Saturday, October 31, 2015

Mario Andretti, where were you?

     I am afraid that this post will sound like an advertisement for truffles and the Motovun Truffle Festival.   I must admit that I am not an expert on food, nor truffles,  On this subject I feel more like a redneck who blundered into a beer and crawdad festival.   Previously, most of my experience with truffles is like a kid window shopping for toys at Christmas.  My experience has been more like  field testing for flavors I have never known to exist.  However, I will try my best to give a straightforward analysis of the whole affair.

     This has been one of the best weekends I have had all year!  We have had some great ones.  Reviewing the weekend my mind has indulged itself, lingering over long moments of a taste so warm and filled with the  sudden sensation of glorious contentment.  It was that good!

     Finding almost nothing but short critiques on the festival on the internet,  and only first knowing about it by watching Anthony Bourdain's show on Croatia, I was not sure what to expect.  Would I see  a bunch of farmers standing  in their  muddiy boots selling their booty to rich “foodie” tourists? Would the festival be more like a circus of truffle cuisine?  Would the inhabitants be out in force to sell their arts and crafts?  Would they proudly have on  display their pigs and dogs who dig the truffles from the forest?  Would it be so crowded that the experience would be ruined?

Mario's House Below
We parked our car half way up the hill and walked to the top, passing at about half way up the restaurant, Konoba Mondo,  where we would have our glorious feast at lunch.  At the top we wanndered around the top of the village along the wall and enjoyed the view below.   The trees below were turning color as the sun warmed the valley that had been previously layered by fog.   Walking by a guide, we stopped to llsten as he pointed to a house below that belongs to Mario Andretti.  We also watched and listened to a radio show host, interviewing people, the station was from Pula.  Sitting outdoors in the sun and existing with a cool drink we just took in the valley below.  These days of sun are valuable to us as we liive in the Veneto where rain and clouds are more often than not.  It felt good to be  outdoors for what might be the last good weekend before damp weather sets in.

     Under the tented area were many artisans who had  created tastes not just of truffles, but jams, and spreads, bakery goods, and more.  People  were encouraged to sample  pretty much everything before buying.  On one table we saw a whole prosciutto about to be carved in tiny slices.  By the time we finished walking around the tent, it had been sampled with a vengence.  Of the many items we tried we ended up bringing home  a jar of small black truffle pieces mixed with capers, a loaf of black bread, a bottle of red wine by Tomaz, and a type of jam made from pumpkin and apple preserves.

We walked back down the cobbled street and entered Konoba Mondo.  It was lucky we had made a reservation as few tables were available for late comers.  Mondo has had many excellent reviews, covering the food, the preperation and the owner Klaudio.  None were negative, instead praising the whole experience.  We were ready!

     Klaudio  was most gracious.   We had a list of questions to ask.  He took the time to explain his use of  truffles, where they are gathered, how long their freshness lasts, and the differences between white and black.  He even took time to talk about Bourdain's visit, explaining how many cameras were there, how many people in the crew and how Bourdain liked the restaurant.  At the end of all this he pointed to the wall over the bar and we saw a large photo of Bourdain in Mondo.

     My wife and I chose different dishes so that we could compare tastes.  mine was tagliatetelle, and she chose risotto made with Terano wine with radicchio. Both dishes are made with white truffles which we were told were freshly gathered.  Klaudio, in his white gloves,  sliced a white truffle, and the flakes floated floated down on onto our food.  He was very generous in slicing, almost to the point that i wanted to say, "Stop, save some for everyone else!”
     My pasta had a wonderful flavor, warm and a kind of old, mushroomy and deep taste, but my wife won the day with her choice of risotto.  Because I have had experience with risotto with truffles before, I am now firmly convinced that risotto is the way to go with truffles,    We also shared two different appetizers found on the truffle menu used only during truffle season.   

     Truffles that I have tasted had the taste of warm relaxed comfort.   And these had a scent seemed recognised from somewhere long ago.  In Mondo I enjoyed  filling my senses with an enchanting pleasure.   I forced myself to slow down and take smaller bites and think about what was about leave my fork.  To be honest, though, i think it would be difficult to have truffle dishes everyday or  more than twice a week.  You can overdo things.  They are that strong.
Truffle Flakes

     Dessert was a cone shaped  chocolate cake.   It arrived  topped with white truffle flakes for decoration.  When I cut into the cake, molten chocolate oozed onto the white dish.  What  a great ending to this adventure.  We are already talking about going back soon.

If you live anywhere within 4 hours of Motovun, I highly recommend the festival next year.


Motovun, Croatia

No comments: