Who has chocolate truffles for lunch?
No, its not chocolate truffle but a lunch with ‘The Exotic Truffle’.
But what is a truffle?
And the conversation continued… as I was overhearing the same.
They say, if you have to win the heart of a woman, give her a rock. And if you have to win the heart of a chef – gift him the kitchen diamond – the truffle. A wild natural variant of mushroom, it grows under tree roots, in particular climatic conditions, and soil and can only be excavated by trained pigs and dogs only (in Italy, pigs are banned from truffle hunting since they destroy the truffles with their trotters). Truffle hunting is one of the best possible touristy thing that one can enjoy, as one has to walk miles at times, amongst the serene picturesque meadows. A drop of the oil, a shave off on the most of the basic dishes, can elevate the dish to a different height altogether. Considered as one of the most expensive cooking ingredients of the world, truffles are basically a variant of mushroom which are found in many regions of Italy and also in France. And even though they are found everywhere in Italy, the truffles from Alba and Piedmont are more popular; perhaps they have marketed themselves better.
Silvia Landucci has flown down from Arozza, where her family is one of the biggest producers of truffle based products. We were invited to La Cucina at Hyatt Regency, Kolkata for a sit down lunch with truffles. Silvia is of Tuscan- Umbrian origin, which makes it very interesting since both these regions are truffle producing regions. Her father started this company called Boscovivo, many years back with a single product and eventually, it grew into several forms of truffles other than simple truffle shavings. It is pure passion that has led to the creation of ‘the most natural form’ of truffle oil (most of the brands just have a chemical essence in their truffle oil), truffle cream, truffle honey, salsa, salt, in brine and many more.
Karen Anand, the gourmet guru, was the person behind the show. We have always known her love for Italy and truffles. So, the last time she went to Italy for truffle hunting, she gave this business proposition to Silvia’s family for exploring the Indian market. The menu for the lunch was curated by Karen and created by the expert hands of Chef Sumeet Priyadarshi, chef de cuisine, La Cucina. There was a truffle in some form in every dish. It was simply ‘Oh My God!’
For appetizers, there were diver scallops with truffle savings and truffle caviar. Each of the scallops had a different puree underneath- yellow pepper, peas and pumpkin. It was quite a picturesque dish. The musky and earthy flavour of the truffle shaving and the caviar dots on top of the sweet scallops was the perfect way to start a meal. The other appetizer was burrata with truffle salt and caramelized figs with some greens. Karen explained how truffle goes really well with anything that is creamy. And yes, it was indeed opulent. What was there not to love about a dish which had the ever creamy burrata (and by now everyone knows our love for this exotic cheese) coupled with sweet figs, some rocket leaves and cherry tomatoes, drizzle of balsamic reduction and then topped with truffle salt? So, one dish packed so many different flavours and was beautifully balanced.
For pasta, they had a risotto and a fettuccine. Both of us had the risotto made with shimeji mushrooms, fatty duck liver and enhanced with truffle salsa. This was the first time we were having a dish this exotic. We have never tasted shimeji mushrooms and I must say, they were quite a meaty wonder packed in a small size. Each of these painstakingly selected ingredients contributed to the greatness of this dish. Plus there was the added bonus of a salty Parmesan crisp on top.
The main course was a beautiful piece of pink salmon crusted with black olives which was sitting on a bed of cream sauce having micro herbs. The truffle was in the form of white truffle oil in the peas puree along with asparagus and cherry tomatoes. A little extra drizzle of the truffle oil on the salmon and it took us straight to heaven. The salmon, which was flaky and moist, started singing in my head with the salty umami tunes of the truffle oil and the olives. Ummmm……could’t get any better.
Who knew that truffles could be used in desserts. Karen has had experiences in the past where she had made a cheesecake with truffles and it was mind blowing. Well, here we had a pannacotta with truffle honey, strawberry relish and some fresh strawberries. A very unique product, this honey is white and translucent and is a acacia honey with truffle flavour. It had a sweet and salty note and a strangely different flavour, which I am clearly unable to pin point correctly in a word. However, it was brilliant. If not anything else, this is the one product that I know, I would want in the kitchen shelf.
The GM Birgit Holm seemed very excited about the Kolkata market doing exceedingly well in the near future. She is new in town, however, is very hopeful about the city and how many people nowadays, are pro towards new experiences. Having tasted so many outrageously sensational dishes, we went back home with a beautiful aftertaste and some interesting stories from Silvia Landucci and Karen Anand.
The truffle festival will be on at La Cucina till the 28th of Februrary 2017 for dinner only at a la carte basis. So, if you have not tried this kitchen jewel before, here is your chance to experience this culinary beauty.