one great meal: truffles at the engine room

In July, The Engine Room hosted a truffle dinner for two of Waipara’s finest producers. Simon Farrell-Green went along for one of the winter’s best dinners.

engineroomNot so long ago, Nicholas Brown and Pen Naish from Black Estate came up to The Engine Room with their neighbour Jax Lee from Kings Truffles. The Cantabrians brought with them a few things that make Aucklanders think about packing up and moving to Waipara: truffles, chardonnay and pinot noir. Every dish was matched with a truffle. Sigh.

We started with a scallop gratin on a celeriac purée, at once silky and sweet and perfectly set off by the light earthiness of the bianchieto truffle, all of which went swimmingly with the – and Black Estate won’t mind me saying this – keroseney, slightly stinky pinot gris from their new label Circuit.

We followed that with a dish of cauliflower, pancetta and parmegiano risotto, with another bianchetto truffle and a 2011 Black Estate chardonnay, which was the kind of dish that chardonnay is made for, at once rich and earthy, with the truffle just adding that beautiful final flourish. And there was confit duck, the leg falling apart, with confit shallot, cherries and a dark Périgord truffle, shaved in generous slivers across the sticky skin of the duck and paired with – of course – the 2011 pinot noir in a match made in olfactory heaven.

Next up was the star dish for me: whitlof, potato and walnut salad, served with burnt butter and Périgord truffle vinaigrette. It had a kind of taut-earthy-sour freshness that went perfectly after the duck, and was beautifully offset by the upbeat, fruitier 2014 pinot noir, the lot of it tied together with the truffle in the vinaigrette, which was at once present and not. And then we disappeared back down the rich rabbit hole with a Comté and périgord truffle soufflé, served with chunks of rewarewa honey. It was at once sweet and savoury, set off by a final glass of 2014 chardonnay.

And then, a truffle, only by a different name: The Engine Room’s handmade chocolate truffles, dusted with bitter cocoa. We ordered a sweet, sticky sherry, and marvelled at our luck.