Friday, December 03, 2010
The once-in-a-year event for connoisseurs of the white truffle finally arrived recently. This was the 12th year of the World White Truffle of Alba Auction and the host was local Italian restaurant Otto e Mezzo Bombana in Central.
Et Voila, the biggest specimen weighing in at 900 grams, was auctioned for HK$1.1 million – or HK$1,230 a gram. Astonishing, when you consider what one can usually buy from Italy’s Alba region at HK$35 per gram.
On the eve of the auction, a white truffle dinner party was held for about 60 guests. The menu was prepared by top chef Umberto Bombana and just glancing through it had my mouth watering in anticipation. The world-class Dom Perignon 1975 champagne kick- started the evening in fine style. The aroma of honey and nuts emanating from the exquisite golden sparkling liquid would entice even a non-drinker to take a sip.
Served with the champagne was the delightful 36-month Jamon Iberico – slightly bittersweet to the taste – and in a class touted as second to none. Indeed, no one could fault the Italian restaurant for using a Spanish specialty here.
In the dining room, guests mingled with a glass of champagne in their hands. And with the place starting to warm up, Bombana appeared with three full plates of white truffles for guests to view. The truffles of various sizes came straight by air from Alba and weighed 3.5 kilograms in total. For 60 people, 3.5kg is almost gluttony and to be part of this could be nothing but sheer luck.
mbana was previously awarded the title Worldwide Ambassador of the White Truffle and the man is a walking encyclopedia on the fungus, which only grows in the wild.
November is the best month to savor the delicacy, which is so “shy” that it buries itself under the soil. It is not easy to find as it grows at the root of trees. If one is lucky enough to hunt it down, be prepared to spend time cleaning it.
Bombana confessed that he has spent a great deal of time cleaning the precious fungi and took me into the kitchen for a demonstration. He first washes the truffles with water, then follows it up with meticulous brushing. His methods sure put my tooth- brushing skills to shame.
I find Italian pasta is the best pairing with white truffle and the homemade egg pasta by Otto e Messa Bombana is by far the most tempting.
But back to the dinner, and after white truffle ice-cream it was finally time to quench my thirst with a dram of the 1950 Macallan single malt. “The king of whisky” is a name well-earned.
The hosts urged me to add a few drops of water to the alcohol to unlock the flavors. Under no circumstances, however, should one add ice.
Sample some whisky, then nibble a small chunk of 100 percent pure chocolate. I was told the taste gives an intense sensation that is beyond compare. They were right. The taste is truly heavenly. I am in debt to the kindness of hosts Chambers and Helen for treating us to a truly wonderful night to remember of white truffles.
Stephen Ip, the retired secretary for economic development and labour, is enjoying a second career as food critic.