In the Piedmont region of Italy, fall marks the start of white truffle season – exotic white fungi that can fetch black market prices in good years. Beginning every October, these precious mushrooms are foraged in the foothills of Northern Italy with the help of truffle pigs – more commonly truffle dogs nowadays – who are trained to pick up the scent of the mushrooms. The white truffles of Alba are considered to be a luxury commodity because of their rarity and also in part due to their signature flavour that can be described as earthy and aromatic. These tasty little gems require just the right conditions to bring out their trademark fragrance. If the temperature or moisture isn’t just right during harvest, the taste of the truffles can be greatly diluted. However, according to reports in 2013, this was a bumper crop year for harvesting truffles and anyone enjoying these mushrooms this year will not be disappointed. Once truffle harvest is complete, these little nuggets of white gold are sold in an auction where a pound of truffles can go for upwards of $3000.
Sometimes referred to as ‘the diamonds of the kitchen’, working with truffles is a culinary dream for most chefs because these savoury treats can enhance just about any dish. You can us truffle shavings over risottos and potatoes or add white truffle oil to add complexity to creamy soups and pasta dishes. You can even use truffles in dessert.
Attending the White Truffle Fair in Alba is probably not in the cards for many of us this year, but for the month of November Muse Restaurant (107 10A St NW) has decided to bring Northern Italy to Calgary with their Mushroom and Truffle Festival. Muse will be offering a six-course menu all month and each course will feature something special with mushrooms. Even better, Muse is taking inspiration from the many wonderful regional wines of Northern Italy and offering a wine pairing for each course. This means you’ll be treated to a robust Barolo made from Nebbiolo (known as the king of wines), a zingy Barbera, a style of wine known for it’s fresh acidity, and Dolcetto, a varietal that pairs perfectly with any mushroom-based dish. The Muse kitchen will be cooking with a wide assortment of mushrooms from all around the world to create some amazing dishes you’ve probably never tried before, like the creminis and poached egg with pancetta, the quail accompanied by chanterelles, and the beef short-rib that is braised for 48 hours before being served medium-rare with white alba truffles and potatoes.
Muse is one of Calgary’s top-rated restaurants when it comes to fine dining. JP Pedhirney, Muse’s Executive Chef, has an impressive resume that includes award-winning restaurants like the River Cafe and Rouge in Inglewood. Not to mention, Pedhirney has also worked in Michelin-rated restaurants like the Blackbird in Chicago. Owner Stephen Deere summed it up best when he explained that Muse is not trying to be one of the cool kids in Calgary’s restaurant scene. Muse plays by their own rules and never strays from their vision of bringing Calgary the best food possible. You certainly won’t see this restaurant jumping on any bandwagons.
The Truffle and Mushroom Festival is a one-of-a-kind tasting menu that you won’t be around all that often. Make your reservations at firstname.lastname@example.org or 403 670 6873 to try these legendary white truffles.