The Truffle Degustation Luncheon (sponsored by Yarra Valley Dairy, Domaine Chandon and Sher Wagyu) held last Sunday at Chateau Yering lived up to expectations. Proceedings got underway with a canapé followed by an amuse bouche, the latter parmesan pannacotta with truffle jelly served with Chandon Vintage Brut 2006. Rather than repeat the observation, the matching of wine and food throughout the lunch was exemplary, made possible by Chandon’s move into table wines, at first surreptitiously under the Green Point label, for well under five years under the main brand label.
The degustation courses then started with Yarra Valley Dairy Persian Feta Cigar, with shaved heirloom beetroot and truffle, white chocolate clove crumb, the match Chandon Vintage Brut Rose 2006. For me the least convincing of the courses, highlighting the fact that even though the truffles had been harvested only a matter of days before the lunch, when shaved thin and competing against strong background flavours, you can wonder where the truffle went (with apologies to pepsident).
The Potato and Truffle Ravioli, accompanied by sautéed salsify and wild mushrooms, nasturtium coulis, and potato and mushroom soil, was not only my favourite dish, but left you in now doubt that truffle was present. The single ravioli, looking as if it was cooked in a small cake mould, was filled with what chef Mathew Macartney described as ‘potato foam’, although its texture was closer to partially thickened cream, the truffle infusion powerful. The sautéed salsify and nasturtium coulis also excited much favourable comment by the foodies on my table.
Then came Squab Roasted in Liquorice Spice, with chestnut puree, truffle bread and butter pudding, and violet emulsion. Here the violet emulsion (of all things) caused excited chatter, and it was indeed quite potent. The squab was roasted to perfection, the thick-sliced breast deep red yet not bleeding, obviously having been allowed to stand and set for some time after the squab was taken from the oven.
Charcoal Grilled Sher Wagyu fillet came next with Chandon Barrel Selection Yarra Valley Shiraz 2006, the grade nine wagyu coming from the Sher’s property at Ballan, initially grass fed, then grain fed for four months. Here the accompaniments were white onion puree, heirloom carrots, bone marrow jus, and Jerusalem artichoke truffle gallette. The wagyu fillet is one of Macartney’s specials, cooked sous-vide, and then thickly coated with squid ink to give the impression it was charcoal grilled, a sprig of burning rosemary adding a touch of smoke to the aroma of the dish, heightening the charcoal illusion.
Chandon’s Cuvee Riche (its distinctly off-dry sparkling wine) introduced the final course of Banana and Truffle Semifreddo, with maple jelly, macadamia mousse and lemon fizz. Perhaps a case of the dog preaching, the truffle coming in the form of two cold slices, but also in the surprisingly pleasing semifreddo. I suppose you have to have truffle in a dessert course in a lunch billed such as this, but I can think of far better ways to use truffles.
On the mantelpiece above the (unlit) fire at the end of the long, elegant Chateau Yering dining room (60 guests were at the lunch) was a 420-gram truffle that had been harvested at Tibooburra Wines, Yellingbo, last Thursday. The lucky door prize was also a truffle, packed in a small cryovac bag with uncooked rice, its modest weight not disclosed, but happily accepted by the winner.
The all-inclusive cost was $195 per person; having recently returned from a month in France with a strong Australian dollar against the euro, I can say with confidence borne of experience that you would not escape for less than $350 for food and wine of this quality, and a whole lot more if it were presented in a Michelin-starred restaurant (which Chateau Yering’s main dining room, Eleonore’s, would contend for).