TRUFFLE CRAZY IN MONTREAL

Posted on February 29th, 2012 by .

Black truffle freaks will know this, of course, but here’s a word of warning to the uninitiated: the season is ending soon. Some restaurants in town still have them available – XO, Le St Urbain and Venti, for example – but only for a few more days…

I got my fix last Saturday at Brasserie T! when Chefs Normand Laprise and Charles-Antoine Crête decided to offer, for one day only, an all-truffle menu. And they really meant ALL-truffle, as even the humble grilled cheese came with a good helping of aromatic black slices between the ultra-buttery toasted bread. Not your everyday grilled cheese, to say the least.

While the truffle was almost overpowered by the dressing in my scallops starter, what followed more than made up for it. I closed my eyes with sheer delight and slowly savoured each bite of my tartare of venison, ever so fresh and bright, sparingly seasoned with chives and a faint taste of truffle, comme il faut. The fries that came with it? Oh-so-perfect.

The scrambled eggs, speckled in black bits of truffes, were also excellent (sometimes the simplest things are the hardest to get just right) and ditto on the accompanying croissant. The truffle theme continued on till dessert. A snow-white dacquoise made with egg whites perfumed with truffles! A “fausse truffe” of chocolate and banana on a crackly, chocolatey bed of crumbs! Too bad there isn’t yet a set date for the next truffle extravaganza at Brasserie T!.

Truffles are fragile, expensive little things that have a more elegant and complex aroma and flavour than their cheaper, much less interesting stand-in, the truffle-flavoured oil (which varies a lot in quality but often contains synthetic truffle aroma). In Montreal, only a handful of restaurants go through the trouble of sourcing these earthy nuggets and making them available to their clients. Normand Laprise, chef-owner of Brasserie T!, has his own purveyor. But nine times out of ten, the supplier of choice is Macchi Inc.. an import business run by Paolo Macchi and his wife Hivron Turanli (better known as @MrsMacchi on Twitter).

“We’re at the tail end of the season,” warns Macchi. “My last batch just came in.” XO Le Restaurant, a posh restaurant in the Hotel Le St-James that screams “special occasion”, is one of the spots that snagged some. At Le St-Urbain you’ll find them paired with a house-made boudin – but it’s best to call ahead as menus there change very often. And at Osteria Venti, where chef Michele Forgione is building a following for his well-above-average Italian cooking, you can enjoy them in what I think is the best way: a simple plate of tagliatelle tossed with a bit of Quebec organic butter. Nothing else other than pure buttery goodness laced with that jolt of umami earthiness that is so hard to describe to non-believers…

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