As part of out first trip to the annual Alba White Truffle Festival, we surely could not leave the region without indulging ourselves in an extravagant white truffle tasting menu!
We decided to have a delicious bottle of Italian Spumanti 2005, Alta Langa “Zero” Enrico Serafino which had a complex and elegant fragrance of lime blossom and honey. It had a good acidity and aroma of flowers and fruit with a long mineral finish.
We started off with an amuse bouche of deep-fried zucchini flower. It had a lovely crunchy texture whilst trapping all the juice maintaining a moist centre that consisted of veal, spinach, parmesan and egg. A good start.
The first course was La battuta di fassone piemontese con tartufo bianco which was essentially a tartare made from a high quality regional veal (fassone), which is only reared in Piedmont, with shavings of white truffle. The meat is prized for it’s tenderness and leanness, making it ideal to consume raw, and the flavour of the truffle really came out. A great first course and certainly one of my favourite dishes of the meal.
It was an egg ravioli with a filling of spinach and egg yolk with a small amount of parmesan, and of course a generous shaving of white truffle! It had a lovely creamy texture and a good balance of bitterness and fruitiness from the virgin olive oil. The parmesan overpowered the truffle slightly, but produced a lovely aftertaste.
How could we continue our meal without having some of the superb local wine of Barolo? The sommelier recommended a bottle of Elio Altare Barolo 2005, which had a medium ruby red color with a soft floral bouquet of rose with herbal notes. It was fine yet firm, with an intense palate of sweet cherry essence and awash with fine grain tannins.
Funghi porcini ala rosmarino con fonduta e tartufo bianco. Porcini sauteed with rosemary and garlic, laid on a fonduta base made from Raschera, a local Piedmontese cheese, with milk, butter and egg yolk, with more shavings of white truffle. The earthy flavour of the porcini was amplified by the white truffle and the saltiness of the cheese.
Filetto di vitella con tartufo bianco. This was perhaps my least favourite dish for a several reasons. Primarily, the cheese on the veal loin dominated the palate and I could hardly taste the white truffle. The veal loin was a little dry and I could only pick up a part of the flavour; overall I thought the addition of the filo pastry and asparagus with bacon was just too much.
La Panna cotta e miele di acacia con tartufo bianco. After a disappointing end to the main act of the meal, the chef managed to redeem himself with this beautiful simple dessert. The sugar work was very sticky and brittle, providing a nice contrasting texture to the Panna cotta. The Acacia honey added a floral note with a hint of vanilla. What amazed me was how well the white truffle married with the Panna cotta itself. This was the second time I had white truffle for dessert and it was yet again superb!
My partner opted for the Selexione di robiole con tartufo bianco, which was a selection of soft ripened cheese from the Langhe region made with varying proportions of cow, goat and sheep’s milk. It was fresh and creamy, and admittedly I wished I could have had both the dessert and the cheese.
Some local petit fours finished off the meal with a glass of honey grappa. I was quite full at this point but much to my partner’s disapproving sigh, I couldn’t resist having a few of the baci di dama; another great discovery from my trip.
This was by far the best white truffle feast I’ve ever had – both in terms of quantity and quality. The produce was far superior to the other truffle tasting menu we had during our stay. If you are lucky enough or book in advance, I strongly recommend you asking for the window seat as the view from our table was stunning. I’d definitely come back, but next time I will order a la carte and purchase the truffle separately in order to avoid some of the dishes I didn’t particularly like.