It was probably wrong of us to approach the Mundaring Truffle Festival as some sort of competitive eating event. It’s just… it’s a food festival. You go to a music festival, you see as many sets as your body can handle. You go to a truffle festival, you put as many truffles in your mouth as possible. Logic. In pursuit of this noble aim (and concerned about the size of our three course truffle masterclass lunch) we skipped breakfast and drove up to Mundaring bright and early in the morning (read: about 10am).
Last year’s festival was (while delicious) rainy, cold, and muddy. This saturday, the sun was shining and I nervously left my wellies at home, donned my sunnies and headed out without a jumper for the first time in weeks. As it turned out, it was a beautiful spring day.
The first vendor we encountered was Rochelle Adonis, still channeling her high tea aesthetic with the stall all silver platters, bell jars, and pink roses. Still, having your breakfast presented to you by someone who baked for heads of kingdoms is its own kind of rush, and we tried the absurdly named ‘truffington’ – a truffle infused, poshed up lamington. I’m not the world’s biggest lamington fan, but this avoided the usual criticism in that it was layered inside and quite moist. It was also the truffle equivalent of a kick in the face, but I’m still ambivalent about truffle in sweets so we wandered on.
Despite reminding each other that we had to save room for lunch and half a lamington each was a perfect breakfast substitute, we found ourselves eyeing the Jumplings. I’d heard these mentioned by Urban Locavore so we tried the pork and truffle Jumpling – it was pleasantly juicy with a hint of chilli but I imagine (given the price) that the main attraction is the convenience of keeping a bag of them in a home freezer. I’m a sucker for pastizi and I can see Jumplings filling that tasty snack / lazy meal niche quite nicely.
I’m a bit of a fan of the Spice Library. Every time I run into them I find their staff friendly and knowledgeable. While their packs might not represent amazing value for money for confident cooks who know their way around a spice shop and a Persian recipe or two (and to be fair, I haven’t met anyone cooking Persian food without the help of Spice Library who isn’t Persian themselves), the convenience of having everything in place before you start, and the professional packaging, makes them worth the money. The confidence boost a novice cook gets from delivering an impressive and unusual dish to the table can make a huge difference. I picked up a jar of advieh (a spice mix containing rose petals).
We were sweet talked into trying to wares of a catering company whose name I instantly forgot. Their truffle and mushroom pie was much more memorable – rich, savoury, and ‘meaty’ to the point where I seriously doubted it was as vegetarian as it sounded. The rabbit and truffle spring roll was a bit less exciting, but rabbit can be a pretty uninspiring meat. It didn’t have much in common with a spring roll except the wrapper – more aptly named a cigar, perhaps.
After the Masterclass, there wasn’t much left to do but eat. Last year there were demonstrations and talks to attend, but this year it seemed that everything was limited to the ticketed events, the truffle dogs, and one large outdoor demonstration stage. I particularly enjoyed a talk on the science of the truffle and the history of the industry in WA last year and was sorry to see nothing similar this time. Maybe I’m a bit of a geek but I like to know how things work, and a workshop on why you can infuse some things with truffle more successfully than others, or the science behind why the flavour is destroyed above certain temperatures would really enhance my truffle experience. But, I guess since the truffle industry in WA is still young, it’s possible that no one has studied this stuff yet…
We found a table to rest at until our stomachs recovered. Foolishly, this table was in the food market, right next to a stall which was spruiking freshly shucked oysters. Eating oysters raw still takes a bit of a mental leap for me as one of the few things about food that creeps me out is slimy textures but down the hatch they went and stayed.
With nothing better to do while waiting for the signings at the Boffin’s book tent at 3, we set about topping up our stomachs every time they settled. The south american chorizo with chimichurri was fun and different – most of it’s flavour seemed to come from it’s stint in the smoky weber rather than paprika and the texture was coarser. The chimichurri raised it from to realm of Aussie snag to tasty treat. I can’t comment on the bun as we weren’t foolish enough to waste precious stomach space on it.
The Boffin’s tent was my idea of a good time. A whole shop, full of books about food? Lead me to it. Luckily by that point I had lowered my budget to just slightly below the price of a cookbook (Food For Friends was $80, welp) so my wallet escaped intact. TBP had taken a shine to Emmanuel Mollois at the Masterclass so she had et Voila! (at the absolute other end of the spectrum, a bizarre $20) signed. She had a little moment.
A stomach full of free samples later it was R&R time. One stall was selling 100% fruit ‘ice-cream’ like my mum used to make. For those who can’t handle dairy, blended frozen bananas give it a ‘creamy’ base, and the fruit of your choice gives it an actual flavour. If you’re accustomed to real ice-cream it’ll still taste wrong but for those of us less lucky, it’s about as close as you can get without the taste of soy or crippling regret.
We took our cups of summer up to a blissful spot of sunshine on the hill and caught the last truffle dog demonstration of the day. The dogs were a bit truffled out and the speaker introducing them a bit weary, but we were particularly taken with the little puppy who accidentally found a truffle whilst out playing in the trufferie. What a life.
As the sun started to dip and the stalls started to close we toddled towards the gates via, of course, a couple more stalls. The crab cakes were one of the simple highlights of the finger food, sweet, perfectly seasoned with kaffir lime and a hint of chilli, and topped with a truffle aoli. I love crab cakes but no crab ever makes it past the baguette stage in my family.
The Mahogany Inn was also really impressive. The Pedro Ximinex glazed pork belly skewer came with a tiny little candy apple, the size of a cherry. It was a delicious combination and a cute gimmick – I wish all candy apples came with pork belly. Curiously, the only other time I’ve had a tiny apple like that was at the Loose Box, practically across the road from the Mahogany Inn. What is it about Mundaring that means tiny little apples? Where do I find them?
Mahogany Inn was also doing half marron with truffle butter. In terms of convenience this was the total opposite of a tidy skewer but it was cool to see them catering to the sit down crowd as well as the grazers. It was good but needed 30 seconds longer on the heat to be perfect. If you came from a slightly less seafood obsessed family you probably wouldn’t have been able to tell, to be fair. We spotted their sign on the trip back to Perth and I think we might check them out next time we’re feeling like a drive. If they can keep it up, it’d be worth a little outing.
Full and sleepy, we drove back down into the setting sun. Good thing I brought my sunnies after all. And lucky we packed a little something for the drive...
And with that I close this disgusting account of our gluttony. -TBC