(l to r) Michelin Star Chefs: Josiah Citrin, Sylvain Portay, Gabriel Kreuther, David Kinch, Ken Frank, Nancy Oakes.

Napa, CA—How does one truly explore the culinary complexity and subtleties of the truffle?

At the inaugural Napa Truffle Festival, the answer was simple. Invite some of the best chefs in the country to compose an exquisite feast that would pay ultimate tribute to this enigmatic, earthy jewel of the underworld.

The Michelin Star Truffle Dinner, which took place at Westin Verasa’s La Toque, herald master chefs with a combined total of 13 coveted Michelin stars.

The result? A seven course meal lust-worthy for even the most pampered palate.

Truffles. A decadent sight.

I slipped into the kitchen before dinner to catch a glimpse of the chefs at work. It was incredible seeing so much culinary talent gathered in one place. Each chef had their stash of truffles and was focused on creating their course for the evening.

Although truffle prices fluctuate daily depending on supply and demand, Black Perigord variety can command prices of $700-1,000/lb while the Summer Burgundy fetches about $250-350/lb. It was surreal seeing so many truffles being shaved, sliced and incorporated into the various creations.

Long Meadow Ranch Egg with Burgundy Truffle and Truffle Toast by Ken Frank, La Toque. Paired with Staglin Family Chardonnay 2006 in magnum.

To start off the evening, La Toque’s Ken Frank paired the simpleness of egg and toast with the decadence of Burgundy Truffles. The dish took my notions of classic comfort food to a new level. I had previously asked several chefs (David Kinch, Josiah Citrin) as well as Doug Duda of the A&E television series, “The Well-Seasoned Traveler” about their favorite truffle dish. Unanimously, the truffle omelet won out. Seems fitting then, to commence the dinner with a playful twist on such a classic favorite.

Fresh Black Truffle Salad, Fleur de Sel, Foie Gras-Celery Remoulade by Sylvain Portay, Corporate Chef Alain Ducasse Enterprises United States. Paired with Chablis Premier Cru Butteaux, Louis Michel, 2006.

Sylvain Portay’s Fresh Black Truffle Salad was deceptive and the most visually simple dish of the evening. However, from a taste and fragrance perspective, it was one of the most indulgent truffle dishes: thin shavings of truffle laid upon a Foie Gras-Celery Remoulade. The soft earthy and licorice notes of the celery complemented the truffle texture and flavors.

Lobster with its Tomalley and Coral, Truffle with Walnut by David Kinch of Manresa in Los Gatos. Paired with Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru "Morgeots", Gagnard-Delagrange 2005.

One of my favorite courses of the evening was David Kinch’s lobster dish. It was one of the most unusual uses of truffle. I am not sure what David did, but somehow bits of truffle, it seemed, was used to encrust the outside of the lobster so that not only did you get the wonderful aromas of truffle when you bit into the lobster, but were also greeted with a delightful panko-like texture. Lobster, with its delicate flavors, enabled the truffle to shine in this dish.

Cabillaud, Salsify, Spanish Onions, Brown Butter Burgundy Truffle Sauce by Josiah Citrin of Melisse in Santa Monica. Paired with Minor Pinot Noir Gary's Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands 2002.

Josiah Citrin’s Cabillaud dish was a nice inflection point in the meal where we transitioned from the delicate aspect of truffle to the more earthy notes that complement robust meats. The Cabillaud provided a savory moment to ponder the versatility of truffles. The dish was exquisitely plated and the fish was preciously tender.

Modern Duck Pot au Feu in a Black Truffle Nage by Gabriel Kreuther of The Modern in New York. Paired with Chambolle-Musigny, Domaine Michel Gros, 2007.

I loved Gabriel Kreuther’s interpretation of pot-au-feu, traditionally a French beef stew. I loved the delicate detail of each component of this dish and the contrast between the rose-colored duck meat and the green highlights from onions and peas (?). The duck was melt-in-your-mouth tender and the peas had a creaminess that was inviting. Perhaps I also loved this dish because it reminded me of something else I adore eating: sushi rolls.

Zabouton, Barolo Vialone Nano Risotto with Roasted Beets, Burgundy Truffles, Beef Jus by Nancy Oakes of Boulevard in San Francisco. Paired with Paradigm Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville 2001.

I could imagine no better way to end the main courses of such a luxurious feast than with Nancy Oakes’ Zabouton which was a heavenly piece of Kobe Beef which was made even richer paired with risotto and Burgundy Truffles. Paired with a Paradigm Cabernet Sauvignon, it was an impressive statement on the culinary possibilities of truffles.

Warm Beignet with White Chocolate Truffle Sauce, Panna Cotta with Hazelnut Anglaise and Burgundy Truffle, Chestnut Truffle Ice Cream Sandwich by Deborah Yee-Henen, Pastry Chef at La Toque in Napa.

Finally, how could such a feast end with only one dessert. Instead, pastry chef Deborah Yee-Henen delights us with four. For those that came to the meal thinking it would be an exploration of the greatness of truffles of the chocolate variety, Deborah even ensures all truffle cravings are satisfied.

Beside the warm beignet, panna cotta and the chestnut truffle ice cream sandwich…was a single, solitary chocolate truffle.

Behind the scenes:

David Kinch of Manresa...completely focused on creating the ultimate truffle dish.
Food porn.
The table center pieces comprised of beautiful red mushrooms...which I found out should not be consumed because they are poisonous.
Ken Frank preparing some truffles.
Many eggs, many truffles. Deborah Yee-Henen in the background preparing her pastry course.

The American Truffle Company, who produced and organized this first inaugural Napa Truffle Festival will be donating a part of the proceeds from the event to Feeding America and The Hunger Project.

Loni Stark
Loni Stark is an artist at Atelier Stark, self-professed foodie, and adventure travel seeker who has a lifelong passion for technology’s impact on business and creativity. She collaborates with Clinton Stark on video projects for Atelier Stark Films. It’s been said her laugh can be heard from San Jose all the way up to the Golden Gate Bridge. She makes no claims to super powers, although sushi is definitely her Kryptonite.