IF there is anything positive that winter brings with it each year to WA, it is surely the start of the Manjimup truffle season.
And with that, chefs come crawling out of the woodwork to celebrate the pungent black fungus in all its glory, permeating dishes with its beguiling flavour.
Having planted inoculated hazelnut trees on his Southern Forests farm about nine years ago, former Fuyu owner and award-winning chef David Coomer is now ready to step out with his first proper batch of the black diamonds.
“The season is shaping up pretty well,” Coomer said.
“Last year was good; we still found a few truffles but we’re probably going to be jumping from 20kg from last season to about 60kg this season.
“As far as sales go, if I can get 10 restaurants on board buying our truffles, that would be great and the rest we would potentially send overseas.”
Coomer Truffles’ sniffer dog Olive, with apprentice Twiggy in tow, turned up a 420g beauty just last Wednesday, suggesting Coomer’s predictions will not be far off.
And the chef is certainly enjoying life as a truffle farmer.
“It is so good,” Coomer said of retiring from the restaurant business.
“I hate coming back to Perth now and leaving the farm is really hard; I’d be really happy just being some weird old recluse down there and not seeing people and just dealing with dogs.
“The staffing has also changed; I’ve got two dogs to work with and they can be a pain in the arse sometimes but I don’t have to pay them much and they love me no matter what.”
Despite his love for the country life, Coomer will return to the city to give Perth diners a taste of his trufferie’s treasures, teaming up with the gurus at the Shorehouse for an exclusive tasting dinner on Friday, July 21.
Shorehouse executive chef Ollie Gould designed the affordable four-course menu, which features scallop crudo, ricotta gnocchi, braised beef short ribs and truffle ice cream.
“Truffles have a stigma about them, that you can’t afford them, so putting them at that $99 mark hopefully attracts those who haven’t had them before or haven’t had the opportunity to eat them as regularly as they’d like,” Gould said.
“Judging from the truffles that come from Manjimup, the product will be fantastic and something that we can hopefully continue to use.
“You can use it in so many ways from shaving or grating it to dicing it and putting it into sauces or infusing it into oils and, for the dinner, we’re doing a dessert which will have a truffle ice-cream by infusing it into an anglaise.”
Coomer said the menu was looking great.
“If I had to pick a favourite, it would probably be scallop crudo,” he said.
“I like the scallop truffle combination, that sweetness of scallop with truffle is really nice.”
The Shorehouse will also feature the delicacy on its menu throughout the truffle season, which runs from June to September, offering an “add truffle” option to several of its menu staples.
“I think truffles always lift dishes from something that can be quite flat that and elevates them to another level,” Gould said,
“As a simple example, putting truffles in or on top of a mushroom risotto amplifies that mushroom flavour and helps to marry them together and build something more delicious.
“We will aim to have a good eight to 10 dishes on the menu that will go with truffles.”
Tickets to the four-course truffle tasting dinner are available from The Shorehouse website at www.shorehouse.com.au.