Black gold in the West Aus­tralian hills

Win a trip for two to the Mun­dar­ing Truf­fle Fes­ti­val

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Indulgence - JU­DITH ELEN

THEPerig­ord truf­fle is one of France’s most prized and se­cre­tive culi­nary trea­sures. Adense, knob­bly, black fun­gus, it grows in the wild on the roots of wood­land trees and is sniffed out by farm pigs or trained dogs.

As­cat­ter of its shav­ings trans­forms a sim­ple pasta. Fresh eggs be­come sub­lime when stored in a jar with a sin­gle nugget. Its dark sliv­ers add as much el­e­gance to a dish as flecks of gold leaf, but truf­fles have flavour.

Their unique aroma and taste are as mys­te­ri­ous and po­tent as their ori­gins, and French vil­lage com­mu­ni­ties rit­u­ally wel­come the an­nual sea­son. Here at home, the Mun­dar­ing Truf­fle Fes­ti­val in West­ern Aus­tralia is just such a cel­e­bra­tion. Nowin its fifth year, it puts Aus­tralia’s most suc­cess­ful truf­fle-pro­duc­ing re­gion high on food-lovers’ vis­it­ing lists.

We­donot have an­cient oak forests. West Aus­tralian truf­fles are the re­sult of a painstak­ing process of es­tab­lish­ing trees whose roots have been in­oc­u­lated with truf­fle spores, and then wait­ing sev­eral years for the hoped-for re­sult.

The coun­try’s big­gest pro­ducer, The Wine & Truf­fle Com­pany at Man­jimup, in WA’s south, har­vested its first truf­fles in 2003 at its Hazel Hill truffiere.

Its more re­cent grove of truf­flepro­duc­ing oak and hazel­nut trees has since come into play at nearby OakVal­ley.

Fu­elled by the suc­cesses and in­spired by lo­cal chef Alain Fabregues (who­has his own grove), the truf­fle fes­ti­val was es­tab­lished in 2006 at Mun­dar­ing in the Perth Hills, 40 min­utes from the city. Afirst-year crowd of about 3000 has since mul­ti­plied and last year’s fes­ti­val drew more than 21,000 peo­ple.

Hap­pily, truf­fles have taken off in a neigh­bour­hood that also boasts mem­o­rable wines at nearby Mar­garet River, great lo­cal seafood and farm pro­duce, and ex­cel­lent chefs.

Truf­fles need crit­i­cal ex­per­tise to cul­ti­vate. Andthey need a chef whounder­stands them. ‘‘Truf­fles are such a lux­ury, even in France, that 80 per cent of chefs mayn­ever have han­dled them,’’ Fabregues ex­plains when I visit his cel­e­brated Mun­dar­ing restau­rant, The Loose Box. Hesays chefs must learn how to nur­ture the unique flavour and aroma. ‘‘Truf­fles are at their very best warmed,’’ he says, ‘‘not fiercely cooked.’’ Andthey come into their own­with creamy eggs, pas­tas, souf­fles and sweet seafood such as scal­lops and mar­ron (an­other WAspe­cial­ity).

The Mun­dar­ing Truf­fle Fes­ti­val (July 30-31) brings all these el­e­ments to­gether in a week­end’s vil­lage-like cel­e­bra­tion of food and wine. There will be long-ta­ble truf­fle lunches among the trees, with chefs’ dishes matched with Wa­ter­shed Pre­mium Wines (a Wa­ter­shed Cafe will recre­ate this Mar­garet River vine­yard’s restau­rant); there will be cook­ing demon­stra­tions and de­bates, mas­ter­classes, chefs’ stalls, truf­fle and gourmet pro­duce mar­kets, the Perth Hills Wine Show and truf­fle dog demon­stra­tions.

Vis­it­ing chefs will in­clude Stephanie Alexan­der, Philippe Mouchel, Em­manuel Mol­lois, Ian Par­menter and Malaysian celebrity Chef Wan. Of course, Fabregues will be there, too.

To cel­e­brate this year’s event, the fes­ti­val, in con­junc­tion with Travel & In­dul­gence, is of­fer­ing a reader the chance to win an Ex­tra­or­di­nary Ex­pe­ri­ence at the Mun­dar­ing Truf­fle Fes­ti­val.

The prize in­cludes re­turn air­fares for two fly­ing Qantas from the win­ner’s clos­est cap­i­tal city, ac­com­mo­da­tion on Fri­day, July 29, and Satur­day, July 30, in a Club King Spa Roomat the In­ter­Con­ti­nen­tal Perth Bur­swood, trans­port to and from the fes­ti­val, com­pli­men­tary gen­eral and Perth Hills Wine Show en­try, two tick­ets for the Sun­day Long Ta­ble Truf­fle Lunch, two tick­ets to the sig­na­ture event, Satur­day’s Truf­fle Mas­ter­class, a meet­ing with celebrity chef Fabregues for a be­hind-the-scenes tour of The Loose Box restau­rant, passes to the VIP area, one pre­mium fresh WAtruf­fle from OakVal­ley Truf­fles and six bot­tles of Wa­ter­shed Pre­mium Wines.

To en­ter, fill in the coupon be­low, stat­ing why you’d like to win this prize, and send to the ad­dress listed, or en­ter on­line at theaus­ mundar­ingtruf­fle­fes­ti­ west­er­naus­

Prized Mun­dar­ing truf­fles

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