Black gold in the West Australian hills
Win a trip for two to the Mundaring Truffle Festival
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 theaustralian.com.au/travel. mundaringtrufflefestival.com westernaustralia.com.
Prized Mundaring truffles