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Truffles. Mmmm, tasty. My family love truffles, those savory morsels of delicious goodness which make most dishes just a little more flavorful and decadent. So it was a no brainer that we would hit up the Napa Truffle Festival. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Isn’t that expensive?” Well…yes…and no.
If you want to attend the seminars, talks, tours, and special lunches and dinners which happen for most of the weekend tickets are going to cost you. However, there is a Truffle Marketplace which for 2019 was held at the Oxbow Marketplace, AND is completely free to the public and requires no pre-registration. There were cooking demonstrations, free recipe giveaways, and several of the restaurants and shops had special truffle menu items or truffle related products. There was even a short talk about truffle dogs. A lovely pair of charming pups which were so very fun to pet.
As I’ve been cooking with truffles for over twenty years (Yes, I started out working in restaurants and hotels. Didn’t everyone?), I didn’t learn a whole lot of new things from the free demonstrations which were held that the Marketplace. That’s fine. We didn’t go to learn. We went to eat and shop.
For lunch we tried the Black Perigord Truffle Taleggio Arancini at Live Fire Pizza. (Arancini is a type of rice ball made from risotto and coated with a crispy outer crust of crispy goodness. Taleggio is a type of cheese with a particularly creamy smooth melt. Click here for a link on epicurious to a recipe I used to make them, sort-of, at home. It is not my recipe. I replace the “salt” with “truffle salt” which I add just at the end of cooking for that truffle-y tastiness I love.) This was by far the best tasting dish I sampled that day with pieces of truffles cooked into it. The crispy outside made for a nice package, holding it all together. Once cut open the creamy rice and truffle guts spilled out across an arugula bed, their aromatic scent boiling up through the cool winter air to smack me in the sinuses with anticipation.
The warm dichotomy of hot creamy sweet grain with savory truffles in a crispy crust against the chill in the air (we ate outside on the covered deck) was absolutely fabulous. An added bonus of eating outside was that we got most of the space to ourselves and a delightful respite from the ear shattering sound of too many people in too small a space. Sparsely positioned outdoor space heaters towered over diners and kept the worst of the chill at bay.
We also indulged in the Black Truffle Dusted Sweet Cream ice cream from Three Twins. (I haven’t seen that particularly flavor in the stores or on the website but I could just not be looking hard enough.) Yet, another well chosen pairing of truffle muskiness with delicate dairy goodness. The last dish my family sampled was from The Model Bakery, unfortunately we weren’t as fond of that as the previous two. The truffles were fresh-shaved and didn’t cook well or infuse much of their aromatics into the dish. At that point we called it a day and headed home without waiting for the drawing to see if we had won the fresh truffle giveaway.
Overall, for a free event, it was nice but over crowded for my personal tastes. (maybe it was just so many people in such tight spaces since I didn’t have a problem with the crowds at Disneyland last summer. If I had paid tickets for something like this, I would not have been pleased because of the way the crowds were handled around demonstrations. I won’t be attending this event again because that kind of issue. We didn’t even bother checking out any of the other cooking demonstrations after that because the first restaurant demonstration had more space for spectators than the other restaurants from what we could see.
All in all, I liked the trip. Napa is gorgeous countryside. Some of the food was great, some not so much. What matters most was that my family had fun doing something we love doing; traveling and tasting different types of food.
Let me know in the comments if you liked this post. Have you ever attended the Napa Truffle Festival? Did you enjoy your experience? Know of any other foodie events I should attend?
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