January 17, 2009

Black truffle evening

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I just got back from an evening of black truffle excess... Following the cooking class earlier in the afternoon, we had a wonderful dinner at Pierre, where black Périgord truffles showed up in just about every course, including desserts. I never imagined that I would say this, but I think I actually OD'd on truffles tonight... It was just soooo good.

We started sipping the 1983 Dom Perignon I brought along. With more than 20 years of bottle age, this is now a beautiful Champagne. Classic nose with caramel, iron rust, oxidized pear, honey and marmalade. Color is now golden. Still plenty of bubbles left but a lot smoother. How I love old Champagne...

The first course was ewe velouté and smoked tarragon, cab muscovite and beluga caviar with traditional condiments. As Pierre the sommelier said, "Champagne and caviar...this is the life!" Indeed! In addition to bringing my own Champagne, I actually brought in my own caviar. As I was flying out of Kazakhstan last June, I spent a chunk of change buying some beluga and oscietra caviar at Almaty Airport, because it was (relatively) cheap to buy this from one of the producing countries of this delicacy. I brought in 2 jars of beluga and the 4 of us shared a bit more than 220gm of the stuff... Decadant? Oh yeah...

Philippe created three different preparations for the caviar. The first was with crab meat. The second preparation sat on a bed of raw, sweet scallops. The third was a only a mouthful on pickled vegetable.

Finally, there was a chunk of caviar that I ended up spreading on blinis with the traditional condiments. I'm not a caviar connoisseur, but I did think the Kazakh beluga wasn't bad. Pretty complex on the palate. I'm sure there is much better quality out there, but for the price I paid I wasn't gonna complain.

We followed with a nice oyster in a consommé. What was incredible was the amount of black truffle floating in the bowl. Very fragrant and yummy.

The second bottle of the evening was the 1994 Von Schubert Maximin Grünhauser Herrenberg Riesling Auslese. We are all big fans of Riesling, and this one was a great example of how good this varietal can be. An amazing nose of petrol, minerals, acetone, sweet pear and a bit of green apple. It's actually not as sweet on the palate as I expected. This was a great wine, and I'm gonna hold on to the remaining bottles in my cellar...

We went into the kitchen to watch Philippe finish the preparation for the 63° eggs, braised endive with grapefruit, champagne sauce with black truffle. It's a little decadent when Krug Grande Cuvée is being used in the cooking process... Anyway the egg was just perfect, and the acidic grapefruit really did work wonders on the bitter endive. The whole thing was topped with some freshly shredded endive and black truffle.

The slow cooked fillet of cod, creamed pearled barley "Perigourdine" and slice of turnip with aged Port wine was really delicious. There was a nice mix of textures between the slightly crunchy barley, cubes of ham, the moist and tender cod, and of course more black truffle. The small round disc on top looked like a slice of chorizo at first glance, but was actually turnip turned red by cooking in Port.

The last course before dessert was something I did not expect at this restaurant, because it was just so traditional. Beef "Rossini" was done very, very nicely. The beef was so tender, and the slice of pan-fried foie gras was just as I like it - soft and juicy. Everything was drizzled with black truffle sauce.

There were a total of four desserts, and we would go back to the kitchen to watch Nicolas putting them together. Eggs à la neige and buratta with lime is the îles flottante that we had learned about in the afternoon. Here the soft, spongy meringue was a luxe version prepared with lots of black truffle grounds that gave it a totally different flavor. The flavor of truffles was also infused in the crème anglaise, and shavings of lime rind provided the extra dimension. The savory buratta cheese at the bottom also took me by surprise.

The chocolate sponge cake had a creamy filling and a slice of black truffle to create a unique combination. And what could be better than a cream-filled macaron with a thin wafer of black truffle? Tasted a better macaron, I have not.

The Guanaja chocolate ganache was poured over caramalized fruits, candied kumquat and roasted nuts. Pretty nice and rich. And of course, there was a slice of black truffle in there somewhere.

Finally there was a scoop of caramel ice cream, which was pretty nice.

I can't think of any other occasion when I have had so much black truffle in one sitting, not even my dinner at Tokyo's Hotel Mikuni many years ago when I ate a whole black truffle... What a great dinner put together by Philippe's team at Pierre!

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