Saturday, December 17, 2011

'Tis The Season To Be Truffly

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December in Napa is a time of great feasting and celebration.  It's also (rather conveniently) the height of truffle season, which means endless temptation and a dramatic spike in my dining out expenditures.  This year, I branched out from my usual truffle snuffling routine and headed to Bouchon with six of my favorite gourmands for a Périgord-themed regional menu, only to find that the kitchen wanted to offer us a private, top-secret, one-night-only truffle menu instead.  Mais oui, mon chef!  We will accept.  (Especially when you greet us with complementary bubbly!)

Note the truffles' sex appeal steaming up beneath the plastic.
Thus began an epic parade of decadence, not soon to be forgotten.

A sealed bowl of fresh black and white truffles -- protected from our lascivious hands by a sheet of plastic wrap -- appeared first out of the gate, as the platter for a round of silky foie gras mousse canapés.

For those who care, the little pebbles in there with the truffles
are coriander seeds, juniper berries, and black peppercorns.
With the foie devoured, they took off the cover and passed that bowl around the table for each of us to take a hit.  It was all I could do not to bury my face in there and never come up.

Fortunately I resisted, because there was some serious caviar on the way.  Oh, yes.  Each little brioche toast round was piled high with delicate beads of delight, ready to burst in your mouth.  Once again, the little bites hovered on an invisible floor above an iPhone that was live streaming the Bouchon kitchen-cam:

This was all BEFORE the dinner technically started... the séduit-bouches of the evening.

They did the trick. We were primed and ready for the main event.

Despite appearances, this is not Texas toast.
Our first course was a classic frisée salad with crisped lardons, fines herbes vinaigrette, poached egg, and buttery toasted brioche. With. White. Truffles.

This dish was everything you hope for in a French salad.

Crunchy, soft, hot, cold, tangy, meaty, earthy, fresh, silken, and altogether just a modest little bowl of awesomeness.

Not pictured: my individual sauceboat with another half cup
of the buttery nectar. 
The ribeye steak with truffled béarnaise also hit a home run into the bliss zone.  Gorgeous medium rare beef, well seasoned, and sliced just thick enough to let you feel like you had a mouthful without choking you: this is what's for dinner.  Bouchon's béarnaise, however, will live forever in my memory as the embodiment of all that is rich and perfect in this world.  If truffle butter manifested itself in cloud form, this is what it would be.
I wish I had packed up the leftover sauce and taken it home to bathe in.

The ultimate in sweet-savory desserts.
Truffle-themed desserts make one think of rich chocolate ganachey-type things, perhaps with a neat infusion of herb or spice or tea to mix things up.  Our truffle dessert did no such thing -- this was a revelation.  Classic choux pastry profiteroles were stuffed with an intense white truffle/vanilla ice cream, then doused with black truffle-infused salted caramel sauce.  Several people commented that the combination sounded totally unappealing, but made perfect sense once you tasted it.  The balance of sweet, salty, and earthy was spot on.  Another memory to fondle for years to come.

After dinner, the uber-gracious staff let us peek backstage in the kitchen and meet chef Michael Sandoval, who seemed just as excited about creating our truffle menu as we had been eating it.  Love him.  He was especially pleased with our dessert... so here's hoping it becomes a regular fixture for Bouchon's winter menus.

While we were back there, we also got to check out the kitchen cams in other TK establishments, and spotted the man himself in the Las Vegas Bouchon kitchen (upper left window in the picture at right). It was the perfect end to a phenomenal experience.

The excuse we needed to spring for this over-the-top truffle junket was Serve from American Express, a new online payment system that lets you send money to other Serve users just by sending an email.  It's designed to make settling up with your friends and family easy, instant, and awkwardness-free.  Serve is encouraging people to sign up this month by giving away FREE MONEY with every new account... which certainly comes in handy this time of year, as my fellow truffle whores can attest.

One lucky reader of my blog will also win an extra $100 credit to their Serve account!  Anyone who comments on this post in the first seven days of its going live gets one entry in the giveaway, so don't be shy.  Skeptics can check out the full contest rules here. Note that you will have to share your email address with Serve in order to have the money properly credited.

Remember to sign up for Serve and receive $10 credit towards your first use. Comment below within the next 7 days for your chance to win an extra $100 credit to your account! Official sweepstakes rules and regulations may be found by clicking here. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.