New crop of black truffles comes to Chicago

August 19, 2011 11:30:51 AM PDT
The word ''truffle'' means chocolate to most people. But those little, round sweets actually get their names from a highly sought-after edible fungus that grows underground.

A new crop of black truffles is now available in Chicago. Instead of coming from France, the Perigord truffles are being imported directly from Western Australia.

The dogs have been specially-trained to sniff and seek out their objective: earthy, black truffles, which grow underground near hazel and oak trees. But this edible fungus - often referred to as one of the pinnacle ingredients in haute cuisine - is now coming from Western Australia, rather than its usual source of Perigord, France.

"They were growing them in Tazmania, but they discovered that in western Australia, Manjimup is almost like a longitude-latitude opposite. That it's perfect of everything," said Frank Brunacci.

Brunacci - the former Exec. Chef at Sixteen, in the Trump Tower, is now distributing the aromatic truffles in Chicago.

"The soil determines the aroma. So if the soil is ripe and just as good as Perigord, the aroma will be just as good as Perigord," Brunacci said. They look like something from outer space, actually; and unlike their wild cousins in France, these truffles are cultivated.

"They inoculate that virus or the spore, the fungus into those trees and under the ground, the whole system just does what it does and this is the month where they're popping out of the ground like no tomorrow," he said.

One of Brunacci's best customers is Danny Grant, the Executive Chef at the Elysian Hotel in the Gold Coast. At the more upscale Ria, he uses the truffles extensively.

"I would describe it as earthy...but more importantly it has like a little smoke and it has a lot of depth to it as well. We shave them, put them in a leek terrine with a little onion consomme and then we make a conserve out of the peelings of the truffles," said Grant.

Grant says he was surprised the cultivated fungus smelled as good as the wild French product.. and as a chef, he loves being able to use such coveted ingredients.

"I think it's amazing, their versatility is great. Aroma, flavor, texture," Grant said.

Now typically black truffles at restaurants come as an up charge. They'll shave it at the table, but here at Ria they come in a composed dish which allows you to see them in a couple of different ways: lightly cooked, preserved and raw - which really is just an amazing treatment for this incredible fungus.

at the Elysian Hotel
11 E. Walton St.

    Other local restaurants carrying Australian black truffles:

  • Tru
  • Prosecco
  • Sofitel
  • Avenues
  • Henri
  • Benny's Chop House
  • Volare
  • EL ideas
  • Four seasons
  • Moto
  • L2O

Wine & Truffle Co. competition

The next six weeks will see yields triple from 40 lb/day to 120 lb/day at the 14,000 tree farm in Western Australia. The Wine & Truffle Co. has launched a competition and the winner will receive two tickets to Australia for that truffle season 2012

Each pound ordered will result in one qualifying ticket for the individual.

For more info about the Australian Truffles:
Frank Brunacci

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