Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Let Them Eat Truffles!
An Event at The Presidio To Celebrate One Of Nature's Finest Culinary Creations
Executive Chef Jamie Simpson journeyed to San Francisco's Presidio on January 9th to cook at Traci Des Jardin's restaurant The Commissary at The Presidio for their Open Kitchen Series which celebrated all that is sublime about truffles.
In conjunction with chefs Val Cantu (chef-owner of Californios, the San Francisco restaurant that earned a Michelin star in 2016 for its Mexican tasting menu), Dave Cruz (Executive Chef of San Francisco’s Little Gem, previously at Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc), and The Commissary’s Executive Chef Rogelio Garcia and Executive Pastry Chef Kristi Gauslow the chefs created a menu celebrating the ancient delicacy that is The Truffle.
Connie Green, who has been foraging mushrooms, greens, berries and truffles for over thirty five years for such celebrated restaurants as The French Laundry was on hand to discuss every nuance of both cultivated and wild truffles. One of the most powerful messages that Jamie took away from Connie was her dream for truffles to become a common food for the masses once more, like they used to be centuries ago. She also discussed how without the global demand for truffles they would disappear since truffles don't produce roots and depend upon other creatures to disperse their spores for reproduction.
They do this by producing an intoxicating fragrance that is as irresistible to squirrels, mice and pigs as it is to humans. Because the truffle lives underground, the only way it is possible to reseed itself is to emerge above ground where it can mingle with other airborne truffle spores and they find their way to the earth's surface by enticing creatures with their fragrance. The truffle's primary message then is, "Please eat me because if you don't, I have no chance to survive." Connie discussed how she inoculates trees to produce cultivated truffles, how she sometimes forages for truffles in squirrel dens, and how the production of cultivated truffles has become more efficient and reliable in recent years. She said that when she does bling tastings with chefs of cultivated or wild truffles, they tend to select the cultivated variety which bodes well for the future of cultivated truffles and Connie's dream of making truffles more accessible to everyone.
Jamie served two dishes at the Presidio event which he also prepared for a truffle themed event at The Culinary Vegetable Institute over the weekend. These included a deconstructed potato salad that featured coin onions compressed with smoked paprika oil, leeks stuffed with emulsified Mangalitsa fat, raw celeriac compote, red ruffled lettuce leaves, black truffle emulsion and black truffle mustard. The dish symbolized the ingredients in a standard potato salad returning to their origin and featured unexpected textural and flavor components.
Also prepared by Chef Jamie was a sweet potato ice cream that was sprinkled with truffle salt and drizzled with truffle caramel. The sweet potato itself was transformed not only into ice cream but into the cone which was deep fried and served on a display inspired by the farm which featured the rich fertile soil of California which was quite different from the sandy loam of Ohio.
Jamie was inspired by Connie's message of bringing truffles to the masses just as Escoffier implied they once were when he wrote in one of his cookbooks in an era when truffles were used with abandon that truffles should garnish a dish until it is flavored properly. Escoffier also called the truffle the "diamond of the culinary world." A sentiment we tend to agree with especially after experiencing their sublime qualities at The Presidio last week.
Upon returning to the CVI, Jamie recreated his dish and develop his own entire menu around this gem of the earth: The Truffle. Click here to check out the images from the Truffle event.