When I last lucked into tickets to the Oregon Truffle Festival's Grand Truffle Dinner, the event was still held at LCC. The dinner’s current location at the Valley River Inn is a better-lit, more comfortable space that manages, despite its cavernousness, to feel a little more intimate. The floral arrangements, which rose from towering glass vases and drooped back down in green fronds, were a little over the top, but who's paying attention to the table decorations when a meal like this is on the way?
I barely had time to grab a small glass of the reception wine — Sweet Cheeks' sparkling red, which I want to try when I can pay it more attention — before we were finding our way to our table (to my amusement, VRI staff removed the table numbers shortly after most people were seated, which led me to envisioning lost attendees swiping plates from servers' hands in desperation. This did not appear to happen).
Let me be honest: I am not going to review the dinner so much as repeatedly point out, in 100 words per course, how rich and delicious it was. I was there to experience it, and the experience was, for the most part, delightful.
Also, it was a lot of food.
Crème Fraiche Tarts with Triple Cream, Shaved White Truffles & Mâche Salad with Black Truffle Vinaigrette
Chef Naomi Pomeroy, Beast
We were really excited about this one, but while the mâche salad was very good, we were a little let down by the tart itself, which, though the crème fraiche came through nicely, was a little bit dry. Later, another diner told us we must've just gotten slightly-less-than-perfect plates, as his was fantastic. Pomeroy, after her course, praised Portland’s Steve’s Cheese, from whence came the triple cream brie, and talked about the simplicity of the tart dough, which she said acts like puff pastry with none of the work. Everyone got either white or black truffles, she said, but she'd wanted both.
Pacific Ling Cod Effeuilée with Foie Gras & Black Truffle Broth
Chef Pascal Sauton, Carafe
I think I was in love with this one before it was settled on the table in front of me. "Where's the foie?" asked a tablemate, but the answer was quickly clear: in the incredible, rich broth, which left us wishing we had bread with which to wipe the dishes clean. Sauton's dish, with its flaky, moist cod, was my favorite, though my date wished the vegetables in it had been prepared differently. When it came his turn to talk, Sauton explained that the very thinly sliced cod was cooked by the broth as it was poured over the fish.
Blanquette of Oregon Rabbit with White Truffles
Chef Gabriel Rucker, Le Pigeon
Oh, Le Pigeon. Where I had just indulged the night before, sharing venison heart orecchiette and pigeon and onion soup with friends and devouring most of a beautiful piece of pork on my own. As you can see, Rucker didn't stint on the rabbit, and the taste of it shone through in the simple presentation. Some of our tablemates lamented the lack of crispy skin, but I was too busy pulling every iota of meat from the bones to notice. We missed Rucker's explanation of his dish, but you have to get up sometimes. Especially when you're eating like this.
Duck Leg Confit & Black Truffle Pommes Sarladaises
Chef Philippe Boulot, Multnomah Athletic Club and Heathman Hotel & Bar
This is the point in the night when you think someone is playing a joke on you. A massive piece of duck confit ... last? Served with potatoes cooked in yet more duck fat? A tiny pile of frisée shared this plate, and its crisp bite was like water after a long, dry walk. Not that I'm complaining — though I did feel guilty leaving any of Boulot's dish behind. His course was the least emphatically truffled of the group, but the lusciousness of the confit was such that I barely noticed. It was classic and decadent and deliciously overwhelming.
Ancient Heritage Dairy Adelle,
Estrella Family Creamery Old Apple Tree Tomme
and Tumalo Farms Classico Reserve
This is when my already sparingly taken notes utterly fail me. I'm a cheese fiend. I didn't even take a picture before diving in. The cheeses were served with local wildflower honey with white truffle. I believe the table favorite was the Adelle, but I liked the Classico, and all three were enhanced by a swipe through the honey. This was dessert; I opted to save the truffled treats from Marché Provisions, which were thoughtfully presented in an easily-taken-home bag. (Sadly, these melted together in my purse later in the evening, so my impression of them is essentially, “Sticky! Yum!”)
Afterwards, tablemates and friends dubbed the rabbit the best course, with some votes for the duck and my nod to the fish. But the decadence wasn’t over yet. Someone, later in the night, came up with the idea of shaving truffles onto the whipped cream on a Spanish coffee. Someone else — and I know not exactly to whom I owe this delight — caused an entire bowl of truffled whipped cream to arrive at the table.
Does that sound weird to you? I've had people look at me like I'm crazy when I told them about it. Listen, kids, don't knock it 'til you've tried it.
Truffle shavings in whipped cream — fresh, barely sweetened if at all — proved to be borderline exquisite. Think of the way real whipped cream coats your mouth, all that fatty goodness sticking to your taste buds, lingering and heavy. Now think of that as the delivery source of a savory, earthy, intense flavor like that of truffles. I felt like I was getting the essence of truffle, and I still can't describe it. The bowl went round once, with a demitasse spoon for each of us, and I waited impatiently for it to come around again. The man responsible for the truffle shavings was laughing, kindly, at me from the other end of the table, and calling me an addict; I was treating my spoonful of whipped cream like a popsicle made of gold.
You never know when the most unforgettable experiences will happen.