One Great Meal

Cuisine editor Sarah Nicholson heads to Waipara to indulge in that great pairing, truffles and pinot noir – and meets Rosie the truffle hound at the same time. I had heard a fair bit about Rosie – it appeared she was becoming quite a name about town. Most recently Orphans Kitchen chef/co-owner Tom Hishon spoke fondly about her as he shaved truffles over my mushroom pasta, so it was excellent to finally see the excitable truffle hound in action.

I had been invited down to experience the North Canterbury Truffle Festival, joining a group of other fungi-loving folk. Our first stop was Gareth Renowden’s Waipara Valley property, Limestone Hills, where Rosie was eagerly sniffing out truffles at a faster place than Gareth actually required for this demonstration.

Next we journeyed to Muddy Water where we were treated to a tasting of their wine along with a host of other local stars, including Black Estate, Bellbird Spring and Tongue in Groove. While tasting, we inhaled the aromas of various truffles to find the most harmonious partnership (it’s probably the obvious choice, but pinot noir was the winner for me). Our group then parted ways, split between two very fine lunching options – the chic Black Estate with its panoramic views and the beautifully landscaped setting of Pegasus Bay Restaurant (Cuisine’s Best Winery Restaurant 2015 – a category it has dominated for years).

The winery’s Donaldson family are renowned for their superlative hosting skills and we were looked after by Belinda and Ed, who really know how to turn on a Very Long Lunch. After drinks in the sunshine on the undulating lawn, we enjoyed chef Teresa Pert’s brilliant five-course truffle-focused menu, partnered with stand-out Pegasus Bay wines.

Kicking things off in style was a grouper carpaccio, an emulsion with bianchetto (small white) truffles, a vibrantly flavoured beet sorbet, slices of Chioggia beets and truffle shavings. Pillowy panfried potato gnocchi came with kale, celeriac foam, a dusting of Curio Bay pecorino, bianchetto butter and super-fresh walnuts – of course with a shaving of truffle! A top match with the 2009 chardonnay.

For me, the wonderfully rich pig’s head, paired with the delicious 2007 pinot noir, was the knock-out dish. The pork nestled up to smooth-as-silk parsnip puree, batons of crunchy apple and kohlrabi, crisp-fried pig’s ear and delicate Brussels sprout leaves, in a pool of lick-the-plate-clean truffle-spiked sauce. And then there was the gloved waiter who arrived at the table to shave Perigord truffles over the top of the dish as the crowning glory.

A truffle-infused poached egg followed, the soft yolk mingling with mushrooms, karengo and croutons in a mushroom consommé poured at the table.

And as the sun waned through the large windows, the finale was revealed – a burnt Périgord truffle custard tart with Granny Smith puree and milk sorbet, served fittingly with the Finale 2003.

The dining room was abuzz with very happy diners and it was a very memorable meal indeed. And while I am on the subject of sublime food, I have to give a shout-out to chef Alex Davies (ex-Shop Eight) and his phenomenal baked potato I tried the following day. He set up in a central Christchurch square, threw white cloths over picnic tables and cooked spuds in a communal pizza oven. The kicker: they were served with butter that had been infused with truffle for eight days (four with the truffles, then four with grated truffle mixed in), then further enriched with truffled egg yolks. It was cleverly matched with Allpress cold-brew coffee; we ate with our hands and it was the best $10 I’d spent in a long time!

Sarah finishes as editor of Cuisine in November to start a new life in Mount Maunganui. The Guild wishes her all the best.