricotta and Spinaci, spinach, Bellwether Jersey ricotta and besciamella sauce ($13.50). Everything was cooked to perfection, hot and tasty.

Bella went on and on about the desserts, so we had to try them for this review. If you believe that, then we are better story tellers than we think! We did not have to have our arms twisted to try the freshly baked, six Bigne’s ($8.95) and a Millefoglie ($8.00). Millefoglie is the Italian version of the French pastry Mille-feuille, which means a layered cake that can be filled with a number of delicious treats. We could have ordered a latte macchiato, a cappuccino or an Italian Macchiato if we could have put one more thing in our stomachs, but that was NOT possible after this dinner.

The ambiance of Ca’ Momi is wonderful, with reclaimed wood, corrugated metal and lots of everything Italian in a very small place that is bustling with excitement, and a staff of hard–working, very friendly people, who are there to make you happy. Try it!  Sit inside or outside and you will never be disappointed.

RECIPES

Spezzatino and Polenta

300 ml veggie broth or water
2 small diced carrots.
2 small diced yellow onions
2 small diced celery
1 garlic cloves, chopped
25 gr (1oz) butter
150 ml red wine (NO OAK), or Pinot Grigio
200 gr (4 oz.) lardo
400 gr (16 oz.)beef shoulder cut in 1 inch squares
250 gr (10 oz.) Christina tomatoes.
2 tsp dried rosemary
1 spring sage
salt
black pepper
flour as needed

Cut the meat into cubes, medium sized pieces. Once the meat is cut, toss it in the flour, set aside. Cut the lardo into small pieces.

Heat the oil and butter together, sauté all the veggies until onions are translucent. Add the meat and the dried rosemary. Cook it for about 20 minutes. Add the wine and let the alcohol to cook off. Smell it and taste it.

Transfer the Spezzatino to a deep hotel pan, tie up the bunch of sage and add the water and tomatoes, cover it with foil and put it in the oven for 3 ½ hours at 275 degrees. Taste the meat for doneness and salt; readjust the salt if needed. The meat should be tender and melt in your mouth. If we aren’t there just yet, give it another 40 minutes and try again. Yes, it is the best part of the dish, tasting over and over.

60 grs (4 oz.) polenta
1 cup of water
½ tbs salt

Heat water until boiling point, add the polenta and salt, whisking constantly.  Polenta will be done within 5 minutes.

Pour the polenta in the middle of a deep bowl, add the spezzatino around it, garnish with some micro basil and EVOO. Buon Apetito.