Monday, 16 July 2012

A Tale of Two Rockpool Winter Truffle Dinners

After choosing not to eat at The Station Hotel yesterday, I was thinking about the Rockpool Winter Truffle Dinner that took place last August 2011 at Rockpool Sydney. Truffles have been on my mind since they appeared as if magically on my fois gras at The European last week. The three shavings were a pleasant surprise but they did not placate my sick obsession for the stinky fungus.

Strangely this morning, The Rockpool Group e-mailed its list where announcing that there would be another Winter Truffle Dinner on 26 July 2012 at Rockpool Sydney.

Last year Rockpool evangelised that each diner would be provided 150g of truffles amalgamated across the various dishes with matching wines for the modest sum of $500 per person. Not surprisingly the announcement this year did not articulate the quantity of truffles that would be provided but the cost has dropped to $360 per person. The respective menus are being provided below.

2011 Menu ($500/pp)

Truffle congee with dried tree mushrooms, bamboo fungi, preserved eggs and truffle ketchup


Abalone, drunken pigeon, truffle and potato salad

Truffle infused egg with rich man’s brioche, Iberico ham and shaved truffles
Salt baked lotus- wrapped truffle chicken, celeriac and truffle mille feuille with kachai and truffle vinaigrette
Truffle trifle

2012 Menu ($360/pp)

Queensland spanner crab with truffle, broccoli and Jerusalem artichoke
N.V. Agrapart & Fils Grand Cru  Blanc de Blancs Champagne, France

Truffle congee, bamboo pith, preserved eggs and truffle ketchup
2009 Emmerich Knoll ‘Loibenberg’ Smaragd Gruner Veltliner, Wachau, Austria

Goat’s cheese and truffle layered lasagna, leeks, endive and Jamon Iberico
2010 Huet ‘Le Mont’ Vouvray, Loire Valley, France

Abalone, drunken pigeon, truffle and potato salad
2009 Bindi Wine Growers ‘Original Vineyard’ Pinot Noir, Macedon Ranges, Victoria

Brioche doughnut with truffle infused egg and braised short ribs
2004 David Franz ‘Benjamin’s Promise’ Shiraz, Barossa Valley, South Australia

Truffle trifle
2009 Domaine des Bernardins Muscat de Beaumes de Venise,  Rhone Valley, France

The drunken pigeon and truffle trifle are making a return and I thought those dishes were amazing. From what I recall, my dining companion, Daniel, actually thought there were too many truffles in the Trifle, if that is possible. I thought of eating them off of his plate but thought it would be considered rude.

Last year I was seated next to Simon Thomsen, the food and beverage writer. I had a few interesting conversations with him but when he realised that I was not in the industry, and just a purveyor of fine food and beverage, he didn't seem to want to know me. My mate was seated next to Joanna Savill, who is the director of Crave (or at least she was last year) Sydney Food Festival. She is lovely and I quite enjoyed speaking with her. We were never able to agree as to why with cooking shows so popular and the whole notion of "celebrity chef" being such a prominent theme on television and even in people's lives these days that the Rockpool Winter Truffle Dinner wasn't attended by more members of the public. At least half of the guests were "industry types" which I thought was interesting and a bit boring at the same time. Of course at $500 per person I can understand why the typical My Kitchen Rules viewer would not be beating down the door of Rockpool to attend. I am also fairly confident that the all of the industry types at this dinner did not pay for it.

Across the table was Guillaume Brahimi of Bistro Guillaume and Guillaume at Bennelong fame. He has to be the most down to earth person that I have ever met "from the industry" and is quite an interesting guy. My experience at this dinner was enriched because of his presence as he is indeed a raconteur. His guest was Yves Camdeborde from Le Comptoir in Paris who also seemingly was on the French version of Masterchef. My French communication skills have degraded ten fold over the years so although I was able to eavesdrop and pick up most of the conversation that he was having, I wasn't able to add to the conversation much. My mate Daniel was able to articulate that he was going to be in Paris not long after the truffle dinner and made arrangements to get into contact with his restaurant, which he did and ultimately visited when he was in Paris. Daniel said that the experience at Le Comptoir was one of the highlights of his life and exceeded his expectations. It is not too often that I am jealous, but I still am that he was able to experience Le Comptoir whilst I abused wine at Cowper Street Wharf.

Daniel did ask me today if I want to go to the next Rockpool Winter Truffle Dinner at the end of the month. I am keen but feel as if I will be disappointed since I was promised 150g of stinky fungus last year and this year they are staying quiet with respect to the quantity on offer. I would hate for a great memory be bastardised by something more current however I do have a dangerous addiction to the truffle and it will take something a bit more dramatic than living in Melbourne to miss this event.

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Rockpool was my favourite restaurant in Australia from 2002 until 2005. That is when I discovered Circa, The Prince and Rockpool was dethroned from my "best of" list. Regardless of special events, I have always been a fan of Neil Perry's flagship restaurant. I did have one bad experience though in 2005 when an incessant amount of swearing was taking place in the kitchen that was clearly audible in the dining room. I pointed this out to the service manager and he didn't seem to give a stuff and was rude to me. Because of this, I abandoned the degustation that I was enjoying at that point, paid the bill and left the restaurant. I did not return for three years. I still like the restaurant but I am a fan of "voting with your feet" after some unremarkable experiences. I do agree with the 81% of reviewers who like this place on Urbanspoon and have kept a keen eye on this restaurant as it devolved, morphed and then evolved again recently.

Rockpool on Urbanspoon