Story by Manos Angelakis
Photos by Rina Oh

James Beard Foundation Manos and Jamie Conahan .jpeg

It’s Truffle Season!

French gastronome writer Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin called truffles "the  diamond of the kitchen". Early November is the beginning of the white  truffle (tuber magnatum) season in Italy as well as some parts of  Croatia and Slovenia; black summer truffles known in Italy as scorzone  -- the more common Italian truffle variety -- are in season from May to  mid September and are harvested in many mountainous Italian regions. Of  course, the Périgord truffle, also black and named after the French  region that they grow in, are available from early autumn to early  winter and are the second most popular truffles after the white ones.

A few days ago I was invited to the Mecca for American gastronomes and  oenophiles, the James Beard House, for a truffle dinner to celebrate the launch of Canvas Blanc de Blancs Spumante, a sparkling addition to the  Canvas portfolio of fine wines that offers fresh flavors paired with fruity aromas; the dinner was a collaboration between the Hyatt Hotel Group and the  Michael Mondavi family. Dina Mondavi, Michael’s daughter and an upcoming wine star in her own right, presided over the festivities. The Canvas  Blanc de Blancs is produced in the Veneto by Villa Sandi, one of the  better prosecco producers and is imported in the US by Folio Fine Wine  Partners. 

James Beard Foundation Chef Pfefferkorn in the Kitchen2

The Hyatt Hotel’s Culinary Director Martin Pfefferkorn was in charge at the Beard House kitchen, assisted by chefs and sous chefs from other Hyatt  kitchens around the country including New York City’s Grand Hyatt.  Considering the size of the Beard House kitchen, I think it is a miracle that food of that exceptional quality always comes out to enchant the  guests. 

James Beard Foundation Canvas Brut Blanc de Blanc

We were offered a glass of Canvas Blanc de Blancs on arrival to accompany  the appetizers. The wine is a dry, clean, fragrant, highly pleasant  sparkler with a taste that reminds of a good Prosecco, but is slightly  lighter and not as dry as Villa Sandi’s other line of Proseccos. The  appetizers were shaped as miniature waffle cones filled with  deconstructed ingredients. There was a sushi cone, a deviled egg (quail  eggs were used), a foie gras cone etc. Nine different varieties were  passed around to a very appreciative group.

James Beard Foundation Duck Truffle Agnolotti

We sat down to dinner and we had five dishes, including dessert, that were made with both black and white truffles. I thought that all of them  were exceptional but I particularly enjoyed the first, duck and truffle  agnolotti in a sweet onion broth and Reggiano espuma; and the third,  Dunganess crab salad with watercress, radish, spherized passion fruit  juice (passion fruit caviar) and shaved truffles. The wines paired with  the five dishes were all Michael Mondavi Family Estate California wines. I enjoyed the 2016 Animo Sauvignon Blanc, an aromatic, very classic  California (Napa Valley) Sauvignon Blanc, with a nose that is very  similar to South American (Chilean) Sauvignon Blancs. The other wine  that I thought was very exceptional was the 2014 M by Michael Mondavi.  This was a very young red; I would give it at least another 6 to 8 years in cellar to settle down and tame the rather prominent tannins. As it  was, the wine was paired with the fourth dish cinnamon roasted venison  loin with juniper berry juice, truffled butternut squash and pommes  Williams. The pairing was exceptional and the wine accentuated the taste of the venison and brought forward the hints of cinnamon and juniper  juice aromas.

The final wine that I  enjoyed was the one served with dessert and espresso coffee, a very  aromatic Emblem Oso Vineyard Passito, a complex Muscat wine redolent of  jasmine and honeysuckle, very reminiscent of the smells of summer in a  Mediterranean island garden. It is not as sweet as an Italian passito  (for example a passito di Pantelleria) but has a very similar body and  aromas.

And a great time was had by all. 

 

 

 

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